Sharon den Adel emerged onto the metal scene 25 years ago with Within Temptation, lending the angelic highs of her soprano vocal range to the Dutch band’s ethereal yet heavy sound. Since then they’ve continually evolved, working with everyone from the Dutch Metropole Orchestra to hip hop legend Xzibit, but never losing the vast cinematic element of their sound. We sat down with the effervescent singer to pick through the tracks which best represent her musical journey with the band.
Candles (Enter, 1997)
“I think the most beautiful song [on Enter] is Candles. It has a romantic, dark feeling to it. We were very much inspired by all the epic movies we were watching at the time, like Braveheart, that were these big sagas. I was also reading George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire; I could disappear into those books. They gave me a lot of inspiration to write lyrics.
“It was while listening to this Paradise Lost song – Lost Paradise, I think it was – that had this opera singer on it, that the penny dropped for us. Something beautiful combined with heavy music and growling. From then, all the things we really loved listening to – Marillion, Iron Maiden, Kate Bush, Tori Amos – small elements of these all bubbled up and came out in the music.”
Ice Queen (Mother Earth, 2000)
“A lot of people got to know us through Ice Queen. Actually, it was called Believer in the beginning, but we wanted to continue the theme of Mother Earth. I don’t mind playing it for the rest of our lives. We’ve tried to make different versions of it that give it a new life and a new shine, and it’s taken many different shapes: we did an acoustic version where we tried to give it a more bluesy sound, we had Jasper Steverlinck cover it who did an amazing job, and now we’re playing the original again. I still like the song because it brings me back to my love of Nirvana – and look, I know nobody hears Nirvana in it except me. But when I’m singing it, I feel like I’m singing Nirvana! It feels like a rebellious song.”
Our Farewell (Mother Earth, 2000)
“It’s a personal song. I had a great relationship with my grandmother so after she passed away, this song was for her; that’s why it’s called Our Farewell. We had a beautiful bond; she was like a second mom. Whenever I wasn’t happy at home I’d get on my bike and ride to her house on the other side of our little village. We played it at the Elements show and at some festivals we did the song with an opera singer. She represented for me the other voice, my grandmother. It was like I was singing to her and she was singing back to me, “we’ll meet each other again”. Our spirits are connected.”
Stand My Ground (The Silent Force, 2004)
“What I love about Stand My Ground is that it’s taken on so much more meaning for many different people than when we first wrote it. For us it was a song to talk about what was happening in politics at the time in the Netherlands – things were really changing at that time, getting darker and darker. But what you see now is that a lot of groups within our own community have adopted this song to address their own issues, like the LGBTQIA+ community for instance, we see a lot of people waving Pride flags at our shows and we really support that.
Pale (The Silent Force, 2004)
“It’s the most dark ballad and I love it, but it’s also like looking in the mirror and facing your demons; it shows the inside of your soul. It’s heavy. Robert wrote the lyrics for the most part, especially the lyrics, so it’s more his personal song, and it’s about depression. We all have those periods in life, it’s human. We can’t always have highs, and I think people who have really high highs have really deep lows, but then it’s like – how do I get away from that again? How do I get back to the other side? It’s always a struggle.”
What Have You Done feat. Mina Caputo (The Heart of Everything, 2007)
“What Have You Done was really special. Life of Agony has been a band that we’ve loved ever since we started making music. I remember they played Pinkpop festival in the Netherlands and they were on super early in the morning and it was raining, but we didn’t care, we just stood there in the pouring rain watching them. And after many years, we reached out to them and it was like– suddenly, the world becomes not so big anymore, when you can reach out to a musician and they respond enthusiastically to you. It makes the music even more special to me when you can bring your heroes closer. It’s the best thing ever, and it's a song that really does justice to her voice and mine.”
Iron (The Unforgiving, 2011)
“I think we had really finalised our big symphonic sound but then didn’t really know where to go from there, which is why everything changed on this album. We created our own comic, and all of the songs are based on the comic storyline. But it’s also based on our memories of reading comics as a kid, which is why we went back to our big musical heroes growing up, particularly on songs like Iron, which were inspired by Iron Maiden and Metallica. We were 80s kids and it was a beautiful time to grow up in and absorb all that music. It’s really an homage to the 80s.”
Summertime Sadness (The Q-Music Sessions, 2013)
“A radio station in Belgium asked us to do ten cover songs while we were in the studio for Hydra and it was amazing to do. It really gave us a new insight into songwriting, taking other artists’ songs apart and building them back up in our own style… I really loved that period.
“At the time Lana del Rey was something of a new artist on the block. She had this 50s vibe, but so dark and with a twist to it that I really admired. That first album (Born to Die) just blew me away. It was totally different from my own music but had this feminine touch that I could relate to.”
And We Run feat. Xzibit (Hydra, 2014)
“I remember when Aerosmith did Walk This Way with Run DMC and we loved that combination of rock music with something so different. This is our own interpretation of that – not of that song specifically, but of that collaboration of two worlds colliding and working really well together. It’s a song that people either loved or hated, and some people judged it without even listening to it or knowing Xzibit. We’ve always loved him. Honestly, I don’t mind if people don’t like things, it was an amazing collaboration and he really is the nicest guy on Earth. We’re different in so many ways but it felt really beautiful how we connected through music. And he said something that I will always remember which is that you can buy anything in life, except for time. That’s stuck in my head all these years.”
Don’t Pray For Me (single, 2022)
“It’s really about individuality and trying to protect that. Sometimes when you grow up in a community you feel pressure to fit in, you want to fit in – but sometimes, you don’t have that choice. You might think or feel differently than how you were brought up, whether that’s religion, sexuality… So many things are changing right now, with abortion rights, for example – people trying to decide for you how you should live your life. It’s really sad that people are trying to force their ways on other people. It’s something I’m really worried about. People can only be happy if they can be who they want to be.”
Within Temptation’s new single, Don’t Pray For Me, is out now