The Hydra, a mythological serpent creature from ancient Greece, couldn’t be killed. When one of its many heads was cut off, two more grew in its place…
“It’s like us – undefeatable!” laughs WITHIN TEMPTATION guitarist and songwriter Robert Westerholt. “What’s more, ‘Hydra’ is a perfect title for our new abum, because like the monster itself, the record represents the many different sides of our music. If you’re a fan of WITHIN TEMPTATION, you’re going to love ‘Hydra’, because it’s the most powerful album we’ve ever made, and it has some amazing and totally unexpected collaborations. We can’t wait for you to hear it!”
Following up on 2011’s Top 5 album ‘The Unforgiving’ was no easy task for Westerholt, singer Sharon den Adel, guitarist Ruud Jolie, bassist Jeroen van Veen, keyboard player Martijn Spierenburg, guitarist Stefan Helleblad and drummer Mike Coolen. After all, WITHIN TEMPTATION have never been a band to be content with simply repeating their past. With ‘Hydra’, their sixth studio album since their 1997 debut release ‘Enter’, the group have raised the bar once again, writing their fastest, most powerful material in years and inviting a stellar cast of guests to help them deliver the music to their worldwide fanbase.
As Sharon explains, “We’ve looked back over our past albums, and taken different elements that we like and brought them back for ‘Hydra’. We had death metal growls on ‘Enter’, but we’ve never used them again – until now! It’s all about new blood and new ideas for us: we need changes in our music so that we can continue to explore in the future. We don’t believe in boundaries.”
In September 2013, WITHIN TEMPTATION showed exactly what they meant by expanding their boundaries with the release of the ‘Paradise (What About Us?)’ EP and promo video, featuring a collaboration with Finnish metal diva TARJA TURUNEN on the title track. “Each of us knew who the other was from TV and articles,” remembers Sharon, “and we’d played at the same festivals but always on different days, so we’d never actually met. Tarja is a really great person. She has a great sense of humor, and the collaboration was great – musically and personally.” The EP also included demo versions of three new tracks, ‘Let Us Burn’, ‘Silver Moonlight’, and ‘Dog Days’.
Following up on the success of ‘Paradise (What About Us?)’, ‘Hydra’ will reveal the full extent of WITHIN TEMPTATION’s musical rebirth. Produced by Daniel Gibson, the album covers a wide range of musical styles and lyrical themes. Ask Robert to sum up the tracks for the fans and he explains, “The whole thing about this album is that it’s unconventional: for example, we wanted to involve the fans in the process of recording, so we included demo tracks on the ‘Paradise’ EP back in September, instead of just throwing in some bad songs as bonus tracks because you don’t want to use them on the album.”
You want to hear unconventional? Say hello to American hip-hop legend Xzibit, who delivers a rap on the song ‘And We Run’. “Xzibit is amazing!” says Robert. “This song is about how you’ve got to live your life now. He’s rapping at full force on this song, it’s really heavy. We’ve actually planned to have him on a WITHIN TEMPTATION album for a long time, but we never had the right song for him until now. He was perfect because we wanted a real rapper with a deep voice, because that would complement Sharon’s vocals. He’s a very positive guy with a huge history: he came from a tough background and decided to make something of his life. He really delivered!”
Sharon adds: “Xzibit brings a new element to WITHIN TEMPTATION that we’ve never had before! It’s a new cross-over and we love it! We also like his lyrics so we gave him the freedom to write whatever he wanted and he came up with some amazing lines for this song.”
Another soon-to-be fan favorite is ‘Silver Moonlight’, which Robert describes as “the opposite of a love song. It’s about how people have hunted down through the ages other people that they didn’t understand, using the metaphor of werewolves. I did some death metal growls and screams on this song. It’s been a long time since I did those, and as soon as I started recording them I realized why I stopped singing that way… It really hurts! It was fun to do them again, though.”
‘Dangerous’ was recorded with the former Killswitch Engage singer Howard Jones, whose epic vocals are a perfect fit for Sharon’s. “I always loved Howard’s voice,” she says. “He makes the song even heavier than it already is. This song is one of our favorite songs on the record and one of the fastest songs we’ve ever written. It has the most bass drums we’ve ever used, too, and a very fast riff which we doubled with synths. It’s not a typical synthesizer, though – it’s distorted like a guitar, and it’s very aggressive.”
The darkest depths of the human condition are explored in songs such as ‘Roses’, which Robert explains was inspired by the poet John Keats (Ode On Melancholy). “Keats said that all beauty must die,” he muses. “It’s about the mortality of beauty”, while real-life tragedy was the inspiration for ‘Tell Me Why?’, he adds: “The lyrics of this song were inspired by the great losses you can experience in life, such as losing family or close friends.” As Sharon explains, “I recently witnessed this when it happened to a close friend of mine. It was a traumatic experience: these losses can make you doubt the relevance of a lot of things, and you ask yourself why you’re still here. I think that people in many different situations will relate to it.”
‘Hydra’ goes from strength to strength with ‘Whole World Is Watching’, featuring Soul Asylum’s golden-voiced singer Dave Pirner. “I remember when I first heard the song ‘Runaway Train’,” recalls Sharon. “I was travelling through India and I saw the video on MTV Asia. Dave’s voice and lyrics just blew me away! The impact of that song with the images of India never left me. When we wrote ‘Whole World Is Watching’, Dave was at the top of our list. He has such a captivating voice: it made the song exactly how it needed to be. It’s about overcoming setbacks in life: after all, those are what create you. It feels as if the whole world is with you when these things happen. It’s an optimistic song, but dramatic at the same time.”
And of course there’s ‘Paradise (What About Us?)’, which the band realized would be the perfect song for Tarja Turunen’s guest vocal as soon as it was written. “We knew that Tarja’s voice would give ‘Paradise’ extra power,” remembers Robert. “The way she delivers those high melody lines left us all speechless. There is always a bit of tension between different bands of the same genre – mostly created by people on the outside – but we knew that this wouldn’t come between us, and that we’d be able to work together. We had a great time, and the fans responded beyond our expectations.”
So what can fans expect from ‘Hydra’ when they get to hear it? Robert sums up: “This album is about the big things in life and in the world today. It’s dark, and powerful! We still have our symphonic elements, but it’s much faster and heavier than ‘The Unforgiving’. It goes in completely different directions – hence the title ‘Hydra’, because it represents the different sides of us.”
As Sharon puts it, “It’s the best of old and new. ‘Hydra’ really shows the multiple personalities of WITHIN TEMPTATION. We looked back to our previous work and forward to our future, and we combined those things to make the album.”
‘Hydra’ is a total reawakening for us – a reinvention,” says Robert. “We’ve created a whole new sound!”
Within Temptation’s album ‘Hydra’ is released on Within Temptation Recordings b.v.
under exclusive license to BMG Rights Management (BeNeLux) b.v.