After its debut in 2014, Beyond the Black has quickly become one of the growing forces in
symphonic and melodic metal, following the footsteps of acts like Within Temptation or Delain.
They are now releasing their fourth album, ‘Hørizøns’, which sees the band reinvent itself towards less symphonic and more pop and electronic sound, and also have plans for a large co-headlining tour with Amaranthe next year. We sat down a little while with Beyond the Black’s singer, Jennifer Haben, to talk about the band, its evolution, its influences and touring plans…
By Vivien Scalbert
EMPIRE MAGAZINE (EM): First, I would like to talk about Beyond the Black as a band because within a few years, it has become one of the rising stars of modern melodic metal and you just released what is already your fourth album, ‘Hørizøns’. Can you tell me about the origin of Beyond the Black and your journey as a band so far?
JENNIFER HABEN (JH): That’s a lot but I’ll try! We started as Beyond the Black in 2014 with a lot of symphonic metal in the previous albums and we changed a bit in the sound and the lyrics for this new album, ‘Hørizøns’. A lot of stuff happened, we were playing at Wacken Open Air a lot and we had a lot of amazing chances to make support shows for a lot of amazing bands like Within Temptation, Scorpions, Aerosmith… and all of that stuff. For me, when I talk about things like that, it seems super crazy. I feel so lucky about what we could do.
Of course, Beyond the Black also had its bad times since these six years, like the change of the band and all that stuff… So it’s a journey with its highs and lows but for me, the important thing is the highs.
With this new album, ‘Hørizøns’, we really opened up our horizon and that’s the reason why we called it ‘Hørizøns’, like showing new styles that Beyond the Black are, we all changed a bit, in the band and personally and we don’t see ourselves as the band that should sound the same all the time. I know there are bands that are expected to sound in a way but for me, Beyond the Black has always been super various and still is. That is the reason why we don’t try to stay in one thing and do what we feel.
EM: You know, that’s funny what you just said because what you said about new horizons being the reason behind the title of the new album because it was precisely my next question. I wanted to ask you about the title and if it was a new horizon you were looking for, if this is what the album is about: changes and taking new paths…
JH: Right. And knowing what you are or getting to know… I think it is something that was really present in our last two or three years with the new line-up. We were like swimming in the beginning and trying to keep everything together… But then during the years, finding out what we are, that we were good and everything was fine, that we just had to make music, we said “OK let’s just focus on what we want to do for now”. That is the reason we were just listening to what we like to listen to in private, on tour, and search for the thing we wanted to add to our music right now. This kind of modern, electronic stuff… We love that and we added that to what we already had before.
EM: Your new album also is really pop. You already had pop influences before but this new album leans more towards modern pop music I think. Of course, many metal bands brought pop influences into their music but I think few incorporate so well the current pop sounds and trends into their sound and I wonder if that was what you were aiming for with this album, bringing pop music into metal… or maybe the other way around ?
JH: I would say that we don’t really care if people like the poppy sound or not and it’s not that we wanted
to add more pop. I would say we already had these elements in our music but it was never that clear and when you listen to different songs by Beyond the Black, you cannot say that “Misery” or “Golden Pariahs” stand for the whole album because they are super various. “Misery” was actually a song that says that we don’t give a fuck if people think we are too poppy. So we really wanted to make one verse that would be super poppy and also show people what pop is because we always hear people say what pop is and we don’t think it is like that. So we wanted to show what we think it is and then get back to what we were before.
But we never said we don’t wanted pop in our music. I know that there are a lot of metal fans or bands that really don’t want these elements in their music. And maybe it’s their kind of style but for us, we like pop music and there was no no-go. I always want to try things out and it’s not that I really wanted to add pop in our music but maybe that’s what comes out of us, to match with all the elements that we love… Pop, metal, there is also a lot of modern electronic stuff that you cannot really say is pop. But I don’t really know how to define pop and I think everyone has their own definition for it.
EM: There is also a band that has a lot of pop influences and electronic sounds, I guess you know where I’m getting at…
EM: Yes and it’s a band with whom you seem to share a deep connection because not only Elize (Amaranthe female singer) is featured as a guest on your new album but you will also embark on a large co-headlining tour with them next year. Can you tell me about the connection you have with Amaranthe?
