Review: Delain – Moonbathers

Delain is one of my favorite bands and I say that without shame. Some call them a pop band with metal undertones and I respect that. They’re certainly a more approachable type of symphonic metal, but there’s no doubting that this band has some serious talent.

Opening Moonbathers is ‘Hands of Gold.’ We’re greeted with an orchestral arrangement soon joined by heavy riffing and pounding rhythms. Almost a minute into the song we get our first taste of Charlotte Wessels’ heavenly voice. Though she’s a bit reserved at first, she takes off with a soaring chorus that hooks into your brain and won’t leave. This is an absolutely fantastic introduction song….that is until about three and a half minutes when we’re met with the unexpected death vocals if Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy). Honestly, White-Gluz is a fantastic singer, both in the traditional and death style, but her inclusion throws the song off track a bit as I find myself feeling wondering the point of her guest vocals – they add so very little to this otherwise great song.

Moving on with ‘The Glory and the Scum,’ Moonbathers continues on the right track with some nice melodic riffing followed shortly by a kick up in the distortion. Wessels’ angelic voice soon returns but the synths and drums are notably muted by the guitars and the power of her voice. The chorus is catchy, though a little simplistic, and the skill of Wessels’ singing truly shines throughout. The song really comes into its own late in the track with a wild guitar solo, more involved synths, and atmospheric highs from Wessels.

Yes, yes, we’ve all heard ‘Suckerpunch’ thanks to the Lunar Prelude EP, but this is no less a strong song. Wessels’ vocal strength, howling background vocals, and an excellent blend of synths, orchestral arrangements, and rhythms make for a heavy yet atmospheric track. Honestly, this is the highlight of the album thus far.

The first ballad of the album ‘The Hurricane’ shows the mellower side of Delain. Reserved guitars, rhythms, and synths set the stage for Wessels’ pained and emotional performance. The lyrics speak of a lover’s struggle to overcome the trials of life and love, and hits right in the heart thanks to the passionate lyrics and powerful emotion.

Another ballad ‘Chrysalis – The Last Breath’ is even more of a ballad than the last. Driven by a sullen piano and synth combination, and Wessels’ emotional lyrics and performance, this track starts slowly and speeds up only slightly. The harmonious backing vocals add a lot to the atmosphere created by the synths and give an almost conversation-like feel when performed in tandem with Wessels. The song really comes into its own a little past three minutes when the orchestral arrangements rev up the epic vibe as Wessels gives a powerful performance that pushes her vocals to the limit. One of my absolute favorite parts is the piano about 4:15 and the whispering that soon follows. The ghostly atmosphere during this section only adds to the epic character of this track.

A return to the heavy stuff, ‘Fire with Fire’ kicks off hard and fast before jumping into a short lead section. A short guitar build-up leads into Wessels furious and gorgeous approach. Though the drums are much more prominent here, the synths are a bit hard to hear but that’s ok, for the backing vocals, Wessels highs and belting more than makes up for it – especially towards the end when Delain really kicks up the fury.

Opening with heavy guitars, death growls, and prominent synths ‘Pendulum’ is a mix between the heavy and light sides of Delain. While the riffing is heavy, they’re more prominent toward the beginning, for once the synths kick in the guitar is moved more to the background.  Wessels once more shows her strength in the chorus with some nice hooks and a clear singing voice, while the occasional death growls in the background work well this time around.  One of the most attention grabbing points of the song, however, is the outstanding guitar solo; a little shreddy and very melodic, it captured my attention and wouldn’t let go.

Opening with a hypnotic vocal approach by Wessels ‘Dense Macabre’ is one of the strangest songs on the album, but no less great. The sheer broadness of Wessels’ vocals is on full display here as she takes a highly varied approach that goes from hypnotic to soaring. One of the heaviest tracks on the album, the rhythm guitar hums pleasantly in your ear and plays well as part of the complex layering of beautiful lead vocals, harmonious backing vocals, atmospheric synths, and a strong rhythm section.

When I first heard that wailing guitar I thought ‘wow, Delain is really trying something different here,’ then I realized that ‘Scandal’ is a Queen cover. Well, if there’s anything to be said about covering Queen it’s that it’s one hell of a gamble. You can either hit this one out of the water or crash and burn like a certain American rapper.  Fortunately, this one goes to the former. Between Wessels’ powerful belting of Freddie Mercury’s lyrics, sharp leads, strong riffs, and powerful synths, Delain knocks this one out of the park!

‘Turn the Lights Out’ is another track that we’re already familiar with due to the Lunar Prelude EP, but it’s actually one of my favorite tracks on the album. There’s a lot to say about Wessels’ soaring and gorgeous vocals, but let’s keep this one brief. It’s a powerful track driven by epic synths, heartfelt lyrics, and some great riffs and strong rhythms.

The final track on the album, ‘Monarch’ is a powerful orchestral piece driven by soaring synths and perfectly utilized humming. It works very well as an outro, for almost two minutes pass before the drums and some seriously slick riffs kick in. Even then I found myself figuring Delain was just trying to finish the album with a big way, but then comes Wessels once last time. Her vocals brief and touched with synths, the song soon returns to the outro-esque piano and humming until the final fadeout.

As a longtime Delainer I took my time with this album – over a week and maybe 20 full listens. Knee-jerk reviews often lead to crappy reviews that are either too harsh or too praising. Spending many hours listening to this album cover to cover I can honestly say this is one of the best Delain albums yet, and that’s coming from someone who initially thought it was mediocre and didn’t hold a candle to April Rain or The Human Contradiction. What my dedication to this album showed me is that Delain wasn’t out to follow a simple formula; they were looking to make a masterpiece. Though this album falls short of a masterpiece, I have to commend the band for their strong focus on variety and for pushing their sound in numerous directions with these 11 tunes, even if two were already released on the band’s latest extended play. All in all, I’ve fallen in love with Delain all over again. 9/10

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