Few bands have had as illustrious a career as Within Temptation. Since their formation in 1996 by longtime partners, vocalist Sharon den Adel and guitarist Robert Westerholt, the Dutch symphonic metallers have confidently inscribed themselves in the annals of rock and metal history.
Mainly because of their outstanding output, which has become a symbol of integrity, and their unwavering will to shape their career according to their unique creative vision. A legion of fans and recognitions followed, and 26 years later there are no signs of them slowing down or bowing to the changing influences of the times.
It’s probably that single-mindedness that has ensured they’ve been able to withstand the pitfalls of a profoundly changing music industry, as it’s clear with the release of their eighth studio album, Bleed Out, that they’re not afraid to break new ground either.
„We started writing the winter before the pandemic,“ Sharon says of the writing process that would become „Bleed Out.“ „We were going to go on the Worlds Collide tour with Evanescence, had been releasing our previous album, „Resist,“ for a while, and thought it would be good to have some new songs as well.“
Fate and the world crisis had other plans, although Sharon and Robert emphasize that „Bleed Out“ is not a pandemic album. Rather, the confluence of events ushered in a period of self-released singles that kept Within Temptation connected to their fans when that connection was needed most, and it also gave them the opportunity to respond lyrically to world events quickly and without the relatively plodding pace of a full album release.
„It meant we could write a song the moment an event occurred and we could then release in a relatively short period of time, rather than two years later,“ Sharon says. „It’s a really nice opportunity and I’m really excited about it.“ „Being able to release quickly means we’re not 18 months behind when we talk about our songs,“ adds Robert.
The releases of each track resulted in an unconventional release schedule, but also revealed one of Within Temptation’s clearest statements to date: an album that is as epic as it is unapologetically frank, and anyone who has seen the Dutchmen on stage with the Ukrainian flag recently will know that they are not afraid to take a stand on issues close to their hearts.
Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Within Temptation have shifted their focus from writing about social issues to addressing the war in Ukraine, the plight of women fighting for their freedom in Iran, and the complex issues associated with a woman’s right to choose.
Throughout the writing process, „Bleed Out“ became a proclamation of the band’s particular approach to music, and careful observers will note that this is not an album that has inhibitions about shaking a speaker system or two. Infused with an enormous dynamic range that plumbs the full depths of symphonic heaviness, „Bleed Out“ is as heavy as it is politically profound.
There is also a strong subtext derived from Within Temptation’s emancipation from the music industry. Completely independent, they now self-release their music without a traditional record label dictating schedules or release timeframes. In short, they have torn up the record company rulebook.
„With all the streaming services, it’s easier to self-release,“ Robert explains. „That, combined with the fact that we got the rights back to our music, means we’re in control of our own careers. Record companies are a machine, working with them takes time and that started to bug us a bit. We want to try things when we want to and not have to wait.“
„It means we can work quickly,“ Sharon adds. „Labels tend to be traditional, but these aren’t traditional times, and the way people find and enjoy music is constantly evolving.“
But while much has changed in Within Temptation’s world, one or two tried-and-true approaches have remained intact, as they’ve been writing and recording their songs primarily under the tutelage of longtime producer Daniel Gibson since 2004. „Daniel is the glue between us,“ Robert says. „Sharon and I don’t write together – we argue! I sit down and write with Daniel, but then I leave the room and she comes in and does the same thing!“
It’s a creative ebb and flow that has yielded impressive results in the past, and from the sounds of it, this is an album that is as unflinchingly metallic as it is boldly direct in its convictions. The single „Wireless“ released in May and its accompanying video were a vocal indictment of the invasion of Ukraine. But it’s also about the repetition of history, in which people willingly enlist in the army and mistakenly believe they are obligated to answer their government’s call.
In the end, they find they have been deceived. „The war in Ukraine has affected us a lot. As artists, we are inspired by the world, and we have this platform and to express. We are storytellers, and I think as human beings we should talk about these events.“
And it’s not just the Russian invasion of Ukraine that’s bothering the songwriting duo. „Don’t Pray For Me“ tackles the complex issues surrounding a woman’s right to choose, while „Bleed Out“ – the album’s title track – addresses the plight of women fighting for their rights in Iran. „I lived in Yemen as a child,“ she says. „My parents lived in several Middle Eastern countries, and I visited them often when they were there. It’s a different world. Because of my time there, I feel connected to that part of the world. I was so incredibly impressed by the bravery of the young women there who burned their headscarves even though they knew they would be thrown in jail or worse would happen to them – it’s heartbreaking.“
That’s not to say there aren’t bright spots on „Bleed Out,“ however, as the ravishing track „Ritual“ is, as Sharon explains, one of the most wicked songs the band has ever written and was inspired entirely by Tarantino’s From Dusk Till Dawn. „It’s a fun track about seduction,“ Sharon explains „because it’s about a woman taking over and taking initiative in a male-dominated world.“
With this album release and tour plans to go with it, Within Temptation is a band fighting for good, and they’re doing it their way.
1. We Go To War 2. Bleed Out 3. Wireless 4. Worth Dying For 5. Ritual 6. Cyanide Love 7. The Purge 8. Don’t Pray For Me 9. Shed My Skin (feat. Annisokay) 10. Unbroken 11. Entertain You
Stream „Bleed Out“ on Spotify: