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Once again, I take a trip to the glorious ivory castle that is Delain's symphony-laden discography, and more specifically, delve into the oldest, largest, and most sophisticated fortification of the mighty edifice - Lucidity. This is very easily Delain's most ambitious album in scope, relatively speaking. Though still extremely streamlined and pop-influenced compared to its contemporaries of the day, it is perhaps a tad less reliant on hook-driven songwriting and more focused on somewhat lengthier songs with more variation within them, as well as this particular version having more material to boot. It almost reminds me of a more musically compact Within Temptation, while still retaining a greater level of grandiosity through the graceful songwriting that focuses more on atmosphere and the prominent keyboards.
The instruments play a greater role here than one would expect for Delain; the aforementioned keyboards in particular are far 'larger' and more bombastic than what would follow. They are nothing short of amazing, featuring a deep, airy, natural and rich tone to them. They drive the songs along with the vocals, and unlike later efforts, create a highly potent and ethereal atmosphere all on their own. And while they sound good right from the off, it is when the choppy fast parts of 'Sever' come in that one realises that this album really is something magical. The album sounds spacey, rich, mysterious, grandiose and beautiful all because of the keys, layering on melody after melody of sweetened goodness that this band can always pull off. The keyboards also make this Delain's most atmospheric album, outshining even April Rain in terms of the melodic potency that the music generates. It is stunning to listen to, with cuts like 'Sever' cracking my top 5 Delain songs on the keyboards alone.
And all this amazingness is before we even get to the vocals. This album is odd for the band in that it features a large amount of guest slots from high profile bands, and while some of them aren't entirely noticeable, some really do stick out like a sore thumb. There is the rich, powerful and vaguely raspy tenor of Marco Hietala, who may as well be a permanent member of the band at this point. His vocals serve as a raucous counterpoint to the sugary sweetness of the music and the female vocalists on this album, and convey so much energy and vigour that it really is the icing on the cake. Given that he also doesn't nick the hooks from a certain vocalist I kind of like, he is cool in my books here, unlike the later 'Control the Storm'. George Oosthoek makes a few harsh contributions to the album too - most notably in 'Deep Frozen' and 'Silhouette of a Dancer' - but they feel out of place on such a melodic and atmospheric album. They are decent, percussive death growls, but their very nature of atonality and unmemorability works against the album on the whole. They aren't offensive, but I could do without them.
And as for the ladies, there is the highly noticeable voice of Sharon den Adel. Her voice is kind of odd, constantly alternating between high and low with no real mid-range. Her voice is quite thin too - and yet also powerful. For all its weirdness, I do like it a lot. She has a charismatic and angelic voice, one which suits the music well and gels with the keyboards, but it really takes some getting used to. Liv Kristine makes the odd appearance too, like in 'A Day For Ghosts'. She has a really poppy and sweet voice, one which also very thin and airy, and surprisingly weak. However, given that she is being backed up by the keyboards this isn't really a problem, but I don't think she is all that amazing in general, even if she fits the melodic and equally airy nature of the music perfectly.
What I find most amusing about this album however is that all of these well-established vocalists from high profile bands (Within Temptation, Nightwish and Theatre of Tragedy!) are completely blown out of the water by a then 19 year old with exactly one year of live-only experience in a completely unknown band. Charlotte Wessels, even this early on, has to her credit one of the most expressive, charming and silky smooth voices I have ever heard, and while her delivery isn't quite as expressive or powerful as it would be later on, she still manages to completely melt my heart on songs like 'Shattered' or the absolutely stunning grand highlight that is 'Frozen'. Though this effect is present with all of the aforementioned vocalists (apart from George), it is most pronounced with Charlotte - her voice, combined with the keyboards, creates a thing of true beauty and atmospheric depth, one which is so soothing and soul-warming that it really makes this album a thing of beauty; something truly magical and deep, despite its highly streamlined approach.
The rest of the band work to make a subdued but notable heavy undercarriage to the music, one which gives it a certain drive and weight to it that makes the qualities of the music all the more pronounced by punctuating the climactic sections with heaviness and pace. Even so, not once do the groovy riffs and downtuned chugs drive the album (apart from the intros of the songs, after which it all goes quiet for the keys and vocals) and always sit behind the keys, churning away and giving the music a bit more dynamism and energy. The drums keep time, with the very rare (but much appreciated and tastefully used) bit of double bass when it is needed, and the soloing is occasional but excellent when it does come on. Realistically though, these are vocally orientated songs, so the subdued instruments are understandable and even preferable in the light of those keyboards and Charlotte's vocals. The production is also tailored to the usual vocally orientated Delain, with the keys and, you guessed it, vocals taking centre stage to the rest of the instruments, bringing forth the atmosphere and sugary sweet melody of the album.
