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Beyond The Black

‘Heart Of The Hurricane’, het derde album van de Duitse symfonische metal formatie Beyond The Black vertoonde een enorme groei ten opzichte van hun eerste twee platen en als gevolg daarvan kunnen deze band toch wel tot de meest talentvolle groepen binnen het genre gaan rekenen. Lords Of Metal zocht contact met zangeres Jennifer Haben die gaarne bereid was om ons wat meer achtergrondinformatie te verstrekken omtrent de band en hun uitstekende nieuwe plaat.

Door: Sjak | Archiveer onder prog / sympho metal

band imageHi Jennifer, when did you start singing and when did you discover that you had a certain talent for it?
I don’t really remember when I started to sing. I just know a video of the first time I was singing in front of people. I was four years old singing a German children’s song called “Weißt du wie viel Sternlein stehen” in a church, always great to take a trip down memory lane. Later when I was five I went to a choir where I regularly performed on small stages. Some months ago I posted a video of one of my favorite concerts when I was a child on my Instagram-Account (@jennifer.haben), in case you’re interested to see it. I also can’t really tell you a date when I knew that I’m not bad at singing, I guess that I just sang because I loved it. Maybe the first win in a contest showed me that I’m maybe better than some others, but I mostly felt like I’m also a very lucky girl.

When did you start to get interested in metal in general and more specifically symphonic metal?
I don’t know if I can tell you a moment or year when that happened. I always listened to very different kinds of music since I was a child. In my first band (which was a cover-band) we played songs from AC/DC and Evanescence, but also Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse. I was open for everything that was “well made”. I guess that the fact that I’m a lover of extremes could be the reason why I do the music that I do with Beyond The Black. I love and always loved the huge ballads as well as the more heavy stuff.

Which singers do you admire and which ones have influenced you during your career?
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 all definitely know how to sing!

Were you in any other bands before Beyond The Black and if so, which ones? Did you do any recordings with these?
Oh yeah! I did recordings with all of my bands. I built my first band when I was nine with some friends from school and my brother. We won a band contest and the prize was recording a song, so we have something digital but it never has been released. My second band was a band full of teeny girls, named Saphir. We did German pop songs and released one album, before it ended after one year. Even if I learned a lot during that year, it never really was the kind of music I wanted to do, so you can imagine that I was really happy to be able to start with Beyond The Black after that!

In 2014 the band Beyond The Black was founded, so how exactly did this happen?
I started to write songs in January/February for Beyond The Black and in the middle of 2014 we had our first show at Wacken in the Bullhead City Tent. I met most of the boys via a friend of mine and we met our bassist Stefan at an audition in Berlin.

What was the initial intention or game plan that you had when founding the band?
I just wanted to make music and had a great team to realize that. I guess I’m more a “living in the moment” person and it’s enough for me to think about the next few months than planning my whole life at once. You don’t know what happens next.

Why did you decide to call the band Beyond The Black and is there a special meaning behind the band name?
The idea behind the name Beyond the Black was the thought about the look and the lyrics of our band. The hard, black boys at the back and some kind of light at the front. And when you think about the lyrics of our first album, you will hear so much songs with sad, melancholy stories but at one point there’s a bit of hope… well, something beyond the black.

You never recorded any official demo’s if I’m not mistaken, so how did you get the record deal with Airforce1 Records, which is not exactly a metal label?
I told you about the teeny band before and the manager of that band is our label boss now. Maybe you can imagine what happened, he believed in my talent since that time and became kind of a mentor for me. I wrote song for four years with a lot of songwriters and then I came to symphonic metal and it was perfect. During that four years I managed to convince a group of people that is still on our back, doing a lot for Beyond The Black and you can’t believe how thankful I am for that!

In 2015 the debut album ‘Songs Of Love And Death’ was released, but what did that album mean for the band both from a commercial as well as an artistic perspective?
It was the start of something new with a lot of people that believed in us and our music. I think at the beginning we all were very excited and couldn’t really realize what happened. I remember a day around Christmas (after one year of Beyond The Black) when I was sitting there, thinking about the past year…I realized how many things we were able to experience in that short time. It was overwhelming!

