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Look at that cover art. Look at it. There really are no words for the sheer creativity and beauty of it. Ahh, Delain...
What a lovely, lovely album. Everything Delain has done on every last one of their albums has at the very least been highly entertaining, and at most shockingly beautiful. They have completely mastered the art of symphonic rock/metal, and at every turn produce something of the highest order of quality. This album in itself is no exception, though relatively speaking it is their... uh... 'weakest'. Compared to the eternal sweetened majesty of April Rain and the brooding darkened elegance of The Human Contradiction, this is something of a step down, if only very slight.
Nothing has really changed here, at all. The album is still unbelievably simple and accessible, to the point where this could easily be the first metal album an initiate to the genre could listen to that would click. It doesn't challenge the listener, not even once, and is arguably even more basic and streamlined than April Rain. Once again, it is a very obvious commercial exercise, which has always been one of this band's strengths. By possessing such immense talent, and pouring all of their heart and soul into highly streamlined and friendly music, anyone can appreciate it. It is completely ubiquitous in its appeal, assuming a listener actually gives it a chance.
And how could anyone not give it a chance, when the endlessly talented and eternally stunning Charlotte Wessels features on vocals? I've already slobbered over her vocal talents many a time, but fuck it I'm gonna do it some more! Once again, her delivery is effortless, with those sweetened vocal melodies leaving her lips with the utmost smoothness, control, and clarity. She has a very pleasant and soothing voice, one which maybe doesn't have the most expansive range or an operatic delivery, but is also so emotive and expressive that it is sure to bowl over and melt the hearts of any man that listens to it. It also helps that she is singing some amazing vocal lines, and that the songs are designed to have the hook as the climax of the song, revealing some absolute scorchers - whether it be the April Rain quality 'Generation Me', the uber-catchy elegy and anti-bullying anthem that is the title track, the searingly beautiful opener 'Mother Machine', or the triumphant closer 'Not Enough'.
Of course, the vocals are always fine with Delain; the general consensus that this is a weaker effort stems largely from the music underneath Charlotte. Essentially, it tends towards the alt rock side of the equation, with greater emphasis on heavy chugging with downtuned, modern guitars and the keyboards being shelved somewhat from previous efforts - most notably on the commercial curve-ball 'Hit Me With Your Best Shot'. Most of the time, the keys are used as backing melodies that complement Charlotte but remain firmly in the background, as opposed to the more bombastic efforts of old that melded with her pipes in the sweetest of ways to create something jaw-dropping. I don't believe this to be a massive flaw however - as stated in my thoughts on April Rain, Charlotte can carry even the most dismal of music, and despite the Karmacode tendencies of this, Delain do anything but here. The music still carries a sense of energy to it, providing a metal-orientated heavy base to what is essentially pop music, and gives the words of Charlotte added weight through a more laconic, though still frequent, use of keyboards. Of course, the band do a fine job, whether it be of keeping time, providing a suitably heavy yet melodic and atmospheric backdrop to Charlotte, or throwing in the odd, melodically and technically accomplished solo.
The production is home to a minor complaint of mine. The instruments sound mostly fine, with the keyboards possessing an 'airy', natural quality to them, even during their more electronic moments. However, the guitar tone is perhaps a bit too nu 'metallish' for my liking - this was present on older efforts as well, but was forgivable since the keyboards took precedence so it wasn't as immediately noticeable. I know why they did it, to create heaviness through a chugging riff base, but it brings back horrid memories of Shallow Life when I hear them, and they are too muddy and downtuned for my liking. They are also too loud, being second in line after the vocals in the mix, with even the drums overpowering the keyboards somewhat. The album loses some of its atmospheric charm that its predecessors had, though tracks like 'Babylon' or 'Milk and Honey' manage to power through these issues.
I think one has to listen to this album in a slightly different way to see it as great effort by the band. Here, they sacrifice some atmosphere to create more immediately rhythmic and guitar driven (and hence memorable) songs that rest more upon the vocals. It depends if you want to hear more of Charlotte or more of the keyboards, really - personally, I love both things, but the overall atmosphere is best created in a 60/40 balance between the two, and this album favours the vocals just a bit too much. It is mighty fine, a fantastically entertaining and sporadically heart-warming release with many unbelievably good hooks and a certain energy and bounce that comes from the increased guitar presence, but there aren't any songs like 'Frozen' or 'Invidia' - even if it does come very close at times. Still, this is more than a worthwhile release for any symphonic rock/metal fan; just expect more guitars and less keys. More focus on fun catchiness, and less on a beautiful atmosphere.
