"They bombed a medical supplies warehouse. You could smell medicine in the air..." Sharon Den Adel went to Ukraine to film Within Temptation's latest video. This is what she found.

Sharon Den Adel Ukraine 2024
(Image credit: Press/Kirai Gigs)

When Russian president Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, it shocked the world. In the months since, Within Temptation have become one of the fiercest anti-war voices in music. As well as speaking out and waving the Ukrainian flag at their live shows, several tracks on last year’s Bleed Out album voiced their fear and anger over the ongoing conflict. 

Now the Dutch metallers have gone a step further, with new standalone single A Fool’s Parade. A track that had been left on the cutting room floor during the sessions for their powerhouse 2019 album Resist, the band dusted it off and rewrote the lyrics, while an incendiary guest turn in the song’s blistering middle eight comes courtesy of Ukrainian rock artist, Alex Yarmak. 

“It refers to the fact that Russia tries to blind a lot of people,” explains singer Sharon den Adel of the songtitle and meaning. “There’s a lot of propaganda, changing their story constantly about what history is or what history was, and telling people that Ukraine are fascists, twisting history. 

"That is what they do. They divide and conquer constantly. We’re living in the West. We have a free press. We have so many possibilities to see what the real story is. It’s such a clear war. Who is the invader and who is trying to protect their country? That there’s even discussion is unbelievable.” 

While most people wouldn’t dream of travelling to an active warzone, Sharon spent a weekend in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, where she recorded the video for the single, working alongside Ukrainian director, Indy Hait. It was a trip made possible by Music Saves UA, a non-profit organisation working to raise awareness, funds and provide humanitarian aid to those affected by the conflict. 

“When you go, it’s at your own risk. You’re not insured,” says Sharon. “I want to keep the attention on Ukraine, and to keep people thinking about it, because news just fades away very quickly. News today is old news tomorrow. It’s the same with the war. The war doesn’t stop. I know a lot of people are tired of it, but Ukraine doesn’t have that luxury to be tired of the war because then they’ll lose.”

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Sharon's Diary: Day 1/Saturday

“We arrived in Kyiv early in the morning, and Alex Yarmak and the Music Saves UA crew were waiting for us at the railway station. It was a real warm welcome. We didn’t have a security detail. I just had our monitor guy, and he was actually the only one who was willing to come. 

I didn’t take the band with me because we had to arrange things so quickly. This was a preparation day for the video shoot, to do make-up and clothes. Everybody in the crew was Ukrainian. We could have done the video in the Netherlands, but because the song is about the whole situation between Ukraine and Russia, it made more sense for us to go there and shoot key places. You can’t feel that emotion when you’re not there. 

“In the evening we went for dinner, and had a lot of long talks with people. The charity took us to this restaurant where everything is traditionally Ukrainian. The potatoes are from the soil of Ukraine. The fish comes out of their rivers. And we ate borscht, which is a soup with beetroot made traditionally with meat. And we had special bread with cinnamon and herb oil. It was delicious. 

“There was not one person who didn’t have a personal story. One of the girls that was working with us, her brother of 37 years old died at the front, and he left a small child and his wife behind. It was those things that immediately gave me goosebumps, the real tragedy of this war.”

Ukraine 2024

(Image credit: Press/Sharon Den Adel)

Sharon's Diary: Day 2/Sunday

“We started shooting the music video at 6am. First, we went to a field near Makariv town on the outskirts of Kyiv, where there was a lot of bombing at the start of the war. The idea was that, in the video, Alex would show me the story of the Ukraine war. I’m just standing there, and all of a sudden we see birds coming out of the sky, and they attack like drones. 

“The second location was at a medical supplies warehouse in Kalynivka village that got bombed. There was still a lot of medical equipment and medicines on the floor. You could smell medicine in the air. We filmed in the centre of that place. You can see the devastation, what a bombing does to a building. We wanted to show that they intentionally bombed a medical supply warehouse, because they knew, of course. 

“Then we went to the Knowledge Square, near the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute, a huge building where they had beautiful murals of people running towards each other. It has a certain movement and it’s really beautiful. We were standing in the middle with a camera circling around us. 

“We had a scene at a huge statue called The Motherland. It’s from 1981, at the time the Soviets were still were running everything. It’s a sculpture of a woman holding a sword in one hand and a shield in the other, and recently they put the Ukraine coat of arms on it and took away the Russian elements of a hammer and sickle. They have some confiscated tanks from the Russians there as well, and people have been writing messages on them in blue and yellow paint. Messages of hope, but also of pain. 

