Delain – Moonbathers – Album Review

delain-cover

Artist: Delain

Album Title: Moonbathers

Label: Napalm Records

Date Of Release: 26 August 2016

I must apologise for the tardiness of this review. However, I do have my reasons. When I first listened to ‘Moonbathers’, the fifth album from melodic symphonic metallers Delain, I was not overly impressed.

I have, over the years, grown tired of female-fronted melodic symphonic metal to the point where I rarely listen to it. Bands like Universal Mind Project have sprung up out of nowhere to make an impact this year but in terms of the more tried and trusted genre favourites, nothing has really grabbed my attention for quite a while. Whether I’m being grossly unfair or not, I got the feeling that it was ‘same old, same old’, re-badged and released to the faithful. Delain were one of the bands that fell into this category.

However, a week or two ago, I found myself in Norwich, watching Delain headline at the Waterfront and I was shaken from my apathy. I was in attendance purely and simply because of the inclusion of Evergrey on the bill. However, I stayed in the venue to watch Delain and I am so glad that I did. It may not have changed my opinion of all female-fronted music of this kind but I heard and saw something in Delain that compelled me to go home a re-listen to ‘Moonbathers’.

I think with hindsight, it was two things that stuck with me. Firstly, it was the sense of fun and love of what they were doing that made me realise that the sextet formed by keyboardist Martijn Westerholt and fronted by Charlotte Wessels deserved a second chance. The enthusiasm, the smiles, the interaction with the audience; it all came together to create a special atmosphere, one that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Secondly, the following morning, I awoke with two distinct earworms running through my head and they were both Delain songs from the new album as it turns out. This rarely happens, particularly when my all-time favourite band were also on the bill the night before.

Since then, I have listened to ‘Moonbathers’ with fresh ears and a fresh, unbiased perspective. The result? I cannot help but really fall under the Delain spell, via what must surely be their most satisfying and accomplished release to date.

In 2016, the aforementioned Wessels and Westerholt are joined by bassist/vocalist Otto Schimmelpenninck van der Oije, guitarists Merel Bechtold and Timo Somers and drummer Ruben Israel. Each member of the band, be they longstanding or new to the fold come together really well to create the Delain sound. And that sound is highly melodic, infectious heavy metal with big choruses and bombastic, grandiose orchestration, which adds drama and a theatrical, cinematic depth to the songs. The majority of the music is generally around the classic mid-tempo with a strong beat and satisfyingly chunky riffs. I think it’s fair to say that Delain are not a complex listen but then that’s not the end result that they are going for, far from it. In fact, if they dallied with more complicated ideas and structures, it might even detract from the overall impact.

delain-band

Atop the instrumentation is the not so secret weapon in Charlotte Wessels, a striking lady that has an even more striking voice, not to mention an infectious love of what she is doing. Wessels’ range is impressive, but more so is her effortless power that creates a formidable cocktail when combined with her softer, more emotional delivery. And her phrasing as well as her innate sense of melody helps to transform a good composition into something great, even magical at times.

I realise that I am making a rather huge u-turn in my opinion of Delain and ‘Moonbathers’, from where I was after a first couple of spins. However, something has simply clicked and as is the beauty of music, sometimes things happen that cannot fully be explained. When all is said and done, I honestly don’t think that there is a weak track to be found on ‘Moonbathers’, such is the consistency of the material.

The album begins with ‘Hands Of Gold’ which opens with a short cinematic intro before launching into one of the most urgent songs on the entire album. The track bounds along at a decent lick, built on a strong foundation by drummer Israel, bassist Schimmelpenninck and guitarists Bechtold and Somers. The composition builds up to a hook-laden chorus dominated by Wessels’ rich and honest voice. The verses are laced with full-on orchestration to accent a central riff with bite. There is even the inclusion of gruff vocals from bassist Schimmelpenninck to increase the extremity and inject a ‘beauty and the beast’ element which I can’t help but like.

The delightfully named ‘The Glory And The Scum’ follows swiftly and, if anything, it ups the heaviness and the bombast. The orchestration is front and centre, acting as a counterpoint to some genuinely cracking riffs. And the enormous chorus is closed out by a gorgeous vocal melody from Wessels, one of those aforementioned magical moments. This was one of the earworms that wouldn’t let go after the gig.

‘Suckerpunch’ is a more immediate hit of aural saccharine. It begins with an 80s synth-pop vibe before delivering one of the most infectious choruses on the album. By this point, I’m well and truly being sucked in to the energetic vitality of the record and I’m loving it. After an extended cinematic workout, there’s a quick guitar solo before the chorus takes us breathlessly to the close.

The second earworm from that fateful night came courtesy of ‘The Hurricane’, an altogether moodier and more emotive song. The atmospheres take centre stage alongside a sprawling chorus where Wessels can once again shine beautifully. The same can be said of ‘Chrysalis’, a delicate ballad which builds in intensity, allowing Westerholt to show off his considerable talents in the process.

