By Steven Neff, Rock At Night Orlando Correspondent
REVIEW: Delain’s Moonbathers album (Release date August 26, 2016)
Dutch symphonic metal masters Delain have had a relentless schedule this year. They’ve toured non- stop across the planet and still managed to release their fifth studio album in Moonbathers via Napalm Records. There’s a lot to get excited about with this new effort from Delain, from the cover artwork to the multi-layered diversity in the track listing; all in time for their tenth anniversary this year. The new album can be characterized as having both light and dark elements respectively, combining for a beautifully symphonic yin and yang with each complementing the other.
As many people know, I love female fronted metal bands. Why? They can merge elegance and hard metal together and make it into a thing of beauty. Such is the case with Charlotte Wessels and Delain, who continue to make their metal presence known worldwide by producing quality albums that combine magnificent, thought provoking lyrics with powerful orchestral arrangements, memorable hooks, and heavy guitar riffing.
Delain has produced eleven solid tracks that will satisfy longtime fans as well as garner new ones. Moonbathers combined tracks may have just earned Delain epic status and what some may argue is their best album to date. I will say that, unlike other albums, Moonbathers doesn’t have a song that dominates the track listing or noticeably stands out among the others. That’s okay with me, because all of the songs have a strong presence on the album and Delain has been true to fans by giving them their money’s worth.
‘Hands Of Gold’ strongly begins the track listing of Moonbathers; complete with an impressive cinematic backdrop, brutal guitar work, and balanced with Wessels’ stunning vocals. Alissa White-Gluz lends her intense vocals to make a great song greater with her part coming from an excerpt of Oscar Wilde’s poem “Yet Each Man Kills the Thing He Loves” which Wessels had adapted within the lyrics of the song.
“The Glory and the Scum”, a hard hitting track that takes you to the dark side of the moon, was originally named Claw Finger and has been performed live in past shows according to Charlotte Wessels. The lyrics were inspired by a book called “The Better Angels of Our Nature” by Stephen Pinker, which touches on the history of mankind’s violence. In true Delain fashion, they lyricize the condition of the troubled human soul and make it into a brutal but powerful track. Well done.
“Suckerpunch” is a great catchy track that deals with fighting your own demons according to Charlotte Wessels. “Suckerpunch” was also an included track on Delain’s teaser Lunar Prelude EP earlier this year. It’s also a killer track on a live setlist, which this writer had the pleasure of hearing. “Suckerpunch” has become my favorite personal demon exorcism track. Hey, no personal demon can stand the heavy head banging that this track brings.
Following we have “The Hurricane”, a beautifully melodic soul ride that one might think is fast paced, but instead includes memorable lyrics that describe a relationship that’s like a tempest, full of pain and intense love. The beauty of this track is hypnotic and is complimented by solid guitar and drum work.
“Chrysalis-The Last Breath” contains some very dark lyrics, but Delain manages to hold the beauty throughout with Wessels captivating vocals and the accompanying orchestral arrangement. According to Charlotte Wessels, the lyrics were based on a film script that she was asked to write by a movie director. While sad in nature in its entirety, this track was truly a dark magnificence.
“The Last Breath” doesn’t keep you on the dark, but beautiful side for long. The next track, “Fire With Fire” pulls you back into that “happy metal place” where head banging is a required state. This will be one hell of a live song and the powerfully positive lyrics could make this one an instant Delain classic.
“Pendulum” is one of the heavier tracks on the album that includes some really heavy guitar riffs and we again hear Charlotte Wessels grunt [also on “The Glory and the Scum”] on the backing vocals for the first time on a Delain album. The thought provoking lyrics are about what we all face, time. Well done.
“Danse Macabre”, like “Chrysalis-The Last Breath”, is based on a film script where the subject battles with death and we have Charlotte Wessels’ beautiful vocals melodically deliver the dark lyrics, with standout keyboard and drum work; along with the always strong guitar work that makes its presence known the entire album.
I have to ask what Martijn Westerholt and Charlotte Wessels were thinking when they came up with the idea to sing the next track, Queen’s 1989 single “Scandal”. Queen’s lyrics are regarded by many as “The Forbidden Zone” for other band’s to venture because, well it’s Freddie Mercury folks. There are only three groups of people that sing a Queen track; tribute bands, karaoke wannabes, and the few who can actually make the song their own. Delain did indeed was in the latter group and made the song their own through Wessels beautiful vocal display and once again more solid guitar work. I think Freddie Mercury is giving them a standing ovation and saying “Bravo”.
“Turn the Lights Out”, like “Suckerpunch” was previously listed on the Lunar Prelude EP that was released earlier this year. Another great track live, I wish this had been the first song on the new album actually as you get that head banging reflex when Charlotte Wessels’ vocals and Ruben Israel’s drum work first kick in and are followed with the heavy guitar riffs from Timo Somers and the subtle Westerholt keyboards. This would have been a great way of beginning the Delain Experience.
“The Monarch” closes the Moonbathers track list, but opens with an epic cinematic orchestral arrangement before transitioning into a symbiotic beat of the drums, followed by heavy guitar riffs and vocally expressed by Wessels’. This track shows the diversity of Delain and was the perfect way to end a near perfect album.
I have to say that the only thing better than sitting down and listening to a Delain album is experiencing Delain live. Having experienced Delain in concert seven times, I can only hope that they’ll make a trip across the pond for a North American Moonbather’s Tour.
So it was this year, a lot of live performances across the globe that culminated into a standout release in Moonbathers amidst an epic ten year journey. Happy Anniversary ladies and gentlemen, we’re happy you’re still here.
Moonbathers Track Listing:
- Hands of Gold
- The Glory and the Scum
- The Hurricane
- Chrysalis-The Last Breath
- Fire With Fire
- Danse Macabre
- Turn the Lights Out
- The Monarch
Martijn Westerholt: keyboards
Charlotte Wessels: vocals
Timo Somers: guitars and leads
Ruben Israel: drums
Otto Schimmelpenninck van der Oije: bass
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