One year later the successor ‘Lost In Forever’ saw the light of day. What are in your opinion the biggest differences and/or improvement when comparing these two albums?
Our second album felt a bit heavier than the first one but still full of variety which was very important to me. It gave us the chance to skip the cover songs we had to play at one and a half hour headline-shows and play more own songs.

For this new album you took a little more time. Did this have anything to do with the many line-up changes as you’re the only one left from the ‘Lost In Forever’ days?
It had nothing to do with the line-up change. It’s just that I knew from the second album (where we gave us just three months for everything) that you have to make some compromises that you can avoid if you just have more time for everything. That’s why I started early to push the songwriting-process for this album.

What was the reason that you changed the complete line-up of the band and can you tell us a bit more about the musical background of the new musicians?
We were confronted with the next step for Beyond The Black and had the chance to go abroad and to new territories. Being in a band like Beyond The Black is a fulltime job and you have to put everything in it to make it work and keep the wheel spinning. The former bandmates and I sat together several times and talked about future plans and the readiness to make sacrifices. We all came to the decision that we had different ideas and views of Beyond The Black’s future and they couldn’t go the long run due to private or other work commitments. So we decided to part ways but in a good way. To the musical background of the new musicians: I’d say, they all are listening to metal but also other music and that may be the reason why Beyond The Black will keep showing the variety as it always has – maybe even more than before. If you’d take a look at the bands that we are listening to in the tour bus you’d see most of all: Ghost, Bring Me The Horizon, Queen, Killswitch Engage, Dallas Green, Gojira,… as well as trashy stuff that we all know and sing out loud if we are partying.

In what way did this complete line-up change the song writing process for ‘Heart Of The Hurricane’?
The writing process primarily was very different because of the amount of time we had. I can’t tell you how the same situation would have been with the old boys, to be honest. I just know, that my new band mates had a lot of energy and passion to write songs for that album. That was a great feeling!

You also found a new record label in Napalm Records. How did you get teamed up with them and is it a one-album or multiple-album deal?
It’s a bit more complicated at that point. We’re still with Airforce1 Records/Universal as main label for the German speaking area, Napalm Records is responsible for all territories outside of that area. All I know is, that it is a strong label and that its team and we worked extremely well together so far! I’m really happy and hope that we’ll spend a long time together!

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When did you start with the actual preparations for this new album and what did you want to achieve with the new material?
It all started in the summer last year, when I asked the guys if they can send me some song ideas to check out in what kind of style they wanted to write. After a few weeks I got about thirty song ideas, which was really amazing! That drive was overwhelming and made it easy to continue working in small groups and finalizing or sometimes creating completely new ideas. After that at the beginning of this year we went to our producers and recorded everything. The kind of “secret” goal was to show the world that Beyond The Black has the strength to draw energy out of a setback and I’m really proud of the result.

What are typical elements that need to be present in a great Beyond The Black song before you decide to release it on an album?
I think the most important thing is that it has to have something special! If it’s the catchy chorus that wants you to sing along with it or if it’s a very intense ballad just with voices and a piano/acoustic guitar or maybe medieval sounds as in ‘Game of Thrones’. For me, it all has to be an artistic synthesis in the end and an album that you like to listen to from start to finish without thinking that you’re listening to the same songs over and over again.

Beyond The Black is quite often compared to Within Temptation as the music is symphonic, yet quite melodic and at times even poppy. What do you think about this comparison yourself?
I think that the comparison with Within Temptation fits better than every other comparison we’ve heard before. I personally listen to Within Temptation a lot, maybe it’s because we seem to have a similar taste in music and I’m so looking forward to the tour with them!

