It's always fascinating to go back in time and re-discover the origins of a genre-defining band, especially one that has been as influential as Within Temptation. Originally released in 1997, the stripped down and dark/gothic doom of Enter stands in stark contrast to the polished and catchy Hydra, their latest studio release out earlier this year. And while Enter was previously reissued in 2007 along with the 1998 EP The Dance, Nuclear Blast - perhaps in light of the recent success of Hydra - decided to make these more obscure and out of print titles once again available for new (and old I suppose) fans of the band. Not to mention the fact that this material has never been on a label as influential or wide-reaching. In any case, for those not familiar with early WT, however, this release could be a shocker in that it shares very little in common with the band's more recent works since 2011. Co-produced with Lex Vogelaar (Orphanage), Enter is filled with huge doomy riffs and a balance of Robert Westerholdt's sinister growling juxtaposed with Sharon den Adel's ethereal emoting. Inherent to the doom genre, the slower tempos leave a lot of open space for the instruments to really breathe, and the longer songs have extended periods with no singing whatsoever. Virgin Black comes to mind as I listen to many of these songs for the first time again in a decade because the sorrowful tones that emanate from the speakers act as a bleeding catharsis. The drum tones and cymbals are simply huge which is refreshing to hear in retrospect because modern metal has unfortunately gone a long way to eliminating many of those beautiful drum tones and timbres. Of course, there is a plethora of sounds for the keyboard enthusiast to digest as well from haunting pianos to sweeping organ sounds.
For a debut, Enter was an exceptional release, although one many fans may not have appreciated at the time. The first 3 songs alone could easily summarize everything great about doomy gothic music in general - the title track to this day is simply awe-inspiring. And in a way, "Restless" - the only single to emerge from this release - hinted at the talents Sharon would eventually tap into more fully on later albums. The Dance, on the other hand always felt (and still does feel) to me like an afterthought. With the exception of the doomy title track, the rest of the EP feels like extra songs that were cut out from the original full length Enter. The remix tracks don't really add anything to the originals in my opinion, but some may prefer the more "modern" versions they represent. While Within Temptation would eventually move on to much more symphonic oceans with subsequent releases, it's great that Nuclear Blast has once again brought these formative year songs into the light. It really helps to put into perspective the monumental journey these artists have undertaken in a relatively short time and also stands as a testament to their diversity and spirit.
It will be interesting to see if any of these songs show up on the upcoming live release later this month.