The heaviness is ratcheted up again via the up-tempo hard rocker ‘Fire With Fire’, a stadium-friendly beast if ever there was one. It is a bit of a grower but thanks to an insidiously infectious chorus and some unusual vocals from Wessels, it has slowly become one of my favourites.

Other highlights include ‘Danse Macabre’ thanks to more uniquely compelling vocals from Wessels, some subtle lead guitar work from Somers and the use of some bold electronics. And I also particularly like the initially brooding and sombre ‘Turn The Lights Out’ that again launches into a memorable, sing-along chorus.

Even the cover of Queen’s ‘Scandal’ is handled well – it’s not as good as the original, but then no-one could realistically better or match the original.

Ok, so this is the part where I once again admit that I was wrong. ‘Moonbathers’ is a monster of a record that delivers some of the most enjoyable and compelling female-fronted melodic metal I have heard in a while. The music itself is strong in its own right but what makes it even stronger is the knowledge that Delain genuinely love what they are doing. It comes through in the music, creating an honest and well-crafted set of songs with honesty and heart; and with killer choruses of course. You can’t really ask for more than that can you?

The Score Of Much Metal: 8.75

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others via my reviews pages or by clicking the links right here:

Arcade Messiah – III
A Sense Of Gravity – Atrament
Devilment – Devilment II: The Mephisto Waltzes
Maschine – Naturalis
Brutai – Born
False Coda – Secrets and Sins
Pretty Maids – Kingmaker
In Flames – Battles
The Neal Morse Band – The Similitude Of A Dream
Memoreve – Insignia
Enbound – The Blackened Heart
Blind Ego – Liquid
Dark Tranquillity – Atoma
Hammerfall – Built To Last
Testament – Brotherhood Of The Snake
Crippled Black Phoenix – Bronze
Riverside – Eye Of The Soundscape
Hanging Garden – Hereafter
Theocracy – Ghost Ship
Arkona – Lunaris
Oddland – Origin
Sonata Arctica – The Ninth Hour
Edensong – Years In The Garden of Years
Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep Of Reason
Alcest – Kodama
Opeth – Sorceress
Negura Bunget – ZI
Epica – The Holographic Principle
Amaranthe – Maximalism
Eye Of Solitude – Cenotaph
Seven Impale – Contrapasso
DGM – The Passage
Pressure Points – False Lights
In The Woods – Pure
Devin Townsend – Transcendence
The Pineapple Thief – Your Wilderness
Evergrey – The Storm Within
Dream The Electric Sleep – Beneath The Dark Wide Sky
Periphery – ‘Periphery III: Select Difficulty’
Karmakanic – Dot
Novena – Secondary Genesis
Witherscape – The Northern Sanctuary
Eric Gillette – The Great Unknown
Tilt – Hinterland
Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence
Fates Warning – Theories Of Flight
Wolverine – Machina Viva
Be’lakor – Vessels
Lacuna Coil – Delirium
Big Big Train – Folklore
Airbag – Disconnected
Katatonia – The Fall Of Hearts
Frost* – Falling Satellites
Glorior Belli – Sundown (The Flock That Welcomes)
Habu – Infinite
Grand Magus ‘Sword Songs’
Messenger – Threnodies
Svoid – Storming Voices Of Inner Devotion
Fallujah – Dreamless
In Mourning – Afterglow
Haken – Affinity
Long Distance Calling – Trips
October Tide – Winged Waltz
Odd Logic – Penny For Your Thoughts
Iron Mountain – Unum
Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden
Novembre – Ursa
Beholder – Reflections
Neverworld – Dreamsnatcher
Universal Mind Project – The Jaguar Priest
Thunderstone – Apocalypse Again
InnerWish – Innerwish
Mob Rules – Tales From Beyond
Ghost Bath – Moonlover
Spiritual Beggars – Sunrise To Sundown
Oceans Of Slumber – Winter
Rikard Zander – I Can Do Without Love
Redemption – The Art Of Loss
Headspace – All That You Fear Is Gone
Chris Quirarte – Mending Broken Bridges
Sunburst – Fragments Of Creation
Inglorious – Inglorious
Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens
Structural Disorder – Distance
Votum – Ktonik
Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Rikard Sjoblom – The Unbendable Sleep
Textures – Phenotype
Serenity – Codex Atlanticus
Borknagar – Winter Thrice
The Mute Gods – Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
Brainstorm – Scary Creatures
Arcade Messiah – II
Phantasma – The Deviant Hearts
Rendezvous Point – Solar Storm
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II
Antimatter – The Judas Table
Bauda – Sporelights
Waken Eyes – Exodus
Earthside – A Dream In Static
Caligula’s Horse – Bloom
Teramaze – Her Halo
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud
Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
Agent Fresco – Destrier
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic
Cradle Of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches
Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
District 97 – In Vaults
Progoctopus – Transcendence
Big Big Train – Wassail
NightMare World – In The Fullness Of Time
Helloween – My God-Given Right
Triaxis – Zero Hour
Isurus – Logocharya
Arcturus – Arcturian
Kamelot – Haven
Native Construct – Quiet World
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld

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