As a first single the title track ‘Heart Of The Hurricane’ was released, for which also a lyric video was made. Why did you decide for this song as the first single and why “only” a lyric video?
‘Heart Of The Hurricane’ was the perfect title to come up with for that album, because it represents the history of Beyond The Black from the second to the third release. You know, it was a tough time during the line-up change in the end of 2016. It really felt like being in a huge dangerous storm. But that was also causing a huge energy from the kind of “silent” point in the middle of the storm (the “heart of the hurricane”) with the new guys. And that energy wanted to break out at the release day with all the power we had! To be honest with the lyric video: even if you plan one year for making an album, it seems to me that with every album something new comes up in the end that you haven’t had on your radar before and wasn’t included in “your perfect plan”. That’s why we started with a strong song and a lyric video and focused on the video of our main single ‘Million Lightyears’.

As you stated for the second single ‘Million Lightyears’ was chosen and an official video was made. Again, why this particular song and why did you decide to release an official video this time?
For me it is very important to have something special in every song and this time it was full Beyond The Black power with the main vocal parts of Chris (our guitarist) at the beginning of the song and in the choruses. This was the main reason why I “voted” for that song as we never had that before. I believe that you expect something from listening to “old” Beyond The Black and the first thing you hear is a male voice. I like to surprise people.

What is in your opinion the added value of a video nowadays as there are not too many broadcast possibilities anymore? Is it still worth to create official videos or is this becoming too expensive?
I think that depends on many factors. For a small band everything can be too expensive to make it look great to reach new people. For a big band on the other hand it’s always good to have great looking new content and of course it entertains more than without a video. But I believe that if you’re a small band and you have a great creative idea or a special message that you want to tell the world, you can accentuate that with the video and reach more people with it. Then it definitely can be worth it. Nowadays you definitely have to budget carefully with you finances as a musician if you’re not one of the “big fish”.

Who was responsible for the artwork of the album as it very nicely represents the title of the record?
This time a lot came from Stefan an 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!

What are in your opinion the strongest tracks of the album and why?
That’s a tough question… besides the singles I think ‘Through The Mirror’ and ‘Breeze’ are very special songs. I don’t know if it’s my personal emotion here, but I also love ‘Escape From The Earth’ from the bottom of my heart. I had a special emotional moment in the studio with that song.

What are the initial reactions on the new record, both from the press as well as the fans?
I’m very happy to tell you that we got better reactions than we expected!! So many good reviews and positive comments!

There were four release shows in Germany with Follow The Cipher and Serenity, how was it?
The release shows were awesome! We tried to reach the next level and every time we went out to our fans after the shows, we got so many positive responses! There’s almost nothing better you can tell a band as that they are getting better and better every show.

You also played a headline show at the Femme Festival in The Netherlands, which is quite a prestigious event for female fronted band. I guess you were very much looking forward to that show?
I was very excited to play there! I heard a lot from journalists that we have to play there one time and I can fully understand the reasons why!

What more can we expect from Beyond The Black concerning touring in 2018 and maybe also in 2019? Do you have any concrete plans already and if so, what are these?
I’m so looking forward to the tour with Within Temptation the next months and we are also planning a European headline-tour for next year. Maybe we can also do some countries where we didn’t play before, let’s see.

How is it to be the only female in a band? Does that put any additional pressure on you as you’re automatically the focal point in the band?
You mean, relating to the public? I believe that most of all I’m the focal point in the band, because I’m the front singer of the band and vocals are very important for our kind of music. I can imagine that maybe it is not irrelevant that I’m a woman, but I think that is not the main point in our case.

What are your goals on a more long-term perspective? What are the dreams that you want to accomplish both for yourself as well as with Beyond The Black?
With Beyond The Black I just want to be able to tour all over the world one day, sharing emotions and moments with all the people and still have enough capacity to have a home and food without having to pinch my pennies. And for myself besides Beyond The Black, maybe I want to speak and understand some sentences in Japanese in a few years.

Okay Jennifer, I would like to thank you for your willingness to answer my questions. Is there anything that we didn’t cover that you want to express to our readers?
I guess there’s nothing more I can tell you at the moment, but let’s talk again in a year!

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