Album: A Decade of Delain – Live at Paradiso
Label: Napalm Records
Dutch melodic metallers Delain celebrated the first full decade from releasing their debut album, Lucidity, with a sold-out Paradiso concert hall in Amsterdam last December. Now, after many long months of anxious waiting, the anniversary show is neatly packed into a DVD and double album that carries the name A Decade of Delain – Live at Paradiso, so attendees can relive the evening and those who couldn’t attend can join the party. The DVD/BluRay package also contains a documentary called “We are the Others – A Decade of Delain”, as well as “We are the Others” live recording at Masters of Rock 2015, and the official music video for “Suckerpunch”, but since we have to wait for the official release to see the extras as well, we’ll only review the live show in here.
I was lucky enough to go and see the whole spectacular show at Paradiso, and it was easily in my top three gigs I saw last year. Numerous feats from visitors like Alissa White-Gluz, Marco Hietala, some of the former members (and more), one of best audiences I’ve ever seen, a gorgeous venue, and almost 2 hours of the best of Delain – I could go on for a good while, but you get the point. So, I was naturally more than psyched to experience it again on DVD, and my expectations were mile-high, since it was not reasonably possible to get a mediocre final product out of that. Now that I’ve actually watched the film a few times, did it really deliver the atmosphere and what I’ve called the ‘goddamn confetti bomb of awesome’? Well… yes and no.
If we start with the ‘yes’ part, the audio is excellent, which is no surprise – the live tracks Delain has released on their EPs and special editions have always been of great quality. On first watch, I felt that the audience could have sounded a teeny bit louder – really, the crowd was one of the craziest and loudest I’ve ever witnessed – but a good pair of headphones proved that notion unnecessary on later viewings. In general, it sounds well balanced and it’s easy to recognize all of the instruments clearly, as well as the orchestrations and other backing tracks; I admit I hadn’t even noticed or had a good grasp of some of the orchestrations in certain songs with their studio versions, so those of you with home theaters and good set of speakers are in for quite a treat.
The noise from the audience with “The Monarch” intro sets the atmosphere perfectly, and the dark stage lights up as the band kicks things off full force with “Hands of Gold.” Every time I’ve watched this, I’ve had goosebumps by when Alissa White-Gluz comes on stage at the latest, delivering both her harsh parts and gorgeous cleans with Charlotte Wessels in chorus; those goosebumps return numerous times throughout the rest of the recording. For some reason, Wessels’ shouts in her speeches always send chills down my spine – something in her voice reminds me of some sort of fierce warrior queen and leaves me in awe. She’s like a concentrated bomb of charisma, and that alone makes me wonder how it’s even possible for Delain to still be so criminally underrated in Finland (and I haven’t even started about the general top-notch musicianship and strong discography here). But going back to “Hands of Gold”, it makes for a perfect set opener and is definitely one of Delain’s best live songs, along with pretty much all of their album opening tracks; an interesting pattern and one I don’t mind at all. On the topic of setlists, the one at Paradiso was a great cross-section into Delain’s repertoire, if leaning slightly toward the two latest albums. As the tracks from both of them work wonderfully live, I have nothing to complain about there either – on the whole, even if I would have switched a song or two myself, it was one damn great live set.
The first half of the show (and the first disc of the double CD) is significantly heavier on the newer material, including most tracks from Moonbathers and quite a few from The Human Contradiction as well. The second half was, naturally, dedicated to Lucidity. Unfortunately, I’m still not too familiar with the first album – I’d hopped on shortly after April Rain – but I’m fairly sure its songs were greeted with much joy by those who have been there from the start. Along with that, they were certainly justified by the anniversary (and some by rarity, too), as well as an opportunity to bring more visitors on stage. We were treated with “Sleepwalker’s Dream” performed by the almost complete 2006 line-up, “See Me in Shadow” with Liv Kristine [ex-Leave’s Eyes] and cellist Elianne Anemaat, and then George Oosthoek [MaYaN, ex-Orphanage] on growls in “Pristine”; rarely have I seen a show with as many excellent visitors. Alissa White-Gluz is heard again in “Tragedy of the Commons” during the first half, as well as Burton C. Bell of Fear Factory in yet another rarity, “Where is the Blood”, but perhaps the most memorable visitor was not physically present at all. By now you probably know already that Nightwish’s Marco Hietala was featured in “Your Body is a Battleground” and “Sing to Me”, as a wizard of Oz -like gigantic head projected on the wall behind the stage, and let me tell you, it was awesome in a way I would never have believed possible. His parts could have merely been played from backing tracks, but like this – as a black and white singing face disappearing into smoke and reappearing again – he was actually part of the show, and made it even more unique. It’s also a nice touch that the video projections were edited on top of the footage on the DVD for a few moments, because they’re naturally not quite as impressive through video as they were when watching with one’s bare eyes. Another pleased note I made while watching the DVD was that each of the album covers (that acted as backdrops most of the time) were also edited to be shown during the intermissions, as well as the video footage that was projected on the wall during “Mother Machine”; it looked cool at the show, but was actually even better the way it was used on the DVD.
