Symphonic metal collective Beyond The Black recently put out their latest album, Hørizøns this past June. With this release, the band took a shift in their already varying sound giving fans something both fresh and new, yet familiar. I caught up with frontwoman Jennifer Haben to talk about the new direction, as well as what the band plans on doing in terms of promotion of the album with the ongoing pandemic, and what their future plans are.
Thanks for speaking with me, how are you and the band doing?
I’m good. Really good, because we have rehearsals tonight for Wacken World Wide and we’re so looking forward to that.
Awesome, we’re definitely looking forward to that stream and congratulations on the album, which is fantastic.
With my first initial listen, I did notice that the overall sound seemed to deviate a little bit from your previous work. When you were writing, was it your intention to do something completely new?
Yeah, it definitely was. To be honest, we wanted to change a bit earlier with the third album as well, but we did not have a lot of time to try things out during that period. For this fourth album, we said, okay, let’s do it, as we do have more time for that. We thought we would try things out, find out what we want to do.
We had like six months of just trying things out, writing songs, and all of this stuff. Then we went to our label and said, okay, this is the new album. Do you like it or not? And they loved it! So we could record everything that we did before and that was, that was cool.
It sounds like it was just a natural evolution on wanting to go somewhere else creatively and musically speaking. Have you been happy with the reception thus far?
Yes. I have to say that I expected all of this, some of the feedback because I know when things change, people don’t like that.
Even if it’s fans or in private or whatever, a lot of people do not like it when things change. So, of course, there were a lot of people in the beginning that did not understand why we were changing a lot of the stuff, but I know that there are a lot of people that changed their mind about this album once they listened to it more than once.This is maybe one of the most important things for every album or every band changing. For myself, when I was listening to the new album of Paramore I said, “Oh my God, this is new. I don’t like that!” For me, it was new as well, and then I listened to it more than once, I said, okay, this is much better than what they’ve done before. I kind of have the feeling that this was the same reaction with a lot of BTB fans with this album.
Yeah, it seems like with such a drastic change like that, fans get a little bit shocked and after multiple playthroughs, the tracks seem to grow on them. It’s difficult to find balance because critics will sometimes say you’re not evolving enough, or if you do change up the sound a bit, some get angry. I think it’s just important to write what you want, and feel.
Of course. That was the reason why we said, okay, let’s just write a song like Misery. I do not think that we should have done that without having the thing in our heads that would free our minds. So we said, okay, let’s change a bit, but we do not change too much really. You know what I mean?
It’s just that we have something completely different and then we went back to what we did before. Then you just try to move on from that. So that was basically the reason why we wrote Misery and also to show all the haters that told us we’re too poppy, okay, this verse maybe poppy, but all the other stuff is not as poppy as you think.
There there’s definitely something for everyone on the album.
I think so too. That was always important for me, speaking for the previous albums as well, that it’s always changing and styles within that symphonic metal in the previous albums. And now it’s just a bit more changing of styles with this album.
Given how everything has changed, let’s say for example, there are some new listeners that you wanted to introduce your music specifically from this album. If you had one shot at introducing your band, (I know that’s difficult to do with one song,) but if you could take any of the new tracks, which one would you choose and why?
I think this is one of the hardest questions to answer for Beyond the Black because we are changing in every song. I would say for this album, something that feels like in between of all the songs is Wounded Healer and maybe something that we do on all the albums which are the ballots, and for that, I would say I Won’t Surrender.
Your music is traditionally a great example of how metal and symphonic music can blend perfectly with melodic rock. I know some of your influences are bands like Evanescence, but in writing this record, did you draw any inspiration for any non-metal and symphonic acts?
Well for metal there was one band that was not in our style, I can remember that we once were listening to I think Five Finger Death Punch, and it’s funny because nothing we play sounds like that. For Palyzed I listened to Parkway Drive, they also played at Wacken when I was there and I was also at one of their shows. We also have Influences like a Queen. For me, Freddie mercury for as a singer. I tried a lot of that stuff. I know that Freddie Mercury is unreachable reachable, but, for me, you have to have someone that’s so much better than you as a goal.
It seems like there are a lot of electronic or influences in there as well.
Yeah, there are. I know a lot of people would say that we had like Within Temptation in our minds as well, because they changed in some kind of similar direction in that electronic stuff. So I think maybe it’s right because we were on tour with them and we watched every single show in the evening. So it has to influence us, I think. But it was not like we were listening to their songs while we were writing songs. So it’s not like with Five Finger Death Punch or Parkway Drive.
For me, it’s always Evanescence of course and Within Temptation in our heads, but we don’t try to sound like another band that is similar to us. That would be wrong, maybe in our heads without knowing it, they influence us.