“We asked fans to come to the video shoot at the Patriot Studio, in the Obolon area of Kyiv, to participate. I told Indy, the director, that what inspires me so much about Ukraine is the resilience of the people. They’re so committed to winning this war. Their fighting spirit reminds me of the phoenix rising from the flames. There was a pool of mud we made, and he said, ‘Well, maybe we can do something with that, and make people rise from the mud and stand up and fight. They will fight on, they will dance on, they will go on with life, and they will never give up living, and they will never give up fighting for each other.’ 

“Then the Air Alert went off. I said, ‘OK, what are we going to do?’ And the people from the charity said, ‘The room we are now in, it’s closed with only walls. There are no windows, so we’re safe.’ There needs to be at least one wall between you and a drone, so it can’t hurt you. 

“Everybody in Ukraine has an Air Alert app. Everybody is actually informed in time, because they have time to get a coffee and go to a shelter. I never had any fear for my own safety at all. As long as you’re not running out of battery, which you shouldn’t, then you’re fine. 

'There was a shelter underneath the ground in every hotel, actually. That’s the reason why there’s not that many casualties, I guess. Of course, close towards where it’s really happening on the East side, where there’s constantly bombing and people and cities attacked, there are way more casualties than in Kyiv. 

“What makes it a bit lighter is every time the alert goes off, when you get a notification that the danger is over, it says, ‘May the force be with you’, and the voice who says that is Mark Hamill. He’s part of a special ambassador group that [Ukrainian President, Volodymyr] Zelenskyy was involved in putting together.”

Within Temptation video shoot Ukraine 2024

(Image credit: Press)

Sharon's Diary: Day 3/Monday

“On Monday, we had a lot of promotion for radio and newspapers. We went to the biggest rock radio station in Kyiv, called Radio ROKS. There was an interviewer there, Sonya Sotnyk, and her husband was on the front, fighting. She was also doing humanitarian work, in addition to her job at the station. 

"She went to the Netherlands and got as many SUVs as she could, and took them back to Kyiv so the army could use those to move from one place to another. Everybody has a double day job, almost. Daily life goes on for 90% of people in Kyiv, until there’s an attack or the alarm goes off. 

“We also went to a place called Maidan Nezalezhnosti [Independence Square] where they had little flags. Every flag stands for a person that’s died. When people lose someone, they can buy a small flag and put it in the soil. It just goes on endlessly. That was really breaking me up. You can keep it at a distance when you hear it on the news. But when you’re there, you see the flags and you see the personal photos of people that have died – young men and some even still boys. 

“Since World War II, we thought we were smarter. Seeing that, it was really a realisation that we’ll never learn. We never thought we’d see this close up. It just takes one crazy guy. I really hope that people start realising what a danger Russia is. They’re not just fighting for their own freedom, but for everyone’s freedom if Putin doesn’t stop at Ukraine. 

“It started raining more heavily, so we went to the subway under the square, where there was also a mall. All of a sudden, the Air Alert went off. Apparently, a MiG was on the way. It’s a special aircraft that can carry a bomb that can wipe out a whole area. Everyone was saying, ‘Oh, God, another alarm.’ But a lot of people were like, ‘Oh, another day…’ The alarm was quite quickly turned off again. It’s like, ‘OK, alarm’s over. May the force be with you’, and everybody went outside again.

“We didn’t just go to places that were heavy and intense. Of course, we wanted to see that, because we wanted to see up close the reality of what people are going through. But we also went to Peizazhna Alley, where we had a beautiful view of the city, and we were looking over the old town. It was really amazing. 

"Although people have intense stories about family members who have died, still they’re very positive. They try to contribute and fight on in their own way. And they get courage out of that. 

“I’m really happy to have had this experience. I think there’s a lot of people that feel powerless and don’t know what to do. I’m glad that we could do something with music. We met a lot of new, beautiful people again that we’re still in touch with. It was a lifetime experience.”

Within Temptation will donate all royalties of A Fool's Parade to Music Saves UA for the duration of the war. For more info, visit the band's official website

Sharon Den Adel Ukraine 2024

(Image credit: Press)

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What is Music Saves UA?

Inside the nonprofit organisation that made Sharon’s trip to Ukraine possible

To make Sharon’s trip to Kyiv a reality, Within Temptation partnered with Music Saves UA, a non-profit fundraising organisation with roots in the Ukrainian music industry, which aims to help civilians. 

Shortly after Sharon’s trip, her husband/ Within Temptation recording guitarist Robert Westerholt visited Ukraine as part of Music Save UA’s Music Ambassadors Tour, where they invited 12 people from 11 European countries to Kyiv and the Chernihiv region. 

“We were under airstrikes all the time, like two times a day,” says PR manager Anna Dolynska. “That’s how we make a difference – you read this on the news, but when you come here and see it with your own eyes, it feels different.”

Dannii Leivers

Danniii Leivers writes for Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Prog, The Guardian, NME, Alternative Press, Rock Sound, The Line Of Best Fit and more. She loves the 90s, and is happy where the sea is bluest.