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Delain – Dark Waters

DELAIN is a Dutch female-fronted symphonic metal band formed in 2002 and is the brainchild of former Within Temptation keyboardist, Martjin Westerholt. They have just recorded their seventh full length album. As a person who loves the Symphonic metal genre I've enjoyed the DELAIN albums in the past, Apocalypse and Chill (2020) being their standout for me.

In case you're not aware,  long story short … in February 2021 four members of the band left en masse, leaving only the original founding member, Martjin Westerholt. For the most part it seemed the split was amicable and done quietly and as classy as these situations allow.  There was some speculation as to why four members would just up and quit the band when they seemed to have finally hit their stride as a group, but most people simply figured it was just another casualty of covid and lockdowns.

In February 2021, Westerholt posted on the official DELAIN instagram account, “For the last year or so, the collaboration within the band ceased to work as well as it once had. Some of us were no longer happy with the current roles in the band. We all tried very hard to find a solution for over a year but sadly we are unable to find one. As a result we will all be going our own ways and pursuing our own endeavours”. You don't expect to hear from a band again once there's a mammoth split like that, but in June 2021, Martjin Westerholt made an announcement that DELAIN will be continuing with a new lineup and they were working on a new album.  Westerholt has brought back the original drummer and guitarist and added some new talent, most notably, new vocalist, Romanian born Italian resident, Diana Leah (Diana Orga). Leah, 32, was previously known as a Dance / Trance vocalist.  All of this considered, when I put the new DELAIN album on my list of albums I'd like to review, I did so out of curiosity. Not sure what to expect. 

On the 9th August 2022 The Quest And The Curse was released as the brand new single and music video for the brand new DELAIN, and introducing the brand new vocalist.  It was followed on November 29 by a second single, Beneath featuring singer Paolo Ribaldini. January 10th 2023 saw the third single released, Moth To A Flame. The new album, DARK WATERS, is finally released on Friday, so here’s my thoughts. 

Dark Waters begins with Hideaway Paradise, a rock tune with a pop sensibility that suits Diana's voice perfectly, it's a toe-tapper and great track to open the album, that easily leads into the epic symphonic bombass of The Quest and The Curse, with its catchy hooks that get you singing along and banging your head. The introduction of choral chanting and Diana's lilting vocals had me smiling, ahh, now this is more my vibe. Leading us straight into second single, Beneath, featuring vocals by Italian born Helsinki based, Paolo Ribaldini (Skiltron, Beast In Black, Rhapsody Of Fire) begins with an ocean soundscape setting the scene for the theme of the song then introducing crunching guitars and driving rhythm by the bass and drums. I particularly enjoy the background vocals on this track, which add to the atmosphere of the song. The last minute of the song is my favourite moment of the album. Mirror Of Night featuring Within Temptation guitarist Ruud Jolie is a heavy power ballad complete with choir backing and a piano and vocal interlude leading to a big keychange taking us through to the song's end. The drama continues as Tainted Hearts starts with drums and a choral introduction before Diana enters the song with a Sharon den Adel-esque melodyline and vocal sound. The Cold is a classic symphonic metal track. Opening with a big, full sounding orchestra and choral chanting, leading into the distorted riffy guitars and heavy drum and bass rhythm, you can feel this is epic. This soundscape is bold and lush. Ending at a modest 4:37 I could have easily listened to another minute or so of that. Next up is latest single, Moth To A Flame, a song which Diana Leah says is “a song about being addicted to a situation or a person that you know is not that good for you but you keep going back to relive the excitement or pain of that time.” It starts with Leah singing acapella, the guitar riff sounds familiar and I suddenly have Separate Ways by Journey stuck in my head. This is a very approachable up-tempo track that is classic rock 101 with catchy hooks and rhythms that will have you humming and drumming along. An obvious choice for a single. Of Queen Of Shadow, Diana says “is about someone who is living stuck in the past and can't seem to break free of it.“ Orchestral synth leads the way to catchy guitar riffs and a heavy rock sound and then the song suddenly takes a wonderful turn and becomes a duet with Paolo Ribaldini. It's like honey to my ears, so I play it again. Then it's time for Invictus opening with heavy orchestration, choral chanting and guitar chug. Leah's voice comes in low and ominous “you're heading towards your own destruction…”, ooh so this is the “dark” part of the album. Well, no, not really, however, the song progresses into a heavy track with Paolo Ribaldini and Marko Hietala’s (ex-Nightwish, Tarot, Northern Kings) throaty rasp adding some masculine texture to the vocals which really makes this track quite delicious. The album closes out with Underland another atmospheric song with choir and synth orchestration. Nice clean pop-rock style vocals. There's a cool guitar hook and chuggy riff a’la Nightwish. It's a great way to round out the album and come full circle. The fade out at the end tho, sorry, not a fan.   

DELAIN has always had this interesting dichotomy of symphonic metal juxtaposed with other genres of metal and even elements of softer rock and pop. Unlike other, similar bands in the genre who tend to stick pretty close and true to the symphonic metal borderline, DELAIN seemed to enjoy mixing things up a bit on previous albums, and this is what set them apart and made them interesting. With Dark Waters, it seems that they are staying firmly within the boundaries this time. Dare I say, playing it a bit safe? The tracks lead into each other and create a soundscape atmosphere, which is great if you're going to listen to the album from go to woah. For the purists, they will approve of this move as this album feels like there is more cohesion compared to past ones. To the ones who enjoyed that “whoa, where'd that come from” aspect in the past, you may be disappointed. For fans of previous singer, Charlotte Wessels’ vocal style and tone, rest assured, DELAIN is in safe hands with Diana Leah, who holds her own and does a stellar job of stepping in as the new vocalist. While I listened to Dark Waters, there were times I forgot that there was a new singer, it feels like a pretty seamless change of players, and with the rejoining of the original guitarist and drummer, this feels more like a revamp than a total makeover. I'm pleasantly surprised at how much this album has grown on me. If you enjoy this genre of music, or are a fan of DELAIN’s previous work then I recommend you definitely check out DELAIN – Dark Waters available on all streaming platforms from Thursday 9th February and instore and online through NAPALM RECORDS.

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