WITHIN TEMPTATION Interview: Sharon den Adel on the futuristic sound of ‘Resist’

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The turning of the millennium felt like something of a sonic wasteland for heavy metal music for me. So much of it seemed uninspired. Then one day while wasting time on MySpace playing some insipid game called Vampire Wars, a foe I was trying to vanquish suggested I listen to Within Temptation. I went to YouTube and began watching their videos, falling down the rabbit hole for hours. The Dutch band had just released its epic 2007 album, The Heart of Everything. It remains one of the few albums of this century that I consider flawless. Sharon den Adel’s voice is so embracing and readily identifiable one could listen to her sing the names from a phonebook and become mesmerized.

She formed Within Temptation with her longtime life partner, guitarist Robert Westerholt in 1996. Bassist Jeroen van Veen has been with them since the beginning. Over the course of Within Temptation’s 20+ year career, the group’s sound has evolved from doomish Gothic metal, to symphonic metal, to 80s pop-infused cinematic metal, to a new hybrid fusion of metal with futuristic and urban elements added to this sonic evolution. The result is the band’s seventh studio album, Resist.

The 1997 debut album, Enter showcased their early doom and gothic influences, but by 1998’s EP The Dance, one could already hear a sonic shift. A sound that would evolve even further with their second full-length effort, 2000’s Mother Earth, which featured the band’s first breakthrough single, “Ice Queen”. Four years would pass before The Silent Force  would release, the first to feature guitarist Ruud Joile and keyboardist Martijn Spierenburg. By this point, they were arguably the frontrunners of the symphonic metal movement. Worldwide notoriety would come three years later with the release of The Heart of Everything, which would include four different versions of the single, “What Have You Done,” and launch four other singles as well. Another four years would pass before the release of The Unforgiving, an album showcasing an 80s pop influence into an album conceptually devised as a film soundtrack. Westerholt would retire from active touring to focus on family and studio work only. Stefan Helleblad would take over his guitar duties, and drummer Mike Coolen joined in time for the album’s tour.

After a covers album in 2013, the band returned with arguably its biggest album to date with 2014’s Hydra. The record broke new ground for the band musically while also revisiting some of its earlier elements. It featured guest performances including Tarja Turunen, rapper XzibitDavid Pirner (Soul Asylum), and Howard Jones (Light the Torch, ex-Killswitch Engage).  Within Temptation embarked on one of its largest and longest tours, and by the time it was over, den Adel admits to being creatively drained. After some down time she began working on a solo project, the singer/songwriter-centric, My Indigo. Feeling refreshed and re-inspired, Within Temptation began work on its boldest album so far, and this week we spoke with Sharon about the new record, Resist.

What did you want to say with this Resist?

“I think ‘resist’ was more like a theme for the album, and you can of course resist in different ways. You can have you personal boundaries you want to express, but also political ones. We’ve never been a political band, not that obvious. We were very much influenced by political things happening in our own country but also in the world. In the past, the Silent Force album was actually political for us, but we never mentioned it in interviews. Not that much, anyway.  Also with The Heart of Everything we had a song called “The Heart of Everything,” which was inspired by William Wallace; you know the guy from Braveheart. So the historical story inspired us as well. Now we are more inspired by things happening now in the world. We’re finding so many things happening in the world that are so crazy that you’re thinking, ‘which direction are we going?’ For me, I’m not really happy with how a lot of things are developing in our country, and it has a lot to do with how things are going on the internet. Especially social media. When I was growing up in the 80s, having my Commodore 64 with floppy disks, playing games, I never thought that there would be something like social media. I didn’t know the internet was going to be this huge. Of course you could have seen it coming, but I was a kid at the time. We just grew up in the digital age, and we love development. Everybody loves development, but I think it went very fast. Especially the last 10 years. I think what’s lacking are the privacy laws to protect people. Sometimes people don’t see what’s happening with their content and how its used by big companies, but also government. So for me it’s always a big question mark. Resist is like, people really need to be a little bit more aware of things, I think. It’s started growing now. People are starting to talk more about privacy laws and ways to protect ourselves, but a lot of people really don’t know what’s behind your computer on the other end, like what is happening to your content, and who is owning that content. A lot of companies today are saying everything you put on social media is theirs, because you’ve used their social media programs. A lot of people are not aware of that. If you want to remove something that can be very difficult. You won’t see that directly in our lyrics. It’s more like, if you want to change things in your society–that’s what ‘Raise your Banner’ is about. It’s the fact that everybody has power. Everybody has a voice.We haven’t been protesting about anything in this country except our paychecks when companies are not paying you enough.  It’s not like in the 80s when we were fighting against the bomb. People went massively on the streets, demonstrating and really making themselves visible. I think together you can make a voice. I think also, with social media the world has become smaller. We know everything about America. We know everything about China. We can look anything up, so the world has become small in a way. but I think our democracy is in danger in a way, because algorithms are determining what we see on the internet. When we vote in the Netherlands, we have to use paper and pencil again because we don’t trust computers and hackers influencing the end results. It’s like we’re going back to the dark ages.”

You can listen to the full interview with Sharon den Adel below as she talks about My Indigo, the sound and direction of Resist, some of the album’s songs, the political and social commentary of the album’s theme, and much more.

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