The songwriting is perhaps the aspect where the largest deviations can be seen from the usual Delain formula. While the songs are very clearly vocally orientated in their construction, they are longer and less focused on hooks. They still have verse-chorus structures, but some songs occasionally deviate from this, and on the whole the hook isn't made to be the grand climax of the song, rather they swell, ebb and flow free of the verse-chorus framework, and more often than not songs repeat themselves without vocals and let the keys do the talking. While this approach makes this Delain's most sophisticated, varied and creative album, it also makes it their least memorable and catchy - while this won't be a problem for most, others who are more accustomed to their later works like We Are the Others might be a bit flummoxed by the somewhat reduced 'hook power' of the album. Of course, some songs like 'Frozen', 'Shattered' or 'See Me In Shadow' will get stuck in the head after one or two listens, but most of the rest of the album requires a different mindset. Don't expect an incredibly searing and catchy album, only a very searing and catchy album - you didn't think that a Delain album would ever be unmemorable, did you? They still have great vocal lines, (mostly) gorgeous and stunning vocals and verse-chorus structures here; there are just other things at work too.
Concerning the bonus material, since that makes up just under a third of this album's songs on the 16-tracker I have, I recommend it highly, despite the presence of the oddball 'Deep Frozen'. It is a redone version of 'Frozen' that removes any and all catchiness in the hook by replacing the magical and stunning 'Answer me...' of Charlotte with some generic growling from George. Though the verses alone make it worthwhile, it seems a bit redundant, though I am willing to file this under the category of a failed experiment. The rest of it however is great, with acoustic renditions of 'Frozen', 'See Me In Shadow' and 'Silhouette of a Dancer', all of which expose Charlotte's voice and highlight how well she can hold her own and carry the music, as well as 'No Compliance' but with Charlotte on vocals as opposed to Sharon del Adel. A massive improvement in my book, given that Charlotte actually uses her mid-range and has a more powerful and smoother voice than Sharon - and I like Sharon's voice, which should give you some idea as to how good Ms. Wessels is on this album.
This is a masterwork, a true gem of symphonic metal, and one of the most calming and pleasant albums I have heard in a long time. Perhaps it is not as hook-centric as what would follow, but it makes up for it with its sheer atmosphere and creativity, one which even the almighty April Rain can't match. However, given my love for Charlotte's vocal performance, the ultra-sweetened hook-driven nature of this album's successor will win me over this every time. It is their best from a technical point of view, but it isn't my favourite, even if it comes really, very close at times. I very highly recommend this to all metalheads with even a slight 'sweet tooth' to their taste.
A magnificent album by a magnificent band - thy name is Lucidity.
Delain's brief history embodies a true comeback story if there ever was one. Westerholt, crippled by health problems and forced to leave Within Temptation, bides his time and accrues an enviable stockpile of material and holds out until he can assemble an appropriate ensemble of guest musicians. Other than Westerholt and Wessels, Lucidity is more of a collaborative effort rather than a prototypical release by Delain as we know them now. As such, something of a disconnect becomes apparent if you contrast much of this material to some of Delain's more straightforward, less experimental records like April Rain.
While the group's overarching style is still decidedly more streamlined and less overwhelming than other symphonic bands of this caliber like Sirenia and Nightwish, this actually ends up being one of Lucidity's greatest strengths. In terms of tempo and general arrangement, this often comes close to many of the more compact numbers on Century Child like "End of All Hope" and perhaps "Slaying the Dreamer." However, while Holopainen often overwhelms the sound and swallows up the rest of the band through his overuse of bombastic arrangements, Westerholt strikes a far more captivating equilibrium. While he exercises the tried-and-true utilization of orchestra hits syncopated with the rhythm backbone, nearly every keyboard melody is a true winner that normally only comes around once or twice an album for other acts. The protracted downtime that Westerholt was forced to navigate for the four years leading up to this album is best reflected here, as these arrangements exude a high level of attentiveness and class. The keyboards are never overwhelming and tread an enviable path around the sticky vocal melodies.
