Album Reviews

Delain – Moonbathers

It’s hard to believe that 2016 marks the 10 year anniversary of the Dutch Symphonic Metal sensation Delain. Through various line-up changes and record label fiascos, Delain has steadily grown as a band, as musicians, and in popularity, amassing a loyal fanbase worldwide thanks to extensive touring and releasing solid albums such as their debut album Lucidity, April Rain, and their breakout album We Are The Others. Earlier this year the band released an EP to titled Lunar Prelude to whet the fans appetite as they awaited the brand new album titled Moonbathers. When asked about the meaning behind the albums title, lead vocalist/lyricist Charlotte Wessels remarked:

I was looking at the lyrics and some of them were dark to the point of being morbid. There is a lot of thought about endings, both figuratively and very literally; songs about death. Negative emotions are a trigger for my creativity, but though most of my lyrics originate there, I don’t want to glorify it. So as a lyricist I try to make sure that there is always some sort of light at the end of the tunnel. I also realized that when I feel bad, I listen to sad music and it makes me feel better. So I embraced the idea that it’s possible to find comfort in that dark place, and I went looking for a metaphor for finding that light in the darkness, that comfort. The moon for me remains the ultimate icon representing that. So I chose moonbathers, rather than sunbathers, as a metaphor for those who find comfort in dark.

After the recent addition of new second guitarist Merel Bechtold, the current line-up of Wessels, Martijn Westerholt (keys/orchestrations), Timo Somers (guitar), Otto Schimmelpenninck (bass), and Ruben Israel (drums) has never felt stronger or more cohesive as a unit, both in songwriting as well as in a live setting. When the time came to start the writing for what would become Moonbathers, keyboardist
Westerholt stated:

What we usually do at the beginning of an album process is consider what we liked and didn’t like about the album before, and we realized that we really liked the production on The Human Contradiction. We deliberately chose to keep certain factors similar to that,” explains Martijn, who took the producer position for this album, as he did on their previous one. “We worked together with the same mixing team, the same master, and the same classical arranger, and in that sense we continued where we left off.” When it comes to the songs themselves it’s a different story. 
“We had the luxury problem of doing back to back tours. As we didn’t have the time to take a break from touring long enough to write and record an entire album, we decided upfront to chop up the entire process into three chunks, in order to utilize the smaller timeframes between tours and give the songs the time and attention they needed. As a result, it’s a very varied album. It’s an album of extremes: the heavy songs are heavier, the ballad more sensitive, and then there’s songs with a real rock vibe, and that’s due to the way we recorded it, in different times, in different places and in different moods.

The albums opening salvo is the symphonic metal bombast of Hands of Gold, with its chugging heavy riffs courtesy of guitar tandem Somers and Bechtold. The orchestrations within the song are so well done and strong with lots of hooks to compliment Wessels unique vocal delivery. I have always maintained that Charlotte’s vocals are what differentiates Delain from many of their symphonic metal peers. Wessels certainly has the chops and vocal range but she also has a quirky alternative style thrown into the mix that sets her apart from the more operatic style of a Simone Simons or Sharon den Adel. Arch Enemy lead vocalist Alissa White-Gluz lends her trademark growls to the song to add a little brutality to the song. It’s a perfect match of contrasting vocal styles. We’re off to a great start.

The second track, The Glory and the Scum, is another heavy monster of a song with the chugging guitars and Charlotte’s angelic vocals providing all the hooks a Delain fan could ask for. This song is trademark Delain, heavy, symphonic, melodic, and powerful.

Fans who picked up the bands EP Lunar Prelude will be familiar with the rock anthem Suckerpunch as it is included on Moonbathers, the song fits in perfectly with the flow of the album. The Hurricane is a mid-tempo rocker with Charlotte’s emotive vocals taking center stage with great effect. The song starts softly and gradually builds in intensity to a satisfying crescendo.

The band showcases another of their strengths, writing a poignant, heartfelt ballad. In this case, the song, Chrysalis – The Last Breath is a beautiful song with passion and a flawless vocal performance from Charlotte.

The band comes roaring back with Fire With Fire, a heavy melodic anthem that empowers the listener with the message to be comfortable in your own skin and not to apologize for being the unique person that you are. Pendulum is another heavy track that delivers a huge punch complete with growling vocals, slamming riffs, solid drums, a soaring chorus and powerful melodies and hooks.

The next track Danse Macabre is a song that showcases everything that Delain fans love about Charlotte Wessels, her ability to add quirky alternative vocal melodies and the electronica musical influences incorporated within the track make it a standout on the album from a band that continues to push the boundaries of their sound.

The next song, Scandal, is a more obscure cover song from the legendary band Queen. Now my opinion when it comes to a band recording a cover song is to make it their own and put their own stamp on it and not just do a “by the numbers” copy of the original. In all of these respects, Delain more than makes this song their own, reinventing the song to make it their own. For a vocalist singing a song originally recorded by the phenomenal Freddie Mercury is a daunting task but Charlotte proves to be more than capable to the challenge and sounds incredible here.

Turn The Lights Out is pure Delain, a magnificent uplifting anthem with heavy riffs and soaring orchestrations, and of course, that voice! Charlotte’s angelic soothing tones lift the chorus into the stratosphere that will make the listeners spine tingle. The song takes a darker tone toward the mid-section of the song and only adds to the power and glorious ending.

The albums final moment, The Monarch, is the perfect ending for “Moonbathers”, a vocal-less (save for one line of dialogue) orchestral symphonic rock song with an intro homage to The Ecstasy of Gold from the film The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. The track weaves powerful drums and chugging guitars with a spiraling symphonic arrangement.

With Moonbathers, Delain has once again created a marvelous album to add to their impressive discography. Here’s to a band that is still adding to their legacy and I look forward to the next ten years of their career!

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