JH: To be honest, we did not really know each other personally before the beginning of this year so we had like four shows in Finland together, in January, I think. So we did not meet before but we had in mind both of our sounds could fit together really well and also you always think about the crowd and there are a lot of people that could like it but are not into it now. And personally, I must say I love her voice, and the voices of the boys as well of course, but I am a fan of powerful women voices so I really love that she can do that live as well. She’s really amazing. And I’m also listening to their music when I’m doing sports so…
EM: Yeah, it really fits. It’s very motivational indeed.
JH: Yes it is!
EM: And speaking about other bands, as you said before, you have toured with many famous bands like Within Temptation or also Epica… I wonder how the experience was because you were very symphonic before, a little less now, and I wonder if these bands you toured with could have been an influence for you.
JH: I know I listen to a lot of Within Temptation, yes, and also Evanescence, Amaranthe… A bit less to opera voices to be honest. Of course, I knew what they did, but at home I mostly listen to powerful, rock voices… But for me, to tour with Within Temptation was the high-go! Touring with Evanescence would be amazing as well. I think they really are the closest to what we do and I really love her voice and also Amy Lee’s but also Floor Jansen… I could tell you everyone right now but especially the feeling with Within Temptation was really amazing and we were in the crowd every evening, watching the show. It was amazing. (laughter)
EM: About the live shows, everything is currently on hold because of the COVID-19 but you recently performed an online live show for Wacken Worldwide and how was the experience of doing that?
JH: It was kind of crazy! (laughter) It was really huge and mix reality and virtual, no festival really did that before, it was pioneer. We had some weeks to prepare for that and find everything that we could do and this technology allows you to do everything if you have a lot of time and having, like, one year to prepare one show, it would be incredible! But for now, it was really amazing to understand what you could do, see the 3D stuff, the Wacken village behind, the stage, all of that stuff, it was kind of crazy. That was super special, we are very lucky and I feel really grateful that we could do something like that, among five or six bands and also crazy because there were no people in front of us so we had to do this enormous show in front of like five people. (laughter) That was also very, very funny because they did not clap because that was bad for the sound. They just were like they were partying with their arms and stuff but without a sound! And we did not hear anything between the songs. On the stream, you could hear ambiance and clapping sounds and all but we did not hear anything! (laughter) So that was crazy but I knew something like that from the Instagram lives I did with acoustic songs but of course it was another dimension with having powerful songs with the whole band and then going through that silence! But it was cool and I would love to do that again but with a lot more time to prepare for that and really do the biggest thing you could do. That would be amazing!
EM: I guess it was like performing for a ghost audience: you know they’re out there but you can’t see them or hear them either…
JH: Yeah but it was cool because we had a screen to see what people were seeing. So, sometimes, there were screens from people at home, so we could see them. There should be a bit more of that I think but yes, we saw that there were people watching! That was good!
EM: About the history of Beyond the Black, you disbanded a few years ago and hired new members. How do you work now as a team, with the current members?
JH: I don’t write the songs alone, I always wrote with other people together. But also a lot of stuff with Chris, our guitarist, and with Stefan, our bassist, and also Kai this time wrote songs like “Misery” and “Paralyzed” with all of us together. So we try to come together as often as we can but most of all we write as teams of two people and then go to our producers and finalize everything. But this time, with “Misery” and “Paralyzed”, as I said before, these were two songs we created as whole band sessions in a band house with billiard tables and all of that stuff… It was like in these movies! (laughter) We had a lot of fun and I think we’ll definitely do that more often!
EM: Do you have a favorite song on ‘Hørizøns’ or maybe one song that represents the album best for you?
JH: I think the first song people should hear is the one that’s most similar to what we did before, to understand Beyond the Black in general, maybe “Wounded Healer” or “Welcome to My Wasteland”. And personally, I would say “I Won’t Surrender” and “Human”.
