Dutch symphonic metal band Delain attempt to go in many directions with the new album “Moonbathers”.
There are some musical juxtapositions that should never work but end up becoming something great. Adding a symphony to metal on paper sounds about as well planned as peanut butter and mayonnaise. But once you hear how well it works, you find yourself wondering how you went without it for so long and want to hear more. Symphonic metal is that combination that many music fans don’t realize they are missing. Delain is another band from across the pond that has been going strong for over 10 years now and has been a strong staple of the symphonic metal sub-genre. Founded by former Within Temptation keyboardist Westerholt’s, Delain’s music includes everything from wild guitar solos and screaming followed by gorgeous string sections and harmonious singing all in a manner of minutes.
Moonbathers comes as the fifth full album from the band and might stand as the highlight of Delain’s 2016 which also included an EP and a headlining tour. Amidst all the time on the road however, they still found enough time to work together and write for the new album and also give it enough attention to make it feel special. In an interview online, Westerhold said: “It’s an album of extremes: the heavy songs are heavier, the ballads more sensitive, and then there’s songs with a real rock vibe, and that’s due to the way we recorded it, in different times, in different places and in different moods.”
Listening to what this Dutch band can bring opens a lot of avenues and imagination. Any band that names themselves after a Stephen King term already shows a form of style in imagination and in a style like symphonic metal there is much to get swept up in. Whether it’s volume, melody, or a blast from the past in an 80’s song cover, according to Westerholt Moonbathers is Delain’s attempt to push themselves in several different ways.
Suckerpunch gives the vibe of 80’s fantasy with the opening synth keyboards and catchy drum beat. The chorus is what highlights the song in an upbeat soundtrack style. The vocal delivery from singer Charlotte Wessels sounds somewhat blasé where nothing sounds bad but it does feel like much of the high points and emotion aren’t being fully delivered. It feels as the vocals, and to be fair, much of the entire four-minute track is just going through the motions. I don’t think Suckerpunch is bad by any means but while listening from the beginning you expect something big and climatic, or at the very least something satisfying to listen to. The song just doesn’t deliver any (no pun intended) punch. There is a very natural flow that moves the song along until the track is over. Nothing is painful to listen to, but it’s easily forgotten as soon as it’s over.
That description of Suckerpunch is something that can be said for a large majority of Moonbathers. While listening through, there is definitely nothing harsh and you can hear the talent involved while still getting a high moment here and there, but you also feel like you aren’t getting what you were hoping for. You yearn for something bigger and better from a group who sounds like they are capable, but just aren’t satisfied.
When hearing a symphonic metal band, you want to hear the elements of both worlds. In a song like Fire With Fire though you end up getting mainly the riff and percussion heavy style along with Charlotte’s singing. You get very little of the symphonic vibe and like Suckerpunch, there feels like a build-up and strong rhythm that doesn’t evolve too much. You are left wanting more and forget what you just heard as soon as it’s over. I repeat that there is nothing bad in Moonbathers. There in fact are some excellent moments in a few songs that really stand out like the wordless singing in Danse Macabre or the guttural growling in the truly symphonic metal opener Hands Of Gold. When taking the entire album in however, these moments aren’t as many as you may hope.
When you hear a talented band is going strong all year and then releases a new album it’s easy to get excited. But in the case of Delain if feels like it was a good attempt at something that could have been great. You can tell there is talent and creativity in what they have created, but the new music may not have you craving to replay it. Overall, Moonbathers is a decent album that proves the talent of a band but may only satisfy the longtime fans of Delain. While there are several moments that may pique one’s interest, there is an encompassing feeling of wanting something more that is never satisfied.