Interview: Sharon den Adel on new inspirations and a new lease of life for Within Temptation
Timescope Films

Dutch symphonic metal band Within Temptation have just released their seventh studio album, Resist, a dark, edgy release that takes on the state of the world and marks a turning point for the band.

The album explores a new side of Within Temptation with new urban influences that take a step away from the band's signature symphonic metal sound. Resist explores current universal technological and political issues and drives home the idea that a wakeup call is needed to break free from fixed patterns and find a way to live life in freedom.

Last week, Within Temptation frontwoman Sharon den Adel spoke to AXS from her home in the Netherlands where she was spending the day promoting the new release.

AXS: You have the new album coming out this week.  What do you feel Resist represents for the band? 

Sharon den Adel: I think for us, we feel that this album, which I'm sure you hear from every band, but I feel this album really steps away from what we've done before both musically and production-wise. It's not the typical symphonic metal that people know from us. We have new influences in our music. I think in some way it's unrecognizable as Within Temptation and we have a lot of new things in there that we haven't done before. There's some urban stuff and also some hip hop and reggae rhythms and ways of singing, but not where we are completely doing that, but where we are using parts and implementing that into our music and our signature sound.

I think that gives us a nice crossover appeal without losing our own identity. I think that's a big step forward from the previous albums that we've released.

AXS: Have you been happy with the reaction to the first couple of singles?

SA: Yeah and we've also been playing five of the songs live so we are getting that direct reaction. That's a great reason to play them live. Of course, there are some songs that are explosive and then some songs that people take a while to get used to.  Sometimes certain songs come across differently on an album than they do live, but so far the reactions have been really good. We're looking forward to hearing more when the album is out. We've already had some really beautiful reviews, but we are really anxious to hear what our fans think.

AXS: You've talked about the fact that you and the rest of the band went through a period where you weren't sure that you wanted to continue. What was it that inspired you to head back in and record this album?

SA: The thing was that after the release of our last album Hydra, we toured a lot and we didn't have any breaks. We tried to find that time after the tour to rest and usually a couple of weeks after you get back from tour and come down a bit, you're ready to get back into the studio and create something again. You're ready to express yourself in a different way and have something fresh that you can be excited about again. However, this time after Hydra, nothing happened. We didn't feel inspired. We were worn out and especially me because I'd come to a kind of crossroads in my life and with the heavy touring schedule we had, we all needed a break.

For me, I found that I was burnt out and having a writer's block and it was also a combination of other things. My father got really ill just before we ended the tour so it was emotionally heavy for me to be away from my family. So all those things really pressed on me and were a bit heavy for me while we were on the road.

So when I finally did get home, nothing came out of the writing sessions I did. I felt lost because I couldn't express myself and I really needed to do that. What I did was I said that maybe I don't have to write for Within Temptation, maybe I can do something else in between and maybe I'll eventually end up again being inspired for Within Temptation. At that time I really didn't know if that was something that I wanted to do again because I'd been doing it for my whole adult life and sometimes you really need a change. What came out that was my solo album called My Indigo and it was a different kind of music. It's urban alternative and it has some indie pop influences and at times some eighties influences, but also a lot of modern influences as well. So I put all that in a blender and that album was the result. It was something very different from Within Temptation and it was nice to be able to make it.

I learned a lot from it and moving forward in time it ended up really helping us get back to Within Temptation because I learned so much from it and having those urban influences and those different rhythms and those different productions began to influence the Resist album. We started writing together again and we came up with a mix of Within Temptation and this urban stuff and even some hip hop here and there and it really made us enthusiastic about music and Within Temptation again. I think it was a necessary step to make. Before I started My Indigo, I had no idea this would be the outcome, but I'm really happy that it did.

AXS: And Resist has a powerful message running through it, which is timely right now with all of the turmoil throughout the world. Was that something that you wanted to address heading into this or was that something that just evolved in the studio?