Despite the aforementioned collaborative status regarding Lucidity's lineup, Wessels still carries the lion's share of the material here. Her voice is smooth as silk and sweet as honey, albeit in a poppier mold than most symphonic metal acts. I would be lying if I called her the most technically impressive vocalist in her field, but she has an emotive delivery and is integrated seamlessly into the final formula. There are some moments of unbelievable brilliance, like the chorus of "Sleepwalker's Dream" and the verses of "Frozen," which rules divine in more ways than one. The latter is the obvious hit of the album, and that speaks a great deal toward it's embodiment as a mind-searingly memorable number. While Hietala normally tests my patience more than I would like, his sporadic contributions add a decent counterpoint to Wessel's stratospherically soaring input and elevate the chorus of "The Gathering" to yet another unseen high. The remaining guest contributions are less memorable than Wessels, but what isn't?
To round out the sound, Sluijter and Eikens step in to fill the void with their meaty delivery on the six-strings. While they naturally come off as something of an afterthought after digesting the melodic excess of the remaining performances, they don't necessarily detract from the proceedings at all. While leads are scarce, the solos are exceptionally well executed, especially the burning, melodic example on "Frozen." "Silhouette of a Dancer" opens with a fairly ballsy riff set, but quickly changes gears to better accentuates Delain's strengths, a pattern that repeats on more than one occasion here. This is the aspect that separates Delain from many of their sister acts, thrusting the whole ordeal into a more mainstream direction that could have been both a blessing and a curse at the time of Lucidity's release. With the unconventionally beautiful and charismatic Wessels alongside Westerholt's compositional mastery, you don't need me to tell you that they ended up figuring it out.
This album was my first real introduction to metal. I remember my father playing this on the way to school when I was 12. My first thoughts were: "Hey, this sounds like rock, but the riffs sound heavier, like thunder! This is pretty cool!". At the time, this album was one of my favourites to blast in the car as we were flying across the road. Even the rest of my family enjoyed it, particularly my father and younger sister. It just had that effect.
Nowadays I still listen to this album and I still treasure it just as much, albeit I've moved on to listen to other bands. I just can't get enough of the magical atmosphere produced by the combination of melodic synthesizers, catchy violin work, heavy riffs, and Charlotte's beautiful singing. One element I've noticed in the album (and this seems to be a trend in symphonic/gothic metal) is that the heavily distorted riffs are monotonous and repetitive, but the violins and synths completely make up for it with their catchy melodic beauty they send to your eardrums.
One song I particularly admire is "Frozen". I'm absolutely blown away by the energetic intro, the serious chorus, and slow, dreamy breakdown during the bridge. The guitar solo after the breakdown? Oh god, I love it all. It's just fantastic. I'm just going to take a guess and state that they really knew what they were doing during the writing of this song and album.
Don't lie, you're probably thinking "why does this have only have 85 and not 100 with all the praise you're shoving into this album?". Well, allow me to address that. My only problem with this album is that it just simply isn't metal enough. I love the fact that they have the extra gothic instrumentation, but sometimes they just overdo it. I mean, I'd like to hear the guitar a little more while they bring the extras down. Just a pinch. Also, It wouldn't hurt if they actually hit more than 1 note for their riffs. That would be nice.
All in all, this is a very decent album and I would easily recommend it to you. Of course, not everybody enjoys the same kind of metal, so opinions on this album may vary. That's fine. I would most likely recommend this album to people who like their metal to be laid back and formal and not overly violent, nor too mainstream. If you really like modern symphonic/gothic metal like this, then this album is right for you and should surely be a pleasurable listen.
Delain has by now become an almost household name when discussing Gothic Metal, and for good reason. This album gave the band a big breakthrough on the scene, and their follow-up “April Rain” only solidified their success. Delain reminds me a lot of a better Within Temptation (“Silent Force”), but with a few more metal elements.
Heavily symphonic, “Lucidity” was an instant classic with a lot of fans. It's easy to see why, as most of the elements that make this a good album for myself are also shared by many others. First up are the vocals of Charlotte Wessels, which are NOT operatic, but rather more natural sounding. There's a sense of ease and beauty in her voice (also similar to “Silent Force” -era Within Temptation) that sways listeners very easily. This isn't a band puffed up with pomp and virtuosity, but one that goes for the heart with potent and emotional songs. Marco Heitala's presence here is most likely to add the cliche'd “beauty and the beast” sort of balance that many Gothic Metal bands seem to need. Frankly, I've never been a great fan of Marco's vocals until “Dark Passion Play," so truth be told this particular part of the music doesn't do anything for me.
