The bigger a band gets, the harder it is to get in contact with them, even within the confines of a strictly-controlled -and-for-the-benefit-of-the-band-interview-situation. Ten per cent of our allotted interview time with Within Temptation’s admirable vocalist Sharon den Adel is wasted with pointless faffing, but eventually we are connected, and ready to chat about the band’s new album, the excellent Resist.
Thanks for taking the time to chat – it’s a privilege to talk with you. The album is due out on the first of February but there have been a fair few reviews on the intwerwebs – are you pleased with the reaction it’s gotten so far? ‘Well, we’ve been touring now for a few weeks, a month or more, and the reactions we have had there have been very good actually. Maybe the reaction to the first song we released was that it wasn’t very symphonic – from symphonic metal lovers anyway – and it’s true there isn’t as much symphonic metal as there has been before on Resist. But we still try to make a big sound, in a different way. Not with an orchestra but using different sounds. But I don’t really mind if people are critical and have their own opinion – it’s okay. People have their own tastes, but this is our taste and this is what we like to do”.
I’m interested to hear what you say with regard to the ‘big but different’ sound of the album. Tracks like Firelight have a very cinematic sound, don’t they? It’s big in that widescreen sort of way. “Absolutely. It’s still epic, but it is very cinematic – it could be used in any movie! The orchestras are still there but used in a more minimalistic way, especially on songs like Raise Your Banner”.
You mentioned the reaction of the fans – many of whom, especially the longer term WT fans, were worried by early statements emanating from your camp that mentioned the band were experimenting with more pop-orientated sounds… Does it surprise you that people who have been with you for a long time and know what you are capable of would be worried about that little three-letter word? Den Adel answers after she’s finished chuckling “No, not at all… when people hear the word ‘pop’ they freak out! But that shows their passion in a way I think. It’s not so much the songs that are pop but the way in which we are inspired by some of the modern sounds that are found in pop music… there are a lot of metal bands out there but none that really inspire us at this time, which doesn’t really say anything about metal but more about what inspires us. Metal isn’t on the radio at the moment, at least not in our country, and bands don’t seem to be doing much that’s revolutionary – it’s hard to find young bands doing that. So you have to get your inspiration from other areas. But we’ll always have heavy guitars – it will always be heavy music”.
It seems quite obvious that no music will ever be made without inspiration, so it’s surprising that people do get so het up about the concept of a metal band ‘going pop’ Especially when you consider a song like Sinead (from the band’s 2011 album The Unforgiving-Ed), which had a very poppy structure. “Exactly. That was written at a time when dance music was becoming very strong, and we wanted to combine the best of both worlds. But it still has very heavy guitars! Ans when we played it live everybody went nuts! It’s nice when you have a lot of dark material to have a song with that kind of energy”.
Now as you say you’ve already done a bit of touring with the album, but your stated intention now is to break up the touring a little bit and not to be out on the road for long periods – that being said, is there any chance that Resist might get a live airing down under this year? “Well, we’re still talking about it but in the past there’s been a lot of talking and nothing has happened! It’s very time consuming, and Australia and the Asian countries are so far away. In the past it’s always been ‘we can go over there, or we can start work on a new album’ – but it has always been on our agenda to tour in Australia. I can’t make any promises because I don’t want to disappoint you, We just don’t know at the moment (laughs)!”
Moving away from the album/business side of things for a moment I’ve always wanted to ask you about your vocals – for me you have the most honest way of conveying emotion in your vocals. Nobody does that as well as you do. When you tell a story, do you have to get ‘in character’ or is it just very natural for you to become that person you are singing about? “Well for me – and thanks for the compliment, by the way! – but for me the thing is always that there is something personal in the songs. So it is easy for me to get into the emotion of the character. And sometimes it is about things that have been going on around us, things that I can relate to. It’s a mixture of the stories of other people and stories of my own. If the lyrics aren’t about me then I look into the situation and think how I would feel which makes it easier to get into the lyrics”.
Who were your inspirations and influences growing up? Who made you want to be a singer? More laughter. “That’s funny, coming from Australia! I’ve been singing ever since I was a small child. My family moved to Indonesia for a long time when I was one and a half. I had a brother who was six years older, who got pocket money, and when I was four I demanded to have some money myself. At the time a movie came out and I was in love with the vocals of this lady who could sing so well. And her name was Olivia Newton-John! Really! And I sang those songs from Grease on a daily basis for ten years, from when I was four to when I was fourteen… I drove people crazy, especially my parents, who were saying ‘not again! Don’t you have other tapes?’ but I just loved it so much! You can’t imagine how many Olivia Newton-John records I have. I just love her voice”.
Back to the album now – is there anything else you’d like to say about the record that we haven’t yet talked about? “Maybe why we called it Resist? Resist is as much a theme for the record as a title. I grew up in a digital time, with a Commodore 64 – yes that’s how old I am! (laughs), but I never thought about how much the internet or social media would come to control our lives; in my opinion, although we live in a democracy, the internet has taken away our anonymity. We’re trackable or traceable at any time. And I think that that is a dangerous thing, in a way. Everybody says if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear, and I totally agree, but if we lived in a different kind of time, for instance if the second world war happened now like it did, then that technology would be very different if used by the wrong hands and turned against us. We’ve seen it in some of the episodes of Black Mirror and other movies, where everybody just becomes a number, and algorithms take over your life. And behind those algorithms are big companies or governments. This isn’t a conspiracy theory, it’s just a reality of life. And people should be more aware of it. And that is the reason we made this album, because we were intrigued and inspired by this subject. Wake up! Be aware! Things are changing! And maybe we should be aware of what and why things are changing”.