Sunday, September 11, 2016

Delain - Moonbathers

Symphonic metal is a fascinating crossroads of genres where anything from heavy, operatic beauty and the beast compositions to power pop with pointy black guitars feels at home. Plenty of bands end up sounding like some kind of Nightwish, After Forever, or Evanescence clone, but a talented few manage to find their own niche. Delain are a bit too young to have a major influence on the genre, but they've managed to mix elements of Anette era Nightwish and latter-day Within Temptation into a sound that's distinctly theirs. With 2014's The Human Contradiction they built on their usual pop sensibility and showed a heavier, more complex side to their sound.

From the album art alone, it's probably apparent that Moonbathers continues with that progression. But more than any anything else, their latest release is a refinement on everything that worked about their previous albums. And more importantly to its credit, it's the catchiest damn thing I've heard all year. I cut the latest Sabaton album some slack because, despite its flaws, it gave me my bi-annual fix of high-energy battle anthems. Then I come across an album that turns catchiness into an art-form and I wonder if I've been too generous in the past.

I won't do a track by track this time, because I'll just end up repeating myself. The elements that work on any one song are the elements that work throughout the whole album. The production is slick but still feels organic. The orchestration mixes seamlessly with the band in a way that I hope bands like Blind Guardian will take note of. But most importantly, Charlotte Wessels sounds better than ever and the songwriting complements her range perfectly. After a few decent to good albums of self-discovery and slight experimentation, Delain have figured out their sound, and I see them becoming one of symphonic metal's mainstays if they keep it up.

While almost any song off Moonbathers could be a single(without the sameyness that usually accompanies such statements) a few tracks really stand out. The Hurricane starts mellow and moody and builds in really satisfying way. Fire with Fire is a bombastic anthem for self-empowerment. Danse Macabre has a wonderfully eerie vibe that really makes use of Charlotte's unique voice. The monarch concludes the album with a great orchestral build to a somber conclusion that makes you want to start the album all over again.

Then there's the surprise hit of the album, a cover of Queen's Scandal that does exactly what a good cover should do. It makes the song their own while reminding the listener what made the original so great. The best covers are the ones that stand as proof that everything that made the original a hit is right there in the songwriting.

To put it simply, I see this being the symphonic metal album of the year, even with a new Epica record on the horizon. Delain have finally mastered their sound and I can't wait to hear what they do next.

Final Verdict: 4.5/5

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