And also expect Burton C. Bell on 'Where Is the Blood', who sounds like shit as always with his toothless, loud yet weak yelling - but even that can't put me off the song, because Charlotte sings on it, which automatically makes it awesome, like everything else on the album.
Charlotte has disclosed in interviews that tension predicated by record company jockeying began to impact Delain's outlook in the period leading up to the release of We Are the Others. I wish I could say that the band managed to channel these tertiary struggles into a more positive direction as far as the music is concerned, but the sad fact is that this is a sizable step down compared to both Lucidity and April Rain. While this is still clearly more associated with the latter in terms of stripped-down aesthetics and overall delivery, something integral to Delain's normally reliable formula is clearly absent here.
The specific deficiency is difficult to pinpoint however, mainly because We Are the Others is chock-full of "almost there" moments; certainly enough to prove that the framework is undoubtedly present and accounted for. What frustrates me the most personally is the dearth of orchestrations or memorable keyboard passages. Westerholt has too much talent to shortchange himself like this, and this dichotomy is all but solidified when he does deliver a killer piano melody like on the amazing title track. I won't comment on the anti-bullying theme, but this one is a keeper, right up there with "Invidia," "Frozen," and "Virtue and Vice." "Get the Devil Out of Me" also has a great synth line murmuring under the chorus, but Charlotte isn't blowing me away here like she has in the past. Her tone is still silky-smooth and effortlessly delivered, but rarely does she really let it rip like before. Charlotte is still clearly capable, as I certainly get that distinct ticklish sensation when she belts out the high notes on the chorus of "Are You Done with Me?" - but otherwise there are very few stratospheric highlights vocally.
While We Are the Others' atmosphere isn't quite despondent enough to hang with Lucidity, it can go toe-to-toe with the album directly preceding it when it feels like it. "Generation Me" is memorable enough, and despite having it's verse melodies ganked from Nightwish's "Amaranth," it features some fleeting orchestral sections that make it worth the price of admission on it's own. Others like "Babylon" are distinctly Delain from soup to nuts, but feature choruses that sputter out prematurely. Sparks of brilliance erupt sporadically, but never in a fashion uniform enough to fulfill the band's proven potential.
There are also some stinkers like "Where Is the Blood." I can usually tolerate Bell as a vocalist, but eugh. The trade-off abstraction revolving around dual vocal performances has potential, but I can't get behind it on this one. The lyrics on the whole are also rather bland and uninspired. I'm not saying April Rain was some sort of conceptual masterpiece, but there is a lot of misguided angst flowing throughout Charlotte's rants this time around. "Generation Me" has some clever oeuvres and the title track can get away with it due to it's insanely catchy nature, but We Are the Others certainly leaves much to be desired otherwise.
While the record definitely ends well (4 of the final 5 tracks are great), I can't help but feel underwhelmed on the whole here. We Are the Others is still a solid attempt at mainstream symphonic metal, but those familiar with Delain's earlier material probably won't find much room in their collective heart for it's streamlined, more direct stylings. The cover art is shockingly beautiful and creative, but the material within belies little of the same on a musical level. Before the suspense kills you, I am happy to report that The Human Contradiction is a return to more traditional grounds for the band, and hopefully Charlotte and her motley crew can continue riding the upward swing to well deserved recognition. As for We Are the Others? Well, you can't win 'em all.
On August eleventh, 2007, Sophie Lancaster was beaten and kicked to death by a gang of teenage shitheads due to her 'goth' appearance and clothing. The perpetrators even gloated about it afterwards, which, clueless as to understanding just how stupid they were, ultimately sealed their fates with easy convictions. It was a tragic and heartbreaking enough incident that, with more international exposure, Westboro Baptist church members would have flown across the ocean just to picket her funeral. This horrible occurrence unquestionably struck a nerve with Delain, in which this album was released as a dedication to Sophie. Most of the lyrical themes tend to revolve around being different and defiant in the face of adversity and hostility, with a few songs, such as the title track, directly referencing that fateful night.