However, as I said in the beginning, there was also a ‘no’ in the answer as to whether the DVD met the expectations I had placed on it. After the first spin, I found myself wondering if I was just visually too picky and fussy, but after binging a few other concert DVDs from our shelves, followed by a few more rounds of Delain’s, I had to admit that it wasn’t just me being overly pedantic about visual matters. And I really hate to admit that, both as a fan and a reviewer – there was so much potential for this to be one of the best live DVDs I’ve ever seen, given that the show blew me and the whole Paradiso away in the best way possible.
One thing you’ll notice in the first few minutes is that the footage is surprisingly dark for the better part of the first half, but that’s luckily not much of an issue during the second. What to me personally seems to be the main issue with the video quality is the inconsistency – there are plenty of wonderful montages and stunning frames, but roughly nearly equal choices I couldn’t figure out a reason for. The cutting feels oddly jumpy at times, not always finding a rhythm between audio and movement, and every now and then when focusing on someone or something happening onstage, the shot is suddenly cut to somewhere completely else and back again, so it starts to feel a bit restless. There’s a lot of gracefully sweeping crane shots, but it’s slightly on the edge of too much – if you have something cool all the time, it usually loses some of its thrill. Sometimes there’s simply unfortunate angles and framing, but I have to cut the camera crew some slack here – it’s not always possible to be exactly on the right spot to get a good shot of something, or where the most interesting action happens, as the movements on stage are mostly unpredictable. It’s got a lot to do with lucky positioning, just like in the photopit for photographers, and I’m not completely sure how many cameras in total they had to shoot this show. But again, if and when there’s as many cameras as there appeared to be at Paradiso (meaning there likely was more than enough material), the weight of the choices moves to the cutting board. The bottom line here is that if something can and has been done really well to some extent, why not all of it? It doesn’t need to be overly polished and Hollywood-like, far from that, but it shouldn’t feel rushed, either.
These relatively small things are something that, in the end, distinguish an exceptional live recording from one that could have been such. Of course, this doesn’t mean it’s not good, quite the contrary. Some of my all-time favorite concert DVDs, like Sonata Arctica’s For the Sake of Revenge, are miles away from perfect, but they still hold a certain value. For one, I know I will be happy to relive the Paradiso show again – there’s a fair amount of that incredible atmosphere captured, especially in the audio, but also in the video footage, from bandmembers’ shenanigans and wide smiles to the audience’s immense energy. Delain is essentially a live band, and while the studio albums are great the way they are, the songs rise to a whole other level when this bunch gets on stage. If I really, really would want to have one more thing on this DVD, it would be that it shows a little more of the direct interaction between the band and their audience – there was no shortage of that, and the relationship Delain has with their fans is one of sweetest I’ve seen first-hand.
All-in-all, I’m certain that those who were at the Paradiso show will enjoy this (I know I want a physical copy once they’re out), and I would see it without a doubt becoming an integral part of any Delain fan’s collection. But in particular, I’d recommend the live album even for those who are not at all familiar with the band yet – I’m fairly certain that it has the power to inspire people to take a closer look at their discography and jump at the opportunity to check them out live when they tour nearby.
Live CD: 9.5
Total: 8.5/10, 4.25 stars
1. The Monarch Intro
2. Hands of Gold – ft. Alissa White-Gluz
4. The Glory and the Scum
5. Get the Devil Out of Me
6. Army of Dolls
7. The Hurricane
8. April Rain
9. Where is the Blood – ft. Burton C. Bell
10. Here Come the Vultures
11. Fire with Fire
12. The Tragedy of the Commons – ft. Alissa White-Gluz
13. Danse Macabre
14. Sleepwalker’s Dream – ft. Rob van der Loo, Sander Zoer and Guus Eikens
15. Your Body is a Battleground – ft. Marco Hietala (vid)
16. Stay Forever
17. See Me in Shadow – ft. Liv Kristine and Elianne Anemaat
18. The Gathering
19. Pristine – ft. George Oosthoek
20. Mother Machine
21. Sing to Me – ft. Marco Hietala (vid)
22. Don’t Let Go
23. We are the Others