There's a few occurances of Death vocals here, but by and large this is a beautiful, touching, and emotional album. Not very interesting instrumentally, and fairly poppy, but you're already in the wrong genre if you're looking to avoid those elements anyways. I for one found the guitar lines to be extremely tame and boring, though they are reasonably heavy at times, and enough to add some atmosphere. The keyboards also spoil the listener with many lush chords and supportive notes, and are probably the second greatest musical feature of the band.
Lyrically, “Lucidity” is a pool of unoriginality, and not in an unpleasant way. There's some abstract themes and metaphors in the album that will attract Gothic Metal followers, while the beautiful and often eerie melodies appeal to a wide spread of music lovers, from Melodic and Power Metal fans (like myself) to fans of Modern Rock and Metalcore. While I wouldn't call it the epitome of Gothic Metal, Delain is one of the better acts that I've heard, and one of few Gothic Metal bands that remain in my playlist. Personally, I am not attracted overly to this album, but it is a great accomplishment for the genre and the band's musicians. Very good work indeed!
Originally written for www.metal-observer.com
Okay, I absolutely love this woman’s voice. Delain’s Charlotte Wessels lies comfortably atop many of her contemporaries that are all vying for the coveted soaring-operatic vocal. It’s overused, overhyped and flat out boring at this point. Wessels combats this with her easy style that seems to glide off her tongue and into the large air; she truly seems to be whispering loudly in such beautifully breathy sentences. Total fanboy worship aside, let’s get to Lucidity and see if it’s as good as it should be.
Lucidity is the band’s first full-length release that hosts a myriad of guest stars such as vocalists Sharon den Adel of Within Temptation and Liv Kristine of Leaves’ Eyes, and while I also enjoy both if those singers I seriously feel Wessels could have carried this load herself with little or no effort. Granted, the contributions of both den Adel and Kristine are wonderful here (“No Compliance” for den Adel and “See Me in Shadow” and “Day for Ghosts” for Kristine) but the true majesty of this album is both Wessel’s vocals and Delain’s incredibly resonating brand of power/symphonic metal in the gothic vein. The band is proving to be a major force in this genre and with very good reason. The music is heavy without overkill, haunting without artificiality and soaring without contrived elevation.
“Shattered” is an example of just how perfectly the music of gothic style should hit the system: hard hitting, but not consuming and sensual without the plasticity of mall-inspired shtick. This album mixes and matches the formula in so many beakers it’s not only refreshing but can be spoiling; after all, we can’t expect this kind of attention to be paid to every album that emerges from this style. This is all-encompassing music that can be bombastic, yet not overpowering to the emotional state of the listener. In other words, you can enjoy this CD without concern of being lulled into a comfort zone only to be blasted out of it by unnecessary, rudimentary instrumental efforts. “Sleepwalker’s Dream” slips into your head so easily and just sort of lies there in its ethereal beauty. I definitely feel it’s Wessels’ crowning glory on this album, calling on an Olivia Newton-John style that is both frighteningly accurate and delightfully enchanting. The only other vocalist I’ve heard issue such a lovely vocal was Elis’ late vocalist Sabine Dunser. The band compliments Wessels as much as she compliments it, a generous give-and-take between dedicated artists.
Martijn Westerholt’s vision of a simple studio band has taken on a whole new focus. The former Within Temptation keyboardist certainly has his W.T. influences intact throughout Lucidity, but the effort is all its own. Delain should never be relegated to a bastard son of Within Temptation and I don’t think it will. Already on its second release, April Rain issued last year to rave reviews, you’ll certainly be hearing about this band for some time.
(Originally written for www.MetalPsalter.com)
What a project this is! Who knew that melodies this wonderful were just waiting in a songbook somewhere in the possession of Martijn Westerholt, the former keyboardist for Within Temptation and a man plagued with a four year battle with Infectious Mononucleosis.
Delain has produced a hell of an album with Lucidity, something so melodic and magical in nature that it is guaranteed to spread calmness in even the most chaotic settings. With the help of metal stalwarts such as Marco Hietala (Tarot, Nightwish, Ex-Sinergy), Liv Kristine (Leave's Eyes, Ex-Theatre of Tragedy) and George Oosthoek (Ex-Orphanage), Westerholt and vocalist Charlotte Wessels have created one of the best gothic/symphonic metal album to come out in years. Wessels, an widely unknown vocalist herself before being drafted into the ranks of Delain, gives off a performance to remember. Her singing is as melodic and bright as can be, with a playful tone that gives this album a fantastically upbeat aura.
