Celebrating their tenth anniversary this year, symphonic metal stalwarts Delain have been very busy since their fantastic previous album The Human Contradiction came out just two years ago. Touring seemingly unceasingly through Europe and America, releasing an EP Lunar Prelude at the start of this year containing two new tracks and live material, and adding Merel Bechtold, the occasional stand in for the busy Timo Somers to their lineup fulltime. Their previous album was their best to date, so with this new twin guitar attack expectations were always going to be high for their new release Moonbathers. Unfortunately it falls a little flat with a few weak tracks in comparison to the all filler-no killer predecessor – but it’s still another great Delain album in its own right that’s bound to go down well with their fans, and fans of symphonic metal in general.
Fans of Delain know what to expect from them at this point, and the same basic formula is followed on Moonbathers – symphonic metal coming from the poppier end of the spectrum, with Charlotte’s sweet yet powerful voice taking the spotlight throughout. In spite of this however each track on the album is different, helped with the additional guitarist and the increasing ambitiousness of orchestral albums from album to album. On the opener Hands of Gold, they open with dramatic keyboards and orchestral elements similar to Stay Forever but with a heavier opening riff in their usual chugging style. It’s a fast and heavy song, but they don’t neglect to write a great chorus with Charlotte singing really high pitched and powerfully. It gets darker at the end with Alissa White Gluz of Arch Enemy reprising her guest role from Tragedy of the Commons on the previous album, providing death growls against a heavier riff and more dramatic orchestral elements – all in all a great way to start the album, and I’d be surprised if this doesn’t become their setlist opener on the coming tour. The Glory and the the Scum starts off well with a great melodic riff, before the verse comes in and the guitars are relegated to just chugging along in the background threatening to become dull. However the song really turns around halfway, with a fantastic dark piano line leading into a great heavy riff, followed by a powerful melodic solo and some of the best orchestral parts Delain have yet ever used with strings and brass instruments creating a sense of drama that reminds of modern day Nightwish.
Suckerpunch and Turn the Lights Out were already released previously on the aforementioned Lunar Prelude EP at the start of the year, and they provide the album’s two catchiest songs with their singalong choruses, and it’s easy to see why they’re already staples in their live sets. The interplay between the guitars and the orchestral elements in the former is fantastic, with the keyboards providing an uplifting element, while the soft sweet vocals on the latter present one of Charlotte’s best vocal performances. That is except the surprising choice of cover preceding it in Queen’s Scandal, from The Miracle album. Not one of their more popular songs, but it’s a perfect one for a band like Delain, and their metallization of one of Queen’s music is one of the highlights of the album. The heavy crunch to the guitars and synths dominate the music much more than the original (who would’ve thought you could be more over the top than Queen?), and giving this heavy edge but retaining the pop elements of the original make it so much fun. As for taking on Freddie Mercury there’s few vocalists in the world who can do it successfully, but Charlotte’s attempt is perfect. She doesn’t try to copy him but instead adepts it to her voice, at it’s softest and sweetest when needed, but she belts it out in a way you never would have expected from her throughout in her most powerful recording to date. Most covers are a curiosity piece at best but this is a fantastic reimagining.
Fire with Fire is one of the poppiest songs they’ve done to date with sugary sweet guitar melodies and mid paced drums, in a piece that reminds a bit of Paramore. It’s a great bit of fun, but the “Yea-hhs” throughout the track are overly saccharine and annoying, as are the “ih-ahs” on Danse Macabre. Pendulum and Hurricane aren’t bad tracks, but they don’t quite reach the heights of the album’s best and end up unmemorable. The former bears a Lacuna Coil influence with the more nu-metal style riffing and gruff male vocals, and on the latter the piano lines at the beginning and riffs at the end are easily forgettable. Chrysalis – The Last Breath is the weakest track though – and not only because it’s a ballad. It begins with just Charlotte’s voice and overly simplistic piano, and doesn’t go anywhere from there. The vocal lines are uninteresting, and the track doesn’t really evolve, introducing light percussion doesn’t add anything, and adding more power to her voice at the end is impressive but does nothing to salvage the tepid backing music which provides nothing of interest over the whole track. They’ve done great ballads before and this isn’t one of them. The closer The Monarch is a strange one, with a few minutes of soft orchestra with drums and guitars gradually coming in over the top, before suddenly fading out just as they reach their climax, with some strange autotuned harmonies from Charlotte, before the orchestra and the piano come back just to fade away. It felt like they had the makings of a great song there for the first two minutes, then ran out of ideas and left it half finished – it would’ve been much better had they finished on the brilliant Turn the Lights Out. A big disappointment given that it had some of the best composition of any symphonic elements they’ve ever used and they did nothing with.
Overall its an album with some of their best tracks to date in Turn the Lights out, Hands of Gold and Suckerpunch, and despite some tracks not being quite as impressive they’re still good listens, it’s only The Monarch and Chrysalis – The Last Breath that really let it down. Its certainly a good album and far better than their third effort We Are The Others, and with the catchy crowd pleasers and dark dramatic pieces such as Glory and the Scum, Delain fans are bound to love Moonbathers as it does contain all the best parts of their sound- but for anyone out there that’s unsure about Delain, this won’t change their mind.
Find Delain on facebook here. Listen to single The Glory and the Scum below: