German symphonic metal outfit Beyond The Black are gearing up to launch their latest album; ‘Horizons’. Vocalist and founding member Jennifer Haben spoke to us about the album recording process, a slight change in direction on one of the tracks, as well as waxing lyrical about her love for Wacken Open Air Festival.
New album Horizons looks beautiful on red vinyl. The album cover is especially striking!
Thank you. Yes, we spent a lot of time thinking about the cover. We created the cover with all of the guys involved. It’s a bit more modern than the stuff that we’ve done before. What I love the most is that the cover artwork is showing the past, present and future. This was something that I really loved, this idea that we were looking to the future.
2019 was a busy year for Beyond The Black. How quickly after coming off the road promoting ‘Heart Of The Hurricane’ did you start the writing and recording cycle for ‘Horizons’?
We started writing for ‘Horizons’ in small groups, like Chris (Hermsdörfer, guitar) and Stefan (Herkenhoff, bass) together, last year, we also had sessions as a whole band. ‘Misery’ and ‘Paralyzed’ were created by the whole band. This is something that we tried for the first time, to make an album as a whole band, and we experimented a lot with this album. We knew that we wanted to change a bit of the sound, but not too much, because we love what we did before, but we just wanted to add something like we were listening to over the last year. So yeah, that’s why we added more electronic stuff and a bit less symphonic. We tried things out and then started recording in the beginning of this year, and finished very fast.
With yourself being the founding member of Beyond The Black, does this mean that you are the one feeling all the pressure going into a new album?
I am of course the one pushing stuff all the time, but Chris is also doing stuff, even before I ask for it, so that is cool. I started this project, but I want to have it as a whole band. Everyone in the band can get involved as much as they want. They can all play a part in Beyond The Black.
So the pressure and stress is equally shared then?
Of course! We share everything together!
With the past, present and future idea behind the cover artwork, there seems to be a lot of faith and hope on ‘Horizons’?
Yes, there is a great deal of hope on this album. We’re all positive people and like positivity in our music. I want to pass on that positivity to everyone that’s listening to our music, that’s my mission! Even though there are some dark parts there, I’m a super-positive person! You have to have a positive mind to overcome everything in your life.
I wanted to say, with this album, I’m not sure if we could feel it or something, but in this situation that we are all in now, the perfect thing to have in songs is hope. Songs like ‘You’re Not Alone’, people have to know that we are in this together, and I think that’s super-important for this situation right now.
‘Misery’ and ‘Golden Pariahs’ have already been released as singles. When you release a new track like ‘Misery’, and there is a difference in the sound of the band, do you have to block out what people are saying online?
We knew that ‘Misery’ was super-different to what we had done before. A lot of people said to us that it was too poppy. This was the first song that we wrote when we got back from the tour for the album before. This was something that came out of us because we wanted to say F@©* you! We said… we do what we want to do, so that’s why we wrote a pop verse for you guys!
One in the eye for keyboard warriors?
Yes, that is something that we never did before, so yes it broke us free! Everything that will be released after ‘Misery’ is more like people might expect from Beyond The Black. This one is super-poppy in the verses. I think it’s an amazing song, but I also think that a lot of people who listen to metal don’t judge the song, they judge if it is hard enough or not. That’s something that I really don’t like. Open yourself up to other music than just heavy music! You miss so much good music. And yeah, this is one reason why ‘Misery’ is poppier.
Was it difficult to narrow down the songs to the ones that made the album?
We worked on a lot of demos, a lot of songwriting with just acoustic guitars and a piano, and this was where the filter was. Do we believe in this song or not? Do we want to do more with it? So yes, this was the time where some songs were not good enough.
The current single is ‘Wounded Healer’ with Elize from Amaranthe?
Yes! We did a thirty second teaser before we fully released it. It’s another super-different song.
Another track on the album is ‘I Won’t Surrender’ with Tina Guo playing cello. Tina also played with Beyond The Black at Wacken. Where does the connection come from?
Yes, she played at Wacken with us, I think it was that she wanted to go to Wacken and play. She asked around if she could do something with bands that were playing. We were asked if we were interested, and I love the cello, so I definitely wanted to do something. We had an amazing time. She is a lovely woman, and I was super-excited that she wanted to do that. For ‘I Won’t Surrender’ I did an acoustic thing here with strings and stuff, but I think it’s so much better with her cello. It’s more atmospheric, more artistic. I think that it was a great decision to ask her to play on it. I was sure that she would do something amazing, and she did.
Wacken Open Air Festival is a special place for Beyond The Black. You guys have worked your way up through the stages. It’s a huge blow that Wacken has been cancelled this year.
Wacken is my second home! Our first live show was there! Every single year, even if we didn’t play, we were there for promotion and stuff. So every year, it was something new with Wacken. I also did something for my university course in Wacken. I was there for four weeks or so, and met all the people that worked there. I wanted to know everyone, and this is why it feels like family there. We were booked to play another festival this year, so we wouldn’t have had a chance to play Wacken, so maybe it’s not supposed to be that Beyond The Black are not at Wacken! It’s super-sad that it’s cancelled this year, and we shouldn’t joke about it, but sometimes it’s good to laugh.
We don’t really have a choice other than laugh at the moment!
Lastly, I know that you are a huge Game Of Thrones fan. Did you feel let down by the final season?
(laughs) I really liked it until the last episode! The last few minutes were like, “What!”. It was really not good, to be honest! But everything else I enjoyed so much. Skip the ending, and everything else was amazing!
The online petition to have the ending rewritten was always going to fall on deaf ears. It’s not going to happen.
No, it’s not going to happen… sadly!
‘Horizons’ is released June 19th via Napalm Records, pre-order here.
Interview – Dave
Photo credits – Chris Heidrich
BEYOND THE BLACK live:
15.11.20 BE – Antwerp Trix
20.11.20 FR – Paris / Elysée Montmartre
21.11.20 FR – Bordeaux / Rock School Barbey
22.11.20 ES – Barcelona / Razzmatazz II
23.11.20 ES – Madrid / Mon Live
25.11.20 FR – Lyon / Ninkasi Kao
01.12.20 IT – Milan / Live Club
02.12.20 CH – Lausanne / Metropole
04.12.20 HU – Budapest / Barba Negra
05.12.20 CZ – Zlín / MOR Café
07.12.20 AT – Vienna / Arena
08.12.20 PL – Warsaw / Progresja
13.12.20 NL – Utrecht / Trivoli Ronda
15.12.20 DK – Copenhagen / Amager Bio
16.12.20 NO – Oslo / Sentrum Scene
17.12.20 SE – Gothenburg / Pustervik
18.12.20 SE – Stockholm / Klubben Fryshuset