While his performance on Lucidity was only as a guest, Hietala stands out on a multitude of tracks, most notably The Gathering and Day for Ghosts(as a duet with guest vocalist Liv Kristine). We all new what he was capable of with his work as bassist/backing vocalist with Nightwish and Tarot, however Hietala has really outdone himself on Lucidity. He gives the album a rougher tone, something that was necessary to balance out the synth heavy music of Westerholt and bright vocal styling of Wessels. Not to be outdone by his vocals, Hietala also laid down the basslines for the album, doing an outstanding job as expected. George Oosthoek also chimes in with some well places and not overly brutal death metal vocals, primarily on the tracks Silhouette of a Dancer, Pristine, and Deep Frozen.
When it all boils down, Lucidity is just simple fun. Every track on the album has its perks and none really fall below the others. Day for Ghosts, Sleepwalker's Dream, and Shattered are probably the albums standout tracks, but they all showcase Westerholts days in Within Temptation as well as anything WT has put out recently. For anyone looking for some good old fashioned fun listening to something fresh, Delain is a great start.
Standout Tracks - Day for Ghosts, Sleepwalker's Dream, Shattered, The Gathering.
I was looking for some symphonic gothic metal when I recently discovered Delain. To start with I have nevertheless to say that I did not blunder on "Lucidity". Actually, the band has close ties with Within Temptation. Martijn Westerholt (I guess Robert Westerholt’s brother ?) was a member of Within Temptation before leaving this latest band to then found Delain.
Vocals (Charlotte Wessels) – probably the most charming vocals I ever heard : beautiful female voice, really enchanting and pretty warm. Listen to "Sever", "Frozen" and "Silhouette of a dancer" and let her voice enchanting your soul.
However if you are currently looking for some kind of operatic voice, you should rather continue on your way or listen to Epica. Charlotte Wessels voice is not operatic therefore I like it much more.
Other vocals - This album also features Sharon den Adel on track 4 "no compliance", Liv Kristine on track 10 "day for ghosts" (also with Marco Hietala from Nightwish and Tarot) singing as a duo on "see me in shadow" with Charlotte Wessels.
A good hint : "day for ghosts" which is currently my favorite gothic metal song (though you will miss Charlotte’s vocals).
They are also some good male vocals, mostly present on the closing track : "Deep frozen (with grunts)".
« I foster illusions
Of which I am afraid
Repel your embrace
I foster illusions
Of which I am afraid
afraid of your embrace »
With regard to clean vocals, I am not crazy about them but I still have to admit that it suits very well the music.
Guitars (Ronald Landa) – the guitar work is very good as well, introducing very good solos and heavy guitar riffs (i.e. : "Frozen"). But the best is definitely the huge guitar riff on "day for ghosts": a slight epic touch with a very cold sound. Not only is the guitar rhythm section excellent but the solo is more than decent as well.
Keyboards (Martijn Westerholt) – the keyboards are just excellent. Martijn takes over all orchestrations and huge atmospheres. Almost bombastic with an epic touch and some choir-like atmospheres like for instance "Pristine", "sever", "silhouette of a dancer". Korg, endorse this guy !
There are also good keyboard introductions. Give a listen to "Frozen", "No compliance" and "Sleepwalkers dream".
Bass (Rob van der Loo) – guess what ? We can hear the bass. No, I’m not kidding. The sound is really heavy and very congruent to the rest of the instruments. Not buried in a whole sound shambles.
Drums (Sander Zoer) – Nothing special to mention. The drums suit the rest of the instruments. Sander’s work is both heavy and variable. However, if you are rather crazy about a live sound, avoid ! This is a professional work.
Forget the lack of variety wasting some other gothic metal bands. Delain has much more to offer. They are well-rounded musicians and this album introduces a lot of different atmospheres and kinds of vocals (grunts, clean male vocals and beautiful female voice).
As expected for a gothic/symphonic metal band (and Dutch), the production is top-notch which is basically the most important point. No gripe !
Nothing special that is to be mentioned. Lyrics deal with pain, sorrow, yearning and love. Typical themes used in gothic metal but the lyrics remain still mature and quite congruent with the music.
The songs reach around 4 : 45 as a track length which is rather good. This leads to very good intros and variable song structures.
Be it as it may, "Lucidity" is a very strong album written by talented and mostly well-rounded musicians. Though the band does not exactly start out with "Lucidity", this orchestral/symphonic-tinged gothic metal album will remain as a genuine praiseworthy effort.
Outstanding tracks : Frozen/Deep Frozen (with grunts), Silhouette of a dancer, Day for ghosts, Sleepwalker’s dream.
Veel succes, Delain !