Dutch rockers Within Temptation have surpassed themselves with The Heart of Everything. Never a band known for understatement, this is by far their biggest and best album yet, 11 epic tracks that are impressively grandiose and proudly hyperbolic. Where other bands would be content with a string section, Within Temptation incorporate an entire orchestra (plus a choir). In addition, they also sample the sounds of machine guns, explosions, car crashes and even Winston Churchill. Complemented by Sharon den Adel's impressive vocal range, it all works spectacularly, evoking imagery of men on horseback wielding axes. Each song is a mini-saga, from "The Howling" with its suggestions of Middle Earth battlefields to the anti-war "Our Solemn Hour", which features a Latin chorus, "Sanctus espiritus," taken from Roman Catholic mass. Only the radio-friendly and relatively understated ballads "All I Need" and "Forgiven" sound out of place, (though the orchestra still features on the former). Fortunately, everything else on The Heart of Everything sounds like barbarian soundtrack music. Which is to say that this is a proper heavy metal music. - Ted Kord
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