Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Delain - We Are The Others (2012)

It seems amazing that three years have passed since the release of "April Rain," the sophomore album from Dutch melodic metal band Delain. In a period in the music industry where the time you spend between albums often decides how much interest you lose, this five piece were in no rush to complete the follow up. After long, and successful tours all over the world, they set out to create a new album that would not only keep them in the minds of their fans, but take their talents to new levels. Inspired by the story of a British girl, Sophie Lancaster, the album "We Are The Others," and in particular the title track, became an "outsiders anthem," one that the band execute to near perfection.

The sound of a distorted industrial music box opens "Mother Machine," before an explosion of guitars and keys take hold of everything it touches. Sure, there is melody to be had, but don't be fooled into thinking that this female fronted act is soft by any means. Frontwoman Charlotte Wessels is as dynamic as the brightest stars of the genre, giving you grace and range, all with a strength that is hard to match. Paired with guitars that never lack punch, and a keyboard presence that never falters, you have an unbeatable combination. Even when the more simplistic songs come out, as they do on "Electricity," things never feel like they are dumbed down for the audience. There is a frankness, an honesty to the music as well as the lyrical content, one that makes the music easily digestible without being sloppy. Small keyboard and piano touches, courtesy of Martijn Westerholt, do wonders. The aforementioned title track may seem familiar in sound, bearing resemblance to Within Temptation at times. But in this case, the message is firm, and with lyrics given due justice by the voice of Wessels ("Normal is not the norm, it's just a uniform), there is something to enjoy here.

To use the word sultry to describe Wessels crooning style in the early stages of the electronic tinged "Milk And Honey" would not be out of line, as she keeps you focused on every syllable. The true symphonic elements come out so well here, with Westerholt leaving his mark all over the track with synths and keys that seem to be omnipresent. Completed with some slick guitar work, it leads into a song that may fool you at first. Despite what you may think, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" is not a cover of the Pat Benatar classic. There are little touches that may lead you to believe otherwise, but Delain has crafted something new, if not familiar here. It is fueled by an electronic lead, and driven by a great vocal hook. To that point, the piano/vocal intro to "I Want You" is exactly what makes this band so hard to dislike. Wessels ropes you in with the sorrow in her voice, a deep sadness that permeates the lyrics. Even as the band takes a more minimalist approach in the verse and chorus, she lets her range show, hitting each note so delicately, yet so powerfully. This is a testament to what female fronted metal has to offer the masses.

Adding an unexpected wrinkle to the fold, Fear Factory's Burton C. Bell "Where Is The Blood" shouts his vocals over the top of the chorus, giving you something that is the polar opposite of the norm for Delain. The track as a whole, though, lacks in other departments, with the rest of the band giving a more generic musical backing, the standby chugging riffs for any melodic band. Luckily, a hook in the chorus will keep this one rooted for days ("If I hurt you so much, where's the blood?). A much cleaner, distinguishable band returns on "Generation Me," poking fun at the "me first" nature of the modern world. There isn't anything innovative or new to be had here, but that doesn't make the track any less enjoyable, giving you exactly what you would want and expect, and done well. Throwing in a bit of contrast, "Babylon" sees a more heavy handed approach. A dense opening drum beat paves the way for combination of distorted riffs and airy keyboards. It is a difficult feat to deliver lyrics in an accessible way, even when the subject matter may be slightly down, something Wessels does exceedingly well time and time again.

The final trio may be, arguably, the most memorable chunk of the album. The cold, distance sound to "Are You Done With Me" creates a stirring mood at first, before a massive change greets you in the chorus. The beat turns into an nearly techno one, pulsing and pounding from the drum kit. It is hard to find a victory in the instrumental aspects here, as it seems almost devoid of originality, but the vocals are haunting. Westerholt's impact on the opening to "Get The Devil Out Of Me," in the form of a short piano interlude, set things in motion for a track that is both distinct and strange, all at the same time. Wessels vocal take a bizarre tone here, jumping up the scale at the same beat on every line, something that almost sounds stilted. It is only when the keyboards return to take command of the track, somewhere in the breakdown section, that things gain momentum again. But encapsulated in "Not Enough" is a bevy of time signatures and tempos, all of which are part of the greater whole that is Delain. The space age keys pad out a fitting closer, one that would undoubtedly serve as a great live track.

The major question that seems to be in play is whether or not a band needs to evolve or further develop their sound to stay relevant. Delain are not looking to reinvent the wheel here, instead content to ride it from point a to point b. They do what they do, and they do it well, to paraphrase LL Cool J. So, why change what isn't broken? Sure, they can, at times, fade into the crowded female metal tapestry, losing that sense of uniqueness that is so valuable. But three albums into their career, they have yet to trip, stumble, or fall. Their strength is, and may always be, their consistency. And through that, they can take the outsiders anthems of "We Are The Others" to the masses.


Official Site - http://www.delain.nl/
Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/delainmusic

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