Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Album Review: "Moonbathers" by Delain

Delain is a Dutch symphonic metal band which takes its name from a fictitious kingdom featured in my favorite Steven King novel.  They are highly regarded throughout Europe, have released five full length albums and two EPs, all but one of which have charted in several countries.  They also play amazing heavy music which fits neatly into the wheelhouse of what I want to hear.  Yet, until they announced a North American tour with my favorite band Hammerfall, they had almost completely escaped my attention.

This is a fine example of why I find it so frustrating when someone declares there is no good music coming out, or decrying the death of rock.  I try to keep up with new music, and by virtue of reviewing albums for this website, am daily bludgeoned with access to much of the best new metal. Yet, I still regularly miss some of the finest bands.  The problem is quite opposite of the rumors of rock's death, there is so much quality material, some of it gets lost in the shuffle.

Sill, this is only part of the problem.  The other part is I live in the United States, where symphonic metal seems to be tragically unappreciated.  I have a few theories on why this might be so, but I am not sure any of them are valid or supportable enough to see print.  Whatever the reason, it seems Nightwish, Lacuna Coil and Evanescence (whom I consider to be close enough to symphonic metal to bear mention here) are the only of these acts to have garnered significant attention stateside.

Europe has recognized the epic grandeur of symphonic metal, and has thrust Delain into place of prominence within its pantheon.  Their fanbase overseas is both devoted and substantial.  Perhaps the latest release from Delain, Moonbathers, along with their upcoming North American tour will finally see them, and the genre, getting the attention it deserves in the States.  Moonbathers is certainly worthy of being a breakout album.

You would be hard pressed to find a more skilled vocalist than Charlotte Wessels.  Every note conveys the gravitas and pomp which is so specific to symphonic metal.  Martin Westerholt again delivers the powerful orchestration definitive of the Delain sound. Otto Schimmelpenninck, Ruben Israel, Timo Somers and Merel Bechtold provide the metal to the compositions, which is what leads me to the kingdom of Delain.

The album opens with a mission statement titled "Hands of Gold".  If there is any question regarding the intentions of Delain with this album, it is put to rest by the inclusion of guest vocalist Alissa White-Gluz from death/power metal band Arch Enemy on this opening track.  

The album does not maintain this level of aggression, but never lets up on the intensity.   Every song is a tour de force of depth, emotion and power, but not all are as heavy handed as the opener.  Variety is a hallmark of Moonbathers as the sound shifts back and forth between emotive ballads and thunderous rockers.

As the title indicates, this is an album born beneath the moon and a celebration of the night.  Lyricist Wessels notes it is "a metaphor for those who find comfort in the darkness".  

Before hearing it I was skeptical about the band's decision to include a Queen cover on Moonbathers.   Alas, the execution was flawless.  In my opinion, their cover of Queen's "Scandal" is better than the original and suits the album perfectly.

The appropriately searing "Fire With Fire" should also prove sufficient to convince Delain newcomers as to the quality of the band and the validity of their genre.

I have been converted, and hopefully the rest of my countrymen will be as well, once their crusade reaches American shores this Spring.

Release Date:  Out Now
Genre: Symphonic Metal
Label: Napalm Records


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