"If you don't stand up and say nothing, you won't change anything!"
„Bleed Out" is Within Temptation's eighth studio album. Dark Divas had the opportunity to speak with frontwoman Sharon den Adel about the new work with an unusual backstory before the release.
URSULA VON DARK DIVAS
20. Oct 2023
Is the time before an album release special to you?
Sharon den Adel: Yes, it's both an ending and a beginning. For our fans, it's the start as they can finally listen to the album in its entirety. For us, it marks the conclusion of the recording and promotion process. Especially with this album, everything was different from what we're used to, and it took place over a longer period. The album was created in strange times – during the era of Covid. That's why we released the singles gradually, not all at once, as is customary after the album's release.
You already mentioned it: the album's creation story is unusual.
Sharon: Yes, the first song we recorded was "Entertain You" in early 2020. The final song was added just this January. "Bleed Out" developed over three years. A lot has happened in the world during that time.
You mentioned in a conversation that you enjoyed working this way. Will you continue with this approach?
Sharon: I believe so. We probably won't release as many singles upfront as we did this time. But the immediate release feels really good. Our songs often come together in the moment, reflecting current events, and you can share them directly with the fans. It brings you into immediate engagement, and that feels good.
You released an album independently for the first time, meaning without a label behind you. Was this a necessary, emancipatory step for more artistic freedom?
Sharon: Yes, the conditions with labels are different. There are clear slots for when a song has to be released and when the next album should or must come out. Labels also don't only represent one band; they have to consider the interests of many different artists. I understand that, but it was important for us to work at our own pace, in the way we need to. The way it is now, it feels right, free, and independent.
Is this a step back to true artistic freedom, free from label constraints? Many bands are currently choosing this path, and it seems like a trend, a counter-movement to me.
Sharon: It could be a kind of movement. I can't speak for other bands because I don't know the specific reasons behind their decisions. For us, it's like this: We worked with labels for a long, long time. We learned a lot from that experience. It was extremely important for us, and we gained a lot of knowledge. But now, we need something different. This system no longer works for us. I wouldn't recommend that a young band starting out should forgo a label. At the beginning, so much comes at you that, from my perspective, a young band can't handle on its own. In the beginning, the support of a label is excellent. We only made this step after 26 years. (laughs)
So, you don't want to go back to a label?
I had to smile when I read that you and your partner work on the tracks together but separately so as not to start arguing. How long have you been doing it this way?
Sharon: When we started working with our brilliant producer Daniel Gibson, he acted as a mediator between us to ensure we were nice to each other. (laughs) When Robert is in the studio, I don't go in, and vice versa. And Daniel helps us stay balanced and friendly to each other. (laughs) You might know this from your own relationship: with your partner, you're often too honest, too unforgiving, and you don't hold back your opinions or filter your communication. When you work with someone who isn't your partner in real life, you express criticism differently. You might say, "Yeah, that sounds good already, but I might try this and that." You're much more diplomatic than you would be with your husband. (laughs)
Let's delve a bit into "Bleed Out." It's an album with strong political positions and deals with serious issues - war, crises, oppression, violence. Does being an artist also mean taking a political stance for you?
Sharon: I don't think artists have to be political. However, we have chosen to be. We have always been politically interested and engaged. But we were also somewhat afraid to incorporate this aspect into our work because, let's be honest, it's a minefield. So much can be misunderstood and misinterpreted when you take a political stance. Many artists, as well as fans, say that you shouldn't talk about politics in music, and that's okay. This is how democracy works: we can agree to disagree. If we were a band in Russia, for instance, we wouldn't have the opportunity to express ourselves so openly, or in other countries where dictatorship prevails. In those places, that option doesn't exist. We include politics in our lyrics because we are frustrated and saddened by what's happening in our world, and we have the freedom to do so. We try to make the events addressed in the album relatable with personal stories through our music and lyrics. We're not doing it to be cool; we do it because we see no other option. The freedom of the individual is the most important thing to us. We grew up in a free, democratic world, but it's currently under great threat, even in Europe. This concerns us greatly. If Ukraine loses the war against Russia, it's another country that will no longer have democracy.
You mentioned "Entertain You" earlier. In that song, you sing, "We're not here to entertain you." Is that a message to your fans? Listen to us and learn from it? Do you want to provide your fans with a cathartic moment?
Sharon: That's always my hope. That the lyrics are heard, and we plant a seed of thought that continues to grow in the minds of concertgoers even after the show. But I also know that many just want to have a good time at our concerts. During our performances, we seize the opportunity to explain the content and the stories behind the songs. We hope it has an impact.
Do you believe that many artists remain silent out of fear of being canceled?
Sharon: Definitely. But those who don't stand up and say anything won't change anything either.
Sharon den Adel
Sharon den Adel (born July 12, 1974 in Waddinxveen) is frontwoman and founder of the Dutch symphonic and alternative metal band Within Temptation.
In "Cyanide Love," you speak German. You say, "I didn't hear anything. I won't talk." What's the story behind that?
Sharon: (laughs) We wanted to use a language other than English to convey a sense of foreignness. I tried it in Ukrainian, but it didn't sound good the way I said it. Then we tried it in Dutch, but it didn't have the right sound (laughs). We tried it in German, and that worked. I could manage German (laughs). The song itself is about resistance in Kherson, Ukraine, so ideally, the native language would have been the first choice for the spoken part, but I couldn't manage it.
The band has undergone significant stylistic changes over the 26 years of its history, moving from Gothic to Symphonic and now to Alternative Metal. Is this a deliberate choice or simply an evolution?
Sharon: It's an evolution. Primarily because we're a band that gets bored with repetition very quickly. You can't always do the same thing - that's stagnation. We don't want that. Besides, I lack the ability to replicate the same thing, and change happens automatically. Trying out new things is more enjoyable and satisfying. We all think the same way in the band.
Within Temptation, formed in 1996, is a Dutch alternative metal band led by vocalist Sharon den Adel. Over their illustrious career, they've evolved from their gothic metal roots into a more diverse metal sound. With chart-topping albums and hits, they are an influential force in the metal scene.
Sharon den Adel - Vocals Robert Westerholt - Gitarre Ruud Jolie - Gitarre Stefan Helleblad - Gitarre Martijn Spierenburg - Keyboard Jeroen van Veen - Bass Mike Coolen - Drums
Let's go back to the global situation for a moment. The world as it is today scares many of us. How do you see the future?
Sharon: I think everything comes in waves. There are worse times, and then better times come back. I believe the biggest problem for humanity is that we don't learn from our mistakes, that we don't learn from history. I hope that changes.
One last question – you are a band that tours extensively. How do you manage to motivate yourselves time and time again?
Sharon: For me, it's a love-hate relationship. Two weeks before the tour starts, I struggle with stomachaches. I'm someone who has a hard time with change, and touring is a complete change from my normal daily life. But when we're on tour, I love it. Touring is addictive. After the tour, it takes me nearly two weeks to become the normal Sharon again (laughs). On tour, you get applause every day, and you can easily get the feeling that you're the greatest. It's different at home; you're not a star, you don't receive applause, and that's okay. Coming home is crucial for me because it keeps me grounded. I imagine the time after touring could be very challenging for artists without families. They don't have that balance with everyday life. I think if you stay on tour for too long, you could easily become a narcissist. It's very intense, both in a positive and negative way. I love what I do, but like in any job, there are pros and cons, and I'm already looking forward to the next tour.
We've reached the end. Do you have any final words for the fans?
Sharon: Yes, we support an organization called Ukraine Aid Ops. It's a non-profit organization. And we'd like to take every opportunity to call for support.
Thank you for your time, Sharon!