Although lumped into the symphonic metal genre, Delain seems to be gradually steering away from that niche to an even more accessible form of metal. We Are The Others is bookended with pretty solid tracks that fit squarely in what could be considered as quality textbook examples of symphonic metal, but the rest of the album follows more standard pop patterns and commercial aspects that draw the listener in with catchy choruses and vocal hooks. That is not to say the album is an abomination, in that for what it's worth, Delain are very good at what they do, composing catchy tunes that rest almost entirely upon the shoulders and voice of singer Charlotte Wessels, carrying the melodies with enough eloquence and memorability to latch onto our minds. She sure as hell knows what she's doing, since a fair amount of these numbers do resonate almost intensely for better or worse.
Despite a general preference towards the heavier and more bombastic cuts bookending the album, my favorite track here is actually "Electricity" simply because the chorus fucking kicks ass. It's anthemic without being overblown, and Charlotte just nails this shit, singing with enough vim to pound the message home without spiraling into histrionics. The title track is immoderately catchy as well, unsubtle in its aims and a bit hokey, like a “Kumbaya” for teenage outcasts.
Musically the drums carry most of the flair while the rest of the instrumentation often feels like it’s regulated as a backdrop for the vocal fireworks, with some guitar melodies squirreled in at key times to flesh out the songs, and some keyboard noodling, most notably during tracks like "I Want You", which feels indebted to Muse as its inspiration. The guitars are down-tuned quite a bit, which muddies up certain riffs enough where it can become challenging to figure out what chords are being played.
Along with some good poppish metal tunes are a few numbers I could've lived happily without knowing they exist. I was worried that "Hit Me with Your Best Shot" was going to be a cover of the Pat Benatar song, thus I was relieved when it began that it wasn't the case, until about the halfway mark in which by then I wished it actually was a Pat Benatar cover since the lackluster grooves and obnoxious lyrics sort of beaconed the point where the album as a whole dips in quality for a sizable length of time. The duet with the Fear Factory guy, "Where Is The Blood" sounds more like recent Lacuna Coil fare than what I would have expected by adding Burton C. Bell as a guest, but honestly no guest singer could really make this thing any better. I also can't say that I'm much of a fan of the first single released from this effort, "Get the Devil Out of Me" with its "I'm no Jesus Christ!" rant by Charlotte. Of course you're not...first of all, you're a chick.
With half of We Are The Others being agreeable tracks and the other half mediocre to slightly repellant, it winds up being an average affair with some memorable keepers. Most importantly, though, is that I cannot deny that the singer is amazingly gifted. This woman has a strong, clean and engaging timbre to the point where I'm almost surprised that management CEOs haven't tried to extract her from the band to sing tunes you would hear in a Gap store. We Are The Others does have its heart in the right place as a tribute to someone who should not have lost her life at such a young age for such a dubious reason, and there certainly have been worse musical eulogies and dedications churned out in the past (Puff Daddy's "I'll Be Missing You" to me is more of an insult than exhuming and desecrating Biggie's grave). It's flirtations with straightforward pop rock with a metal edge could be construed as a warning as to what direction the band are leaning towards in the future, but for this endeavor they still manage to make the cut thanks to some stand-out moments.
Dutch symphonic metallers Delain return to the fold with “We are the Others”, their first album in three years. Metal heads that follow symphonic gothic metal, or whatever niche you want to cram the styles of Lacuna Coil or Within Temptation into, should no doubt be aware of the connection between Delain and Within Temptation. Martijn Westerholt was the former keyboard player for W.T. and his brother, Robert, still plays guitars for W.T. It should be no surprise, then, that Delain would follow suit and muddle about in the same gothic inspired symphonic metal realms.
“We are the Others” is Delain's third full length, among a bevy of single releases, much the same modus operandi of contemporaries. Thankfully, Delain manages to avoid many of the pitfalls that other symphonic styled bands tend to fall into, including beauty and the beast vocals, opera singers and cheesy overblown orchestrations. What you get is a pretty straight forward symphonic metal album that borders on modern alternative or pop metal at times.
