Holland’s symphonic metallers have made astonishing progress since this writer saw them register a UK debut at London’s Scala in late 2004.
A decade on the group have established themselves as true kingpins of the genre, capable of packing arenas in their own right and crafting records that still fascinate. Comprising one DVD and two audio CDs, this package pales in comparison to 2008’s bells-and-whistles extravaganza The Black Symphony, yet it offers snapshots of significant eras in what’s now an almost two-decade career. The segment entitled Elements recalls another one-off, orchestrally enhanced concert in Antwerp as part of Within Temptation’s 15th anniversary celebrations back in 2012. It was rumoured that the band felt the results were slightly flawed sound-wise, and the decision to cram two (admittedly edited) shows on to single disc inevitably affects the audio and visual quality levels. This is regrettable as the event was extravagantly staged before 20,000 baying fans that devour every note, from Faster’s commercial bump ’n’ grind to the lighter-waving Stand My Ground and the pomp and circumstance of Our Solemn Hour and Ice Queen. Sharon den Adel sings beautifully throughout, making frequent costume changes, flanked by both dancers and stilt walkers. Co-founding guitarist Robert Westerholt, who is no longer a touring member of the band, also returns, as do former keysman Martijn Westerholt (now with Delain) and erstwhile guitarist Michiel Papenhove. Hydra documents an Amsterdam finale of the band’s 2014 tour of the same name. It looks and sounds better, though older fans may grumble that the setlist – which is truncated once again – favours material from the more modern-sounding, guest-strewn Hydra release, notably And We Run, which was recorded with the US rapper Xzibit (who is absent, thankfully). The two audio CDs included simply repeat the DVD’s tracklisting, which is handy for playing in the car, though glaringly devoid of additional material from either show.