BEYOND THE BLACK‘s energetic and straightforward symphonic metal have ensured the band’s rising through ranks and ever-growing fan base. Hard work and determination were two key factors to get their latest album Heart Of The Hurricane into the airwaves and that sense of unity can be heard within the music. Distorted Sound’s Lotty Whittingham spoke to lead vocalist Jennifer Haben about the creative process behind Heart Of The Hurricane, her vocal influences and differences in music scenes.
Your latest album Heart Of The Hurricane is a fantastic album. For those who are new to BEYOND THE BLACK’s sound, are there similarities and differences between Heart Of The Hurricane and your previous work?
Jennifer: I think all of our albums were multifaceted but in my opinion with every album all the different styles we try to combine got more shaped and defined than on the previous outputs. It takes some courage to try things and not get labelled by expectations, but that is actually the goal with each effort.
Could you describe process behind making the album? I understand it’s different for each band.
Jennifer: We started writing song ideas in summer last year. This time everyone on their own first and after we had a lot ideas, we worked in small groups of two or three people on this ideas or created new ones, it depended on our moods. Then we went to our producers in the beginning of this year and finalised and recorded everything. Most of the guitars and bass alone at home and vocals and drums with the producers. Especially vocals are very important for me to record with Sascha or Hardy (from Elephant). They really know me after all these years and they work so differently. After recordings I always feel like I showed everything I can, from the current status of my vocal skills.
How was it working with Sascha Paeth to produce this record? Did he help with the creative process i.e. suggesting different music arrangements for the songs, what style to sing certain songs?
Jennifer: Besides what I said before he definitely helped with the creative process at some points. We had a pre-production with him where he finalised the arrangement of a song with us or changed some notes of a melody line for example.
It states that because of all these inspiring ideas that came up that you had more than thirty song ideas, how did you narrow that down to the fifteen songs on the album?
Jennifer: Phew, that wasn’t that easy. There are songs that catch your ears and body from the beginning (as it was with Beneath a Blackened Sky) and then there are songs that catch your heart like it’s your baby (as with Escape From the Earth in my case). And in the end, you mix these two options and you get an album you are proud of.
Before recording the material, did you have a rough idea of what the melodies were going to sound like?
Jennifer: No. Mostly I just go there and try to transport the emotion of the song as good as I can. Just after everyone, especially myself, is happy I stop and switch to the next song. Luckily, I’m very fast with choir lines, so most of the time we manage to do two or three songs a day.
Do you have a favourite song/s on the record? I really liked Song For The Godless, My God Is Dead and Through The Mirror.
Jennifer: Mine is Escape From the Earth. The song relates to the feeling, that you have lost everyone and everything you’ve ever loved and the wish to leave this world – to pass over the feeling of being totally lost. As a huge family person that needs love and harmony, that of course is the absolutely horror scenario for me. With the first take I sang I was totally in that painful emotion that really kicked my ass! After the last words, I sang “to leave my life in the end” there was absolute silence. It was as if I had sung all of my breath out of my body and I was stone still for a few seconds with my eyes closed. Wow, always when I talk about it it’s like feeling a bit of that moment again. Maybe that’s why I love to tell you that again! I really think I will remember that moment for a long time!
Who provided the growls for My God Is Dead and Scream For Me?
Jennifer: Both of it is Chris, one of our guitarists. He also did the male main vocals for Million Lightyears.
This is the first album with the new line up for BEYOND THE BLACK. How have you found working together?
Jennifer: Like I said before, we wrote song ideas on our own first – that was an important step for me, cause I wanted to see in what direction the guys wanted to write, how BEYOND THE BLACK will sound in the future and who will be involved the most in songwriting and all that stuff. After that we worked in small groups, where very good new stuff came up as we worked on that song ideas from before. I think that this process was very important for all of us and will take the process of the next album to another level.
What are the influences behind the lyrical content?
Jennifer: That is always very different. But most of all the music (some riffs or the whole mood of the song idea) or the words you sing, when you have just a melody and want to record something, influences the final lyrics a lot.
Who provided the artwork for the album?
Jennifer: This time a lot came from Stefan and me, but the whole band was involved. The look of my new outfit/make-up influenced the artwork a lot and of course our new graphic artist (and also photographer) Heilemania have brought it to perfection in the end!
Did you choose the singles that were released or was that down to the record label?
Jennifer: We’re very close to our record label Airforce1 Records. I have worked with our label boss since I was 14 years old – so he’s kind of a mentor for me. That’s why we always decide these things together and you know, in the end, everyone has the same goal
As a vocalist, who are your influences?
Jennifer: I was always fascinated by huge, powerful female voices. First it was Whitney Houston over Alicia Keys and Hayley Williams from PARAMORE. Now I’m also a big fan of Floor Jansen‘s voice, the new singer of NIGHTWISH. They definitely know how to sing!
BEYOND THE BLACK have some live shows coming up soon, where are you most looking forward to playing? Whether it’s visiting for the first time or going back to the venue.
Jennifer: One show that will be very interesting is Full Metal Holiday. It takes place for the first time ever, in a big hotel of Mallorca. We just will be there for one day but I think we’ll still be able to relax a bit. We’ll see.
Having toured around the world with some household names in metal, do you notice a difference between metal fans in each country?
Jennifer: Of course! For example, Japan is so different to every other country in the world! They are so disciplined at meet & greets but at the same time they go crazy when you start playing your music. That is so interesting in every country! I’m really curious about the American fans and hope to find that out soon as well!
Who are your favourite bands?
Jennifer: Besides bands like Paramore and Within Temptation, I always loved the mighty Queen and had a long phase listening to Bring Me the Horizon.
What can fans and listeners expect from Heart Of The Hurricane?
Jennifer: Heart Of The Hurricane is a very varied and dynamic album. There are dark atmospheres, others are more epic and symphonic. There are heavy riffs, as well as medieval tones and specials like a very emotional acoustic ballad. I’m sure that most of the people could like at least one of these songs (if not more)!
Heart of the Hurricane is out now via Napalm Records.
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