Beyond the Boys’ Club is a monthly column from journalist and radio host Anne Erickson, focusing on women in the heavy music genres, as they offer their perspectives on the music industry and discuss their personal experiences. This month’s piece features an interview with Within Temptation vocalist Sharon den Adel.
If there’s anyone who understands how the path of women in hard rock and metal music has evolved over the past two decades, it’s Sharon den Adel. As frontwoman of the Dutch symphonic metal band Within Temptation, the singer has been at the forefront of women in the metal genre since the release of her band’s 1997 debut album, Enter.
Back then, Within Temptation’s soaring female vocals and melodic backings were an anomaly in the metal world.
“The females in music, at that time, were more in pop — and in metal, having a female singer clearly was not done much,” she tells Heavy Consequence.
But she soon noticed a change in the movement — a good one. More and more, women started coming forward to not only sing in metal bands, but also take on guitar, bass and drums.
Sharon spoke with Heavy Consequence for the latest Beyond the Boys’ Club column, discussing the rise of women in metal music over the years, her own experiences as a woman in metal, and Within Temptation’s new album, Resist. Read the full interview below:
On her overall experience being a woman in the heavy music world
I’ve never had bad experiences, except for sometimes you don’t get played on the radio as much because you’re a female. In America, it’s more difficult to get on the radio and be played, because they listen more to men, I suppose. In Europe, it’s way different. There, it’s more equal in what they play, being male or female-fronted bands. It’s not a big thing. In America, it’s more of a thing. It’s not as easy for us to get on the radio there, because they have more male-fronted bands.
On the balance of men and women in the European metal scene
The scene I’m in, there are so many bands, and they’re all doing very well. It seems in my country and in many European countries, it’s not equal, but it’s very close to it, as far as the numbers of men and woman in the genre. We’re getting there, and it’s not always that it’s the women who are singing — they could be playing bass or drums or anything.
On how the press treats female metal musicians
You want to be approached as an equal in music, in general. People always ask how I am able to work my family life with the band and how I handle stuff, but everybody in a band has a family today. You get to a certain age, and many people have families. That’s what still annoys me — that people would wonder how I would combine personal life with being on the road. I do it like any other musician. They wouldn’t ask Ozzy or another band with a male singer. For me, it’s the same. I think it’s very old-fashioned. I especially get that from fashion magazines and non-music magazines.
On the evolution of women in metal since Within Temptation first started out
I think, since we started, at the time there weren’t many female vocalists in bands. For me, in the beginning, people were surprised to find a female vocalist, and most guys who came to concerts would say, “I can finally take my girlfriend to a show that she might even like!” (Laughs) So, we had a mixed audience, and we always were accepted. That was also when the scene was starting to get more melodic, and then a lot of females came in, and it started growing. Now, I see girls growling, as well, and I think that’s so cool. I can’t sing that way, but I see a lot of girls do what only the men would do in the past, and that’s a nice flavor. So, over the decades, we’ve seen things come and go, and things always change. You have to continue to fight for certain rights for not only women but other groups of people, too.
On advice she would give to young women looking to get into the heavy music world
I think the best advice — not just for woman, but I think general advice for men and women — is to be original. Don’t try to be somebody that is already out there. Stay close to what you like and who you are. You can do crossovers and that can be a step forward to something new, but don’t do it because you think it will get you somewhere. Do it because you believe in it.
On Within Temptation’s new album, Resist, and how fans have embraced the album
We get different reviews from fans, and most of them really like it. There’s also a group of people that need to get the feel of it, because it’s quite different, so they need to adjust to it. I think that’s a good sign, because we had a few years to get used to the new music and explore it, and you can’t expect everyone to be happy about what you’re doing the moment they hear it. Sometimes they have to get into it first, and sometimes they never do, so you lose some fans and gain some fans, but it’s the only way forward.
On Within Temptation’s new music video for “Supernova” already hitting 3 million views and the importance of music videos for musicians today
I think it’s pretty important, because it defines who you are as a band. It’s an easy way to get an impression of a band, and music videos are easy to access. People go on the Internet to check out a band and get an idea of a band and see the music they are making. I think a lot of people make very basic videos, but we try to spend more time on videos and put a lot into them. It’s more than a simple video — it’s an expressive one with a story behind it. So, the videos that we’ve done so far for this album are pretty expensive. I think it’s a good way to promote your album, especially because you can’t rely on radio in all countries.
On what Jacoby Shaddix of Papa Roach brought to the song “The Reckoning”
We were looking for someone like him with his kind of voice, and we had already recorded the song with all my vocals. We thought it would be really cool to ask him, because he gives an extra attitude to a song. The song already has attitude, but he gives an extra bite to it and gives a melancholy feeling to it, which I think is awesome.
On how Within Temptation goes about picking artists with whom to collaborate
It’s more that we write songs and eventually we think, “Maybe this could fit with this person or that person.” We never think of it being, “I want to make a song with this particular person,” because there are so many great musicians out there in not only America, but also in Europe and other countries. Sometimes we pick somebody not that known who we think fits with the song.
Our thanks to Within Temptation’s Sharon den Adel for taking the time to speak with us. Pick up Within Temptation’s new album, Resist, at this location.