SA: Well you really can't get around it. It's like everywhere in your face all of the time. The consequences of what is happening in this world is prevalent in the papers and all over the place. So we already had that in mind when we were writing and we were inspired by it because we were also very angry and fired up about different subjects like freedom of speech and also fake news and all the examples of people trying to influence things like voting. Even here in the Netherlands, we had to go back to paper and a pencil again in the elections because of the fact that we don't trust computers anymore. It's a problem in big cities everywhere. Technology is working against us nowadays more or less. It looks so great on the surface because you can use your social media to communicate with everyone out there, but at the same time it's feeding out a lot of information about you so anonymity is lost.

So all of this was a good inspiration for us to write about. We all have families and we want to have a better world where we can leave something beautiful behind. It's really going in the wrong direction and it's sad. I do think that people are realizing it, but it's too late to go back in time and change technology, but there are ways to fix it with new privacy laws and thinking about how we can make it work without losing our privacy.

AXS: Have you seen the message from Resist connecting on that level?

SA: Yes and I think because it is all around you that everybody has an opinion about it so they can draw that connection.

AXS: Over the years, you've done a number of collaborations.  For this album, you've got the first single "The Reckoning" with Jacoby Shaddix (Papa Roach,) "Raise Your Banner" with Anders Fridén (In Flames,) and "Firelight" with Jasper Steverlinck  (Arid.) How did those come about and do you usually know who you'd like to work ahead of going in the studio?

SA: It usually not something intentional, but rather something that grows when you're writing a new song and something seems to work for another voice. Usually, it starts out 100 percent with my voice, but as you move along and the story begins to flow, sometimes it's really nice to have a different take on the song to provide that energy. We are always pro-collaborations, whether it's a feature on our album or a feature on someone else's release. It's always nice to meet new people who are more or less of the same music genre as you are, especially since you never really get to know each other because you're out on different tours. So sometimes you like their music and you write a song and you think, hey, what the heck, it could be really cool to have them or him or her on this song because their voice would really bring something new to the song. So that's what happened this time. That's why we asked the three that are on this album. It could have been ladies as well, but it turned out to be men this time! [laughing]

AXS: Looking at your solo album, what did you find to be the biggest difference for you in the process?

SA: It was quite different because I also worked with different people. I did work with the same producer, but I had other musicians participate in the writing process. It was great to learn from new people because I'm always usually with the same people and for me, it was really like an adventure. So it was a chance to grow again with the lyrics and how you write music and how you look at music. It was one big musical adventure that allowed me to find myself again and, in a way, reinvent myself.

AXS: And the North American tour is rapidly approaching. What should your American and Canadian fans expect this time out?

SA: Well we're developing a new stage setup. It's going to be different from the European one. It's going to be a mixture, of course, of the new album and us playing around with some of the older stuff. We've really found with the European tour that you have to fuse the old songs with a new sound because you want it to really flow. Plus it's nice for people to see something old but in a new way. So we hope to play around with that every few shows or so. That would be cool I think.

AXS: And what's the plan for the rest of the year?

SA: There's a lot of festivals coming our way so when we come back to the Netherlands we have at least thirty shows that we are going to do throughout Europe and one in Russia even. We are going to be all over the place in every country so just more of that and after the summer we will have to see. We have the option for a new European tour in bigger venues with another band and we are thinking about South America and we can always write again too so it's really open for whatever we want to do. We also believe nowadays that there's a different way of touring and writing songs in the future for us I think. We don't have to tour for two years in a row to promote a new album. Maybe we cut out in between and take a few months and write. Then we can go on tour again with the same album, but also release some new stuff to keep it exciting. You have to adapt to changing scenery and industry.

AXS: Anything you want to say to the fans who will be picking up the album over the next week?

SA: Well I really hope they will like the album and hopefully they can send us a picture of them with it so we can put together a nice display of everyone across the world. It will be a great way to connect everyone in one big post. That would be really cool.I'm really looking forward to the North American tour because it's been a while and we really enjoy to come over and see all of the beautiful places again and meet all of those beautiful people. We are finally going, yay!!