Bleed Out is undoubtedly Within Temptation's heaviest record to date. It may also be their best

Ambitious, socially-charged and brimming with big riffs and gorgeous melodies, Bleed Out shows that Within Temptation continue to mature majestically

Within Temptation in 2023
(Image: © Tim Tronckoe)

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There are few bands in modern metal who have shown such a consistent evolution from record to record as Within Temptation. On 2007’s The Heart Of Everything album, they started to experiment with more guitar-driven songs as an antidote to 2004’s hyper-polished The Silent Force. 2011’s The Unforgiving contained many of the best riffs they’d written yet. Three years later, Hydra saw them look outside of their genre to EBM and dance music to find new ways to structure songs – a practice they carried on when writing Resist’s lush, synth-laden single, Supernova.

As massive in scale and as cinematic as any Within Temptation record, eighth album Bleed Out sees the Dutch sextet continue to traverse the land of darkness, melancholy and power they entered on Resist, but to an even greater extent; it’s undoubtedly the band’s heaviest record to date, both lyrically and musically. And without the plethora of guest artists that have graced their last two records, this time they’re showing us what they can do on their own. 

Though Within Temptation may baulk at calling Bleed Out a political record, it’s the first time they’ve been so overt in expressing their stance on global issues without shrouding them in literary metaphor or fantastical imagery. Arguably, they’ve always been political. Since 2000’s Mother Earth, they’ve been begging us to look around at the catastrophic consequences of our destructive hubris (‘Haven’t you seen the ruins of our world?’), and anyone who’s been to one of their shows knows that frontwoman Sharon den Adel doesn’t shy away from voicing her support for the marginalised.

Opening track We Go To War is an explosion of crystal-clear synths, foreboding choirs and some seriously heavy tech-metal riffing. Sharon’s voice has always been the heart of the band’s sound, maturing over the years from effervescent soprano to something weightier, more refined and more powerful, with real grit. On Bleed Out, she uses all of her range and dynamics, painting the songs with light and shade for maximum impact. The influence of Kate Bush is still apparent on Wireless, a stunning and furious indictment of the war in Ukraine. 

Having adapted their process of making music to fit the strange new world of the 2020s, the band have dotted single releases throughout the last two years as and when they’ve seen fit. That means half the tracks on Bleed Out aren’t new, but it’s still interesting to see where they fit into the whole puzzle. The title track stands out as perhaps the best example of who Within Temptation are today: fiercely opinionated and passionate, with an impeccable ear for gorgeous melody, rousing choruses and some crushingly heavy metal befitting of their message – a rallying cry for freedom and autonomy. Worth Dying For sees them briefly recall their symphonic metal days, with an added urgency.

The album’s only real light moment, Ritual, is the only one that doesn’t quite fit, showing they’re at their best when they have a real fire lit under them. Sometimes, Within Temptation’s music has sounded like the end of the world; Bleed Out sees them open a window onto a new one.