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DVD: ‘Black Symphony’ (Roadrunner)

Review by Jeff Maki
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In a 2007 interview with Live-Metal.Net, Within Temptation vocalist Sharon den Adel told me about this concert and its future DVD release. I've been anxiously awaiting it ever since. I'm jealous of those lucky fans who were in attendance at this once-in-a-lifetime event. For Black Symphony, the band brought in the 60-piece Metropole Orchestra and the Pa'dam classical choir, brilliantly enhancing their already dark, gothic sound, creating an enormous, ambitious spectacle. The show capped off the touring cycle from their hit 2007 album The Heart of Everything. The set includes the complete live show on DVD, shot with 14 hi-definition cameras, and a condensed version of the performance on CD. The concert was held at the sold-out Ahoy arena in the Netherlands on Feb. 7, 2008, in front of 10,000 fans.

Within Temptation has just begun to break through here in the United States, but charismatic frontwoman Sharon den Adel and her bandmates are widely popular overseas. The band, label and everyone involved spared no expense for the production. It's on the larger scale of what bigger bands like Metallica or The Rolling Stones are known for, not a typical show for a band like Within Temptation. There's pyrotechnic blasts accompanying songs, added stage performers and nothing but the most elaborate and fantasy-inspired wardrobe from Sharon den Adel. It also features Europe's largest video screen, stretching the entire width of the stage. The orchestra takes center stage, starting things off with their “Ouverture,” sounding like the score of The Dark Knight. From there they add huge dimensions to Within Temptation's sound but don't interfere or draw attention away from the band and the songs. The material from The Heart of Everything sounds much like it does on CD, except with a more extravagant, yet organic feel. The Pa'dam choir, adorned in black hooded cloaks, is more in the background but makes a song like “Our Solemn Hour” even more powerful with their Gregorian and operatic voices.

The most amazing part of Black Symphony is without a doubt, the vocals and performance of Sharon den Adel. Her mezzo-soprano voice has to be painfully difficult to duplicate in a live setting, especially one of this magnitude being recorded for DVD, yet she pulls it off fantastically. Sure, there are a few parts in songs that are maybe not as high or low as originally recorded, but it sounds better here. Keep in mind she sings almost every song while moving around on stage. Try and do that at home. It's not easy.

Highlights from the show are “The Cross,” maybe one of the more difficult songs to perform and a perfect example of Sharon's flawless live singing; “What Have You Done,” featuring guest vocals from Keith Caputo of Life of Agony; “Mother Earth,” which benefits greatly from the orchestra piece; and “Somewhere,” the tearjerker ballad featuring a beautiful and moving duet between Sharon and The Gathering's Anneke Van Giersbergen. The DVD set is 22 songs total and 10 of them represent The Heart of Everything. The CD is 13 songs from the show, with a few disappointing omissions (where's “Ice Queen"?), but the disc is just an added bonus to the DVD. Also included are some extras. We get a backstage report from Black Symphony, featuring interviews with fans and the band. There's also two added documentaries. On a minor downside, the DVD has some annoying special affects, like the screen bouncing or moving and lights flashing. I get that they're trying to recreate the live setting, but at times it's distracting. It's a minor gripe to an otherwise great concert DVD.

I don't know how many rehearsels were held prior to the show, but you'll be hard-pressed to find even one mistake or miscue. To have that many musicians all perfectly coordinated is an amazing feat. Black Symphony is the peak of Within Temptation's career and a must-own for fans. With the band slated to record a new album in 2009, Sharon and company won't be leaving their perch anytime soon.