The album is creative, diverse, and incredibly well-defined. In terms of creating an atmospheric experience for the listener, do you consciously try to come up with songs that would be coherent with one another? Or did you work in the studio later to make the songs feel like they belong to one single concept?
I focus more on having good songs. The most important thing is to have any good songs that are on the album and then, we do try to create a perfect flow around it. I always do the order, like okay this is the first song, this is the second song and so on and so on. Because we do like a lot of different styles, it’s not easy, but it’s better than having the same song again and again.
Something I notice is that most of the songs all seem to be a bit uplifting and positive.
Yeah. That was something that I wanted to change for this album as well. It’s more like what Beyond The Black is now we are. Positive people and we’re working on ourselves personally. We try to be more positive. I think you have to put that into your music as well. So that was one important thing for me, to have more of these positive messages.
And now you see, we did not know that this COVID-19 situation would come, but now I think it’s more important than ever to have positive messages. So that was also the reason why I said, okay, let’s just release it and not postpone anything like other bands did. Though I can understand that, for me, it was that album has to be released now. That was the reason why I did not question to release it.
You finished the recording of this album earlier this year, right? Did the pandemic have any impact on the recording process?
No, it didn’t. We were finished in the middle of March, with recording and then we finished everything at the end of March. So it was finished with the start of all of the pandemic. So yeah, it was a problem for the videos, to be honest. However, it was not a problem for the recording process.
The vocal parts are obviously very important to your songs. Do you come up with vocals over the music, or are the songs based on your vocal ideas?
That depends. I think for this album, it was more coming up with an acoustic guitar, piano, and vocals. We always had like, theses songs with having mostly an instrumental part from Chris or Stefan. Then we came up with a melody over it, but for this album, it was more the other way around.
Speaking of vocals, Elize Ryd, of course, is a guest vocalist on Wounded Healer, and your styles just seem to complement each other so well. What was it like working with her and how did the idea to get her for the track come about?
It was a quick idea to be honest because we had that song before and not much time was left for finishing the album. We just got to know each other. I think with Finland shows that we did together, I think was it this year and in January. So we had it in our minds to maybe tour together, and it would be amazing to do something for the fans as well and that we could also perform together. That was the dream that we had. For me, it’s always super important to know people and to know that they’re cool, like when you’re working together and touring together, one of the most important things to have a good time. We got to know each other and I’ve found out the band is super cool.
She’s a bit chaotic and I love that because I’m in chaotic as well! We got together and she wanted to do that track, she loved the song. It was also a bit chaotic as well to get her vocals because they were on tour and she got sick after the tour. So we had like, Two days before we had to finish the album, and we got her vocals! I was a bit nervous that we were not going to get everything together. We were lucky and everything worked out in the end. It was a funny situation and chaotic as well, just like her!
You reschedule your tour for next year with them correct?
Yeah, for April next year.
With COVID casting a lot of uncertainty on the live music scene, how have you been approaching the promotion of Horizon without going on the road?
I have to be honest, I’m not sure. I just knew that we had to release the album and have that out in the world because maybe next year, we would not feel the same, and it would not feel good to release it. I think it was the most honest thing that we could do, to just release it. And then let’s see, maybe we release another song or make a music video or something. We will find a way to maybe promote it again for the next tour. That was nothing that I was thinking a lot about before we released the album, to be honest. We will find a way.
I’m sure you will also be doing some stream as well.
Of course. We have Wacken Worldwide which is bigger than everything that we saw before because of that mixed reality thing and all the 3D stuff. It’s the very first time that a festival is doing something like that, and I guess we’re the first band also that is doing that for this festival. We’re excited! Maybe we will also do something like that as well for the rest of the year. First of all, I want to be in the present and that is for me playing that show on Friday. This will be amazing. I think.
Now a lot of artists seem to be taking this time to start writing new material in their spare time. Has any of that begun with you or are any other ideas floating around for what lies ahead?
For me, it’s always like I’m finishing an album with the release and then I start writing songs again. I did not do it until now, but I will start very soon. I always want to have something when the label comes up and says, okay, there’s a good time to release an album, like it always is. Then you always just have a lot of stuff in your mind that you want to show them.
I will start writing songs, but I also write a lot of songs for other artists as well and now, this will be super interesting for me because I’m writing a lot of songs for the next time.
Awesome. I’m looking forward to hearing them! Thanks again for taking some time to speak with me, and once again congratulations on the album, is there anything else you’d like to add?
I just want to say thank you so much for your interest! Hope to see you and everyone at a concert and hope to speak with you again for the next album!