Album: Apocalypse & Chill
Label: Napalm Records
When it comes to female vocalists, the Netherlands are the place to go if you want to find the best of the best. Delain first appeared on the roster of great Dutch bands in 2006 with their debut, Lucidity, but first caught our attention with April Rain in 2009. The band took their time debuting live in Finland but we’ve fortunately seen them a few times since then. Now, their sixth studio album, Apocalypse & Chill, is set for release on February 7th, 2020, via Napalm Records.
“One Second” has Charlotte Wessels doing vocals that are reminiscent of Sharon den Adel [Within Temptation] at her finest. The track is a duet with a male vocalist, includes some bass lines that border on djenty, and has a nice guitar solo as it reaches the final choruses. “We Had Everything” is a bit poppier off the bat, contrasting with the grungier guitar riffs. The song sounds a bit like a Nightwish radio hit but simplified a great deal. Nightwish fans might find this boring, but those who think Nightwish is too over-the-top might find this a much more suitable song. “Chemical Redemption” is unfortunately plagued by a horribly basic drum beat that repeats for more or less the entire song, which holds it back from being an otherwise very vibrant and interesting track.
“Burning Bridges” may be familiar to some as one of the singles and is notably nicer right off the back with its heavier sound. It’s considerably more upbeat and the heavy parts are certainly more interesting. The vocals are at their best in the chorus, with Wessels belting out the sound she’s known best for. “Vengeance” has a more ambient intro before jumping forward and has guest vocals by Yannis Papadopoulos of Beast in Black fame. The song is fairly forceful and has a far stronger rhythm section than anything else on the album too far.
“To Live is to Die” is at its strongest in the backing orchestrations, which try to make up for the lack of oomph coming from the band; the guitar solo again comes in to help keep things afloat. “Let’s Dance” has more of the djent sound and some of the best guitar parts thus far on the album, whereas the vocals don’t do much to excite. “Creatures” was one of my favorites, with some interesting and ambient, slightly creepy vocals from Wessels at times, as well as some grinding guitars.
“Ghost House Heart” has a waltzing feel to it, with a strong soundscape that is both fantastical and lovely. “Masters of Destiny” is another single, with its slow, delicate build-up and fierce punch forward. Wessels’ singing is sweet and powerful at the same time, while the ending is strong and forceful.
At a whopping 13 tracks, the album begins winding down with “Legions of the Lost.” It opens with some really strong, heavy orchestral melodies before transitioning into Wessels in a very quiet, almost whispering voice. The chorus is powerful and feels like a traditional Delain sound. “The Greatest Escape” would invoke some sort of urgency in name, but manages to be a rather laid-back song on the whole with some nice added violin melodies that harmonize with Wessels here and there. The album ends with “Combustion,” which admittedly, on first listen, was not quite the big bombastic piece I would hope a 13-track album to end with. However, it opens with some faint wailing sounds and a really dramatic guitar line – very 80s heavy metal, the drums are really interesting and not at all boring, and the melodies are solid. Oh, and did I mention it’s an instrumental? While I would still like a little more oomph in the last song, if you consider it more as an outro it’s actually quite good.
This album managed to be a collection of songs with many great parts but few great wholes, so to speak. By that I mean that every song has at least once really nice part to it, perhaps many great parts, but the songs as a whole often felt incomplete, or perhaps poorly mixed. Some of the heaviest songs had weak vocals, or the strongest vocals were backed by weak rhythms. The melodies may have been too strong in the backing orchestrations and too weak in the band themselves. A lot of the time it felt like when Wessels was singing, the band was turned down or was simply gone in place of the backing orchestra. The skill, however, is still there! If you’ve enjoyed the singles so far, the album will likely live up to them for you.
Rating: 6-6.5/10, 3.5 stars*
*admittedly, I felt a bit rushed on this review and the album may require a bit more time to properly digest
1. One Second
2. We Had Everything
3. Chemical Redemption
4. Burning Bridges
6. To Live is to Die
7. Let’s Dance
9. Ghost House Heart
10. Masters of Destiny
11. Legions of the Lost
12. The Great Escape