Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Within Temptation - Mother Earth

Within Temptation; the Netherlands answer to Nightwish. Both bands formed in 1996, so I am unsure if one band influenced the other significantly or if this is an example of parallel thinking. Like most, possibly all, fans, of European metal music, I love Nightwish, and I often credit them for popularizing the combination of metal and opera as their original lead singer Tarja Turunen was a trained opera singer and their popularity was international. However, this entire time Within Temptation have been doing something very similar with their lead singer Sharon den Adel who insanely, somehow, is self taught, but could fool a layman like me into thinking she too is an soprano singer.

If we are to continue our comparison of Within Temptation to Nightwish for one more paragraph, I would suggest that Within Temptation has more of a woman’s touch. This at first may sound like an unusual suggestion since both bands are fronted by powerful female vocalist, but there is something in the lyrics and the themes of Within Temptation’s music that is impressionably more feminine. I am confident this has everything to do with Sharon den Adel’s influence, as she is the primary writer of Within Temptation’s lyrics, while the unconquerable Tuomas Holopainen has written effectively all of Nightwish’s music, words and all.

In 1997 Within Temptation released their debut album “Enter,” and they have consistently released new material every three to four years thereafter; it is impressive how workmen like and consistent they have been about this. Their last album “Hydra” came out in 2014, so we are due for a new Within Temptation album this year, also den Adel has been working on a solo project “My Indigo” so we have that to look forward to as well.

It has been a very steady and successful career Within Temptation have had, all of their albums have been well received, and I have listened to all them multiple times, a praise I should be able to, but rarely can give the bands I talk about on this blog. Naturally I have a favorite, and that is Within Temptation’s second album, released in the year 2000, “Mother Earth.” Actually, I can be more specific than that, I really like the beginning of the album “Mother Earth.” The first three songs, “Mother Earth,” “Ice Queen” and “Our Farewell,” are probably my three favorite songs by the Dutch band, and they play in the listed order at the beginning of the album, so yes, no wonder “Mother Earth” is my favorite album of theirs.

I have always found the title track “Mother Earth” to be very interesting. I have always taken the lyrics to be form the perspective of the avatar of the planet or a druid like sage explaining the motivations and whims of the world in which we live. Maybe it is my Gaelic blood, but a song the “Mother Earth” commanding our lives and demanding our respect fits in nicely with concept of Gaia and old Irish folk lore about the cyclical nature of life.

A great added element to the song “Mother Earth” is one of foreboding danger. Within Temptation and den Adel never explicitly in any way make the song about environmentalism, though it could easily be interpreted that way, there is specific lines remarking how the earth is not ours to control, and humans are regarded as rather powerless in comparison. The earth is spinning and moving through the vastness of space led by it’s dance partner the sun, and nothing any living thing on it can alter that.

The opening verse makes it quite clear where the power lies in the relationship of man and earth:

“Birds and butterflies,
Rivers and mountains she creates.
But you'll never know,
The next move she'll make.
You can try,
But it is useless to ask why,
Cannot control her.”

More so in the chorus:

“She rules until the end of time.
She gives and she takes.
She rules until the end of time.
She goes her way.”

We are but passengers on the world’s journey.

Then we get to “Ice Queen.” This song can very easily be imagined to be about a literal “Ice Queen” a sorceress, like Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen, or just as winter itself. Much the way popular fiction and mythologies, like the Celts, saw the earth and moon as feminine, I believe Within Temptation has done the same with the winter season, and describes her as the “Ice Queen.” Like I said earlier, Within Temptation has noticeable woman’s touch in their songs.

Ice Queen

Like the first song on the album “Mother Earth,” “Ice Queen” also possess an dark element of danger. The “Ice Queen” takes life away, and once again it sounds like humanity is powerless to stop her from doing so. Another literal force of nature that human kind has no control over.

Immediately a threatening tone is taken in the opening verse:

“When leaves have fallen,
And skies turned to grey,
The night keeps on closing in on the day,
A nightingale sings his song of farewell,
You better hide for her freezing hell.”

Once again everything is said to us in the chorus:

“Whenever she is raging,
She takes a life away,
Haven't you seen?
Haven't you seen?
The ruins on our world.”

Which brings us to the final song in this trilogy “Our Farewell.”

Our Farewell

I always thought “Our Farewell” should have been the final track on the album, after all it is song saying goodbye, well not really, it is kind of the opposite. Unlike the previous two songs there is no foreboding danger, no looming threat, no sense of powerlessness in “Our Farewell,” instead there is pronounce of love and sorrow.

“In my hands like a sea of memories,
I can hear you say my name,
I can almost see your smile,
Feel the warmth of your embrace.
But there is nothing but silence now,
Around the one I loved,
Is this our farewell?”

All three songs have really good opening verses.

Interestingly there is a sense of motherly love, again that woman’s touch shinning through, which makes us think that the one that is loved is the child of the female narrator, perhaps literally, perhaps cosmically so.

“Sweet darling you worry too much, my child,
See the sadness in your eyes,
You are not alone in life,
Although you might think that you are.”

That sorrow is beautifully washed away in the final verse:

“So sorry your world is tumbling down,
I will watch you through these nights.
Rest your head and go to sleep,
Because my child, this not our farewell.
This is not our farewell.”

I have always found “Our Farewell” to be very touching, perhaps because I am alone in life, and my world is tumbling down, at least I think it is. Forget amount me, and we can see a really uplifting message of remembering and holding fast to all that is good. Friends and other loved ones who slip away, that is not necessarily farewell.

All three songs have a common theme, and that is the passage of time. As time passes “Mother Earth” will continue to go her own way, and there is a bleakness to human exists in the wake of the planet’s comparable immortality. As time passes all things die, winter comes in the form of the “Ice Queen” where she unescapably takes life away. Lastly, loved ones slip away from us, sometimes temporarily, sometimes permanently, but the treasured memories are with us forever, the wounds heal and there is a joy in remember what we lost. It is easy to be thankful for the things we have, it takes a mature perspective to be thankful for things we have lost, and I think that is the final message of this trilogy of songs. Acceptance of the world, death, and loss. Acceptance of the passing of time.

I do not know if this specific analysis is what den Adel meant for the listener to take away but that is how I have always felt about these three songs. While I love all three songs individually, when I think of them as a trio, they become this voyage of grief and healing guiding the listener through life.

- King of Braves

No comments:

Post a Comment