EM: “Human” is my favorite too. I think it as a bit of the symphonic elements you had in the past but quite subtle and it also has some kind of blues feeling, it is powerful and I think it has a bit of everything in it.
JH: Yeah I think so too! I think there are a lot of people that do not really have the patience to understand the songs but I think it has such a deep stuff in it… Some people say a country kind of feeling, or western, and I feel something like that as well with this song. But it has its own kind of feeling, to me.
When I listened to the first demo that we had, it was just acoustic guitars and vocals and it kept this kind of feeling. That’s the special thing about it and I love that song!
EM: And I think it has a really interesting video as well…
JH: It has! Definitely! Something different that we never did before! It was a lot of fun! Of course, it was a bit difficult because of that pandemic so we had to prepare and wear masks and all… But we did the best out of it! The special effects with the bloody eyes, I love that stuff! I was super happy with the result and that we did something like that.
EM: I must say one surprising aspect of Beyond the Black, for me, is your voice because it sounds very confident and mature even though you started the band at a very young age because I think you were around eighteen when you started the band… Can you tell me about your musical education and your vocal training?
JH: It is not much to talk about to be honest! (laughter) When I was very young, I was in a choir for a long time but I never had single vocal lessons. Just one time when I felt I was not singing healthy, I had like ten vocal lessons or something like that because I wanted to make sure I would not end up not being able to sing anymore when I’m thirty. But for years now, I did not have vocal lessons. For me, it’s much more interesting and more important to have the right emotion. And I think if you really give your best and let people feel what you are feeling, that is more important than to have the best technique in the world. Because I always felt like when you are trained to some techniques like musicals or opera, it can be amazing but most people that are trained to these techniques are losing their emotions. And I fear I would lose my emotions so that’s one of the reasons why I never had vocal lessons. Or once in my life. (laughter) That’s why I’m just singing at home and for me to be on stage and sing on stage, to feel what the people feel the most and also to record with the producers who understand me a lot more and the other way around, that is helping me a lot to know what I can do with my voice and what I want to create. And I don’t want other vocalists to tell me what to do, I want to learn it myself.
And that is a long answer to such a nothing! (laughter) But yeah, I feel comfortable and when I sing because I know there are people out there who are feeling what I feel… and that’s one thing I’m comfortable about with my life and that’s very good I think! (laughter) Maybe that is the key? I dunno!
EM: I wanted to talk about the song “Misery” because it reminds me a bit of Lady Gaga… I hope that’s OK with you…
JH: Oh I love Lady Gaga but I don’t know where it reminds you of her…
EM: Maybe the chorus a bit or the way the song starts, I don’t know… Well I wondered if she could have been an influence to you because she really is into pop music but she says all the time she loves metal and consider herself kind of a metalhead…
JH: Yeah I know that! I also love her because she shows so many different sides of her, she has so many emotions that she gives to the people and listening to all the albums she made, it’s so, so different and I love that and that is also kind of what Beyond the Black is doing. I would not say I try to follow her journey because it is so different but I would say she could be an inspiration for me, vocally, because she has that attitude but also sings perfectly in tune. Of course, because of autotune and stuff but I know she can do that live very good too so I guess she could be an inspiration for me but not as present in my life as, like, Freddie Mercury. That is someone I often have in my mind when I try to put more attitude into my vocals… But also Adele! She has some attitude and you can do that in rock as well. I would say these three could be an inspiration for what I’m doing with my voice!
EM: So Lady Gaga, Freddie Mercury and Adele…
JH: Yeah, that’s good, right ?
EM: It is. And I think Lady Gaga herself considers Freddie Mercury as a major influence for her so it all makes sense! So, one final question: how is the feedback so far on ‘Hørizøns’ from the fans, the medias…?
JH: I would say everything is fine, now. I know a lot of people had to listen to the new album a lot more than the previous ones but that is nothing we didn’t expect so… It’s always like that when a band changes its sound, at first, people always are like “OMG what is that?” But for now, a lot of people have told us it is an amazing album and that they love it much more than what we did before. So, for me, everything is amazing with this album! I know people are screaming with us when we are playing these songs and it feels great to play it live. I’m very happy with this album and its response.