Delain is one of numerous female-fronted symphonic metal bands that popped up following the success of Finnish legends Nightwish. This subgenre of music tends to be very hit or miss, so Delain stayed off of my radar until they were recently announced to co-headline a North America tour with my favourite band, HammerFall. Consequently, checking out their new album, “Moonbathers”, moved to the top of my list of priorities. Sadly, it reveals that metal in North America is in a sad state when this band will be closing out each night above HammerFall.
To be clear, “Moonbathers” isn’t the worst album ever made. The instrumentation is exactly what you would expect from a symphonic metal band. The guitars consist largely of either chugging or power chords, with only the occasional decent riff popping up. The keyboards are often fairly active, but also manage to play a supporting role to the vocals a lot of the time. There are many softer, quieter sections absent of the rhythm section, but both the drums and the bass do their job, with few interesting qualities. This isn’t the problem with “Moonbathers” because this style of music lives and dies by the quality of the vocalist.
Unfortunately for Delain, lead singer Charlotte Wessels is just awful. That’s a bit of an exaggeration; technically, she is quite competent, but she rarely chooses to display it. The vocal lines on “Moonbathers” are some of the worst ever composed (one listen to the chorus of the opening song, “Hands of Gold”, reveals one of most warbled, out of tune performance in existence, though the intro to "Danse Macabre" provides some competition). Wessels has a frustrating tendency to hit notes cleanly and then taper off later in the same syllable. Sometimes, she just wanders around aimlessly. Just because a singer has a wide range doesn’t mean that it is appropriate to use in every scenario. When she is singing a half-decent melody, Delain is actually pretty listenable. Unsurprisingly, this makes the Queen cover, “Scandal”, one of the major highlights. The following track, “Turn The Lights Out”, also marks one of the few instances where Delain nails it.
There is one way to overcome a bad singer: bring the riffs. This is not a common occurrence on “Moonbathers”, but the one song deserving of special mention is “Fire With Fire”, which is probably the only track with actual riffs. This song has some substance to it, as it is led by a catchy guitar melody, and the result is quite effective. It shows that Delain actually has a lot of potential, but often chooses to ignore it. Perhaps this is an instance of an album being a major grower; after all, nobody liked Sean Killian’s (Vio-lence) voice the first time they heard it, but after many listens, he became one of my favourite vocalists. Subsequent listens to Delain have made some tracks more listenable than they first were (“Suckerpunch” comes to mind), but ultimately, there are still many songs with absolutely brutal vocal melodies. For this reason, “Moonbathers” is yet another symphonic metal album that should be shelved in favour of Nightwish.
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"Fire With Fire"
"Turn The Lights Out"
3.0/5 or 60%.
Written by Scott