Within Temptation's Sharon Den Adel: "The Silent Force was inspired by the Gladiator and Braveheart soundtracks"

Sharon Den Adel
(Image credit: Miikka Skaffari/Getty)

As one of the founding members of Within Temptation in 1996, Sharon Den Adel has been one of the steadfast pillars of the symphonic metal movement which has since swept the globe and even topped the charts. With no less than 3 No. 1 spots in her home country of the Netherlands, Adel is a bona fide metal icon and one of the genre's most recognisable voices.

While the 25th anniversary of the band's debut album Enter looms large (alongside a European and UK tour that will see the band play arenas alongside Evanescence), Hammer caught up with Adel to talk Within Temptation's 2004 breakthrough The Silent Force and how it felt to fully commit to symphonic elements for the first time, moving away from the more overtly goth metal sound of their debut.

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How did you find the process of working with an orchestra for the first time, especially working remotely with musicians in Russia?

“It was crazy! It was a very hard thing to do, especially at a distance; sometimes the communication with Russia was difficult. There were so many parts of the music that we had to control in the mixing, it was really stressful, but I think it worked very well. At the time it was an immense job to do, but looking back we did grow from that, as musicians and as a band. We were in the studio for two months at least – maybe longer? I think the whole summer. We were recording and writing at the same time a lot of the time. The orchestra came later, and we kept adjusting things.”

It feels like this was your make-or-break album. Did you feel a lot of pressure to step it up?

“At the time I thought we didn’t, but looking back, personally I did feel some pressure. Every time we brought out an album it was like, ‘This is the best album ever!’ – even with the first one, you know?! And Mother Earth went across the borders of the Netherlands, and we thought, ‘OK, apparently this might even be something with a longer-term future, maybe we can be real musicians!’ We all had day jobs still, so when it came to The Silent Force, we really wanted to make it really good and special. So for me, there was pressure. We had to take it seriously now!”

What were the biggest inspirations for the orchestral direction of this album?

“On Mother Earth we had some symphonic influence already, but it wasn’t a real orchestra, and we wanted to have these sounds coming from a real orchestra, not a computer. So we wanted to develop it more, give it something extra, make it more epic. We were mostly inspired by film music, like the Gladiator soundtrack and Braveheart.”

You headlined Bloodstock 2005 off the back of it. What do you remember about the day?

“It was in a two-storey building; I remember it was steaming hot inside, it felt like something was boiling. You could feel the audience and the band, there was some kind of magic in the air! We were surprised that so many people were very enthusiastic about the Mother Earth songs, because I think most people got to know us through The Silent Force in the UK, and then they discovered Mother Earth and that became more of a success after that, strangely.”

How do you feel about the LP now?

“We still play a lot of the songs from that album because people still want to hear them, there are some gems on it – and I think it’s also one of our darkest albums. Lyrically, the vibe was dark, which we liked, because we liked those epic movies, and they’re never very happy! So I do like it, but I need to be in a certain kind of mood for it.”

Within Temptation are due to return to Europe and the UK in March/April 2022

For more symphonic metal, see our 'Top 25 symphonic metal albums' feature

Chris Chantler

Chris has been writing about heavy metal since 2000, specialising in true/cult/epic/power/trad/NWOBHM and doom metal at now-defunct extreme music magazine Terrorizer. Since joining the Metal Hammer famileh in 2010 he developed a parallel career in kids' TV, winning a Writer's Guild of Great Britain Award for BBC1 series Little Howard's Big Question as well as writing episodes of Danger Mouse, Horrible Histories, Dennis & Gnasher Unleashed and The Furchester Hotel. His hobbies include drumming (slowly), exploring ancient woodland and watching ancient sitcoms.