Dutch symphonic Metal titans Within Temptation are about to release their eighth studio album, Bleed Out. MetalTalk’s Ian Sutherland caught up with lead singer and driving force behind the band Sharon Den Adel to find out all about it.
Bleed Out is being released independently on 20 October, the band having parted ways with the Vertigo label. “Well, the thing was our record company didn’t want to release singles in the moment,” Sharon told us. “They wanted to have a full album first and then have singles when the album was finished. But a lot of times when you want to release a single, it is [about] something that’s happening in society to you right now not to wait three years before it ends up on an album and then finally gets released.
“We wanted to break with that traditional way of releasing singles and albums. That made us decide to continue on our own. They felt like, OK, we can’t do it. We can only do it in a traditional way. So they let us go, which I’m very happy about. We parted ways in a friendly way, which is also nice for a change.”
The prospect of being independent enthuses Sharon. “We’re more free than ever,” she says, even though they now have more to do. “You have to do everything yourself. You have to hire people to do what they did, but you get to decide everything you want to. I’m sure it’s gonna work out fine.”
Still labelled as Symphonic Metal, the band’s sound has evolved a lot over the years. “We started to listen to Enter, which was our first album, and we compared it to Bleed Out,” Sharon says. “You still feel like you hear similar melodies more or less. You do feel the heart of the band, I guess. But of course, we have evolved with every album.
“The thing is that we always try to find a sound that fits with us today instead of yesterday, and we want to progress in our own way. It’s a challenge for us every time to sound like a band that would have started this year instead of ten years ago. I hope that our fans and everybody who likes our music grows with us to the new album and into the next album and a new sound that we have.”
Ms Den Adel goes on to say “I do think we still have a symphonic sound but not in the way that we used to. It’s become a more technical kind of sound. It’s a little bit more difficult in a way for some people. But it’s definitely still us, I think, because of how the melodies are made and things like that. Having guitars, although developed, you can still feel, in essence we’re still the same.”
With the talk of increased use of technology these days, the subject of AI is never far away. Asked her thoughts on it, Sharon muses, “Well, not to make music, not for me. What we did use it for was our video. We’ve released two songs, Wireless and Bleed Out, with AI videos. The second one was filmed with the whole band, the normal traditional way of filming with just one person, who was an AI expert, and it took us one month to get some kind of lip sync, which was very difficult.”
She explained the frustrations. “It’s very difficult to use AI. It’s not as simple as people think unless you don’t want to make it lip-sync. That’s the most difficult thing to do. AI doesn’t do what you want it to do. It just comes up with four options, and every time; you have to choose from those four options of the word you have given it to get the look that you want.
“For instance, with the Wireless video, we had a soldier’s helmet and all of a sudden, it turned into a mushroom, and you can’t stop it!” Much laughter ensues at the thought!
“People think it’s very easy, maybe for other things, but for the visual thing that we’re doing it’s still quite difficult.”
Sharon and her partner Robert Westerholt often involve long-time producer Daniel Gibson in the songwriting process. “We have the vision, and we go writing,” she says. “Then he helps us get where we want to go, and that’s something that’s very important for us. We go into the studio, we start listening to music, we talk about subjects, and then it crystallizes into certain vocal lines that I’m making. We start playing on guitar, and then it evolves and becomes a demo. From that point, we, as a whole band, work it out.
“I go into the studio with Daniel, and Robert goes into the studio alone sometimes or with Daniel because Robert and I can’t write together because we will fight like cats and dogs,” confesses Sharon with a laugh.
“We can’t be in one room when we’re writing. So Daniel is like a mediator to keep us nice to each other. That’s also one of the reasons he’s not in the band on stage anymore because we can’t be together when we’re doing something with music. It’s just too delicate, in a way. I guess it’s good to have that separation, and Daniel helps us with that.”
Within Temptation songs can cover all sorts of ground, and the band has never been one to shy away from controversial topics. Bleed Out is no exception.
“We started releasing new material during the pandemic,” Sharon says. “Singles to keep ourselves busy and our fans busy. We released a few songs while already writing during that time. So, in the beginning, they were more about social subjects and things happening in society.
“Then it slowly changed into something different when the war started when Russia invaded Ukraine. That was a huge inspiration source because it’s only a two-and-a-half-hour flight from where our airport is. It’s very close by. It’s the same distance as Barcelona for us. We were so impressed and so shocked by it because we didn’t think any war would be after the Second World War. Maybe that’s maybe a bit naive, but we never thought it would escalate like this.
“It became a huge inspiration source for the writing process. I was in the studio writing when the war broke out, so it immediately turned into a song. We have a few songs that are inspired by the war in the Ukraine. But there are also other subjects that we mentioned, like Mahsa Amini, who died from wearing her hijab in the wrong way, and the revolution started in Iran.
“I lived in the Middle East and so I felt very connected to that area because I know the culture a little bit. My parents didn’t live only in Yemen, but they also lived in Egypt, and I visited Dubai and Saudi Arabia. I’ve been to many countries throughout the years, so I feel connected to the Middle East in a way.”
This means a lot to the iconic frontwoman, as she explains further. “When I talk about it, I can smell the herbs they use in the food, I can see the colours and everything, so it becomes a little bit closer to home when things like that happen. I admire so much the people who individually stood up against the regime in Iran because it takes so much bravery.
“It’s such a brave thing to do knowing that you would be thrown into jail or maybe get killed or whatever. You don’t know what’s gonna happen to you. You know that it won’t be good in any way, and still making that choice. That takes a lot of courage, and it ended up in the song.”
The title of this latest chapter in the Within Temptation story comes out of these thoughts, feelings and inspirations.
“Bleed Out means actually something’s happening, and I can’t take it anymore. It’s a metaphor. I don’t see myself as an activist or a commentator. I think I’m a storyteller. I think I write about things that happen in the world. I’m like the bards of the past. They travel around the world, and they talk about things they’ve seen. They write stories about it and that’s what we do as well.
“It’s like we take fragments of emotions and we put it into a song. We crystallize it. We do it in our own way. It’s a combination of a lot of things you see and that you want to write about that ends up in the song eventually.”
In the days of old, wandering minstrels travelling through Europe would spread stories and news from area to area.
“I think we are doing the same thing, more or less. It’s like keeping certain subjects alive. Also, for a lot of people, it’s already old news. Is that revolution still going on? Yes, it’s going on still, and we need to talk about it, and we need to support them at least by talking about it.
“I don’t think we’re we’re doing something special. It’s more like a small contribution in the hope that it will keep the subject alive and people thinking about it and supporting these people who are so brave in Iran and other countries.”
Asked about plans for touring once the album is released, Sharon says they will announce it when the album comes out. “So you’ll have to wait until then.”
Looking forward to getting back on the road, the chanteuse muses, “I have the most interaction with everyone on stage and with the audience. I feel the pressure of wanting people to be engaged with the show. I want people to understand what we’re doing sometimes, and I want to talk about their city. I sometimes read things before I go to a certain city. I read about what’s happening there, if there are elections, or is there something else going on. Is there some kind of celebration going on?
“I’ll talk about something that’s happening over there or try to engage people with the show and try to have that connection. People go home thinking she actually put some effort into that.”
Within Temptation – Bleed Out – is released on 20 October 2023. Pre-orders can be made here.
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