The music is centered around the melodic, breathy vocals of Charlotte Wessels, and rightfully so, as her performance is stellar on this album. Opting for a standard “singer” rather than an operatic wailer, Delain manages to stay firmly rooted in the realms of metal while branching into the dreaded realms of radio accessibility. Charlotte's voice is a standard mid range, not unlike Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil, only more melodious. During slower parts, the breathy vocalizations sound surprisingly similar to that of trip hop act Portishead. The only portion that dares into the dreaded male versus female style is “Where is the Blood” which features Burton C. Bell of Fear Factory fame, a pretty big name in metal. Unfortunately, his performance is utterly forgettable, sounding more like barking than singing.
The guitars sound eerily similar to Linkin Park's early work or the style heard on Lacuna Coil's “Karmacode”. The guitars are crunchy and slightly distorted, but most of the riffs feel watered down. The bass trolls along, with the same poppy, bouncy feel as many nu metal acts, steadily following the guitar lines. The guitars do get heavier at times, and border on groove metal riffing, but even the heavier sections have a poppy quality to them, lending even more of a nu metal feel to the bass and guitar duo. The drums aren't crushingly heavy, but they are played with enough force to stand out at times. The drummer plays a rather standard rock beat throughout the album, but does manage to stay away from the bouncy nu metal feel with his playing.
The keyboards and orchestrations are consistent on this album, meaning, there are very few moments that don't include the pair. For the most part, the keys blast away with a choral style, similar to Sabaton, but a little less in the forefront. Several sections show the keys doing KMFDM styled, poppy industrial lines. The keys work best during the piano influenced sections, which, thankfully, occur quite frequently. Even while the keys are going along with their lines, a subtle orchestral line floats in the background. The keyboard and orchestral style is, not surprisingly, similar to that of Within Temptation.
When all elements are combined, you have a pretty solid gothic / symphonic base with alternative and nu metal leanings. “We are the Others” is a surprisingly enjoyable listen, especially with all of the radio accessibility Delain is toying with. Symphonic metal bordering on alternative or pop metal is the order of the day. Unlike many of their contemporaries, Delain managed to avoid the trap of overbearing operatic vocals and even avoided the ever-so-annoying beauty and the beast screaming male vocals. Hopefully Delain can get some airplay with this release. “We are the Others” not only shows Delain on top of their game, it shows them on top the entire genre. Recommended to fans of symphonic metal not afraid to find a little pop.
For anyone who knows me, they know my opinion on symphonic metal is very strict. I very much appreciate symphonic elements but I love METAL. So when bands like the modern incarnations of Dimmu or Nightwish over saturate their music in bombastic, loud symph-synths, putting the riffs in the background (where the synths belong), I immediately lose interest in the music. So on Delian’s fourth album, “We are the Others”, I was happy to hear a band that definitely stuck to my guidelines for symphonic metal. Not to mention that it was executed in such a graceful, catchy, ballsy fashion that it makes me shed a tear that most of the other stuff in this vein isn’t this good.
To begin, it’s actually somewhat difficult to pinpoint Delain’s base genre. Sure, there’s symphonic elements that straight away puts it with symphonic metal, but “symphonic” is an ambiguous term, as a lot of bands that use those same elements tend to have riffing that resembles another genre of metal, generally power or black metal. with “We are the Others”, I was pleased to hear that it contained quite the schmorgas board of styles. As the opening track “Mother Machine“ begins, we’re treated to a pummeling, thrashy, melodic death metal riff that starts the record off with a punch. But then it breaks into a catchy piano riff (and some mild orchestrations in the background), partnered with an incredibly catchy guitar solo and slower, harmonizing riffs in the back. The transitions and choruses are then lead by the vocals and some simple, mid-paced riffing that bares some resembles to modern hard rock, but in all honesty is ambiguous enough to fit into any heavy genre. Eventually, most songs will cut into more progressive metal-based riffing, baring resemblance to the more chaotic, syncopated moments of Nevermore, or any Meshuggah song. To some extent I feel it bares mild resemblance to groove metal, but if it is, it’s definitely a very technically concerned approach, considering the odd timing it’s played at.
Although the symphonic work is in the background, it really manages to be catchy and melodic in it’s own right. This isn’t some cheesy, neo-classical, fake-choir crap like they used before. This actually bares resemblance to film soundtrack work, and packs as heavy a punch as Lux Aeterna (Youtube it,you’ve probably heard it before, probably from Requiem of a Dream and LOTR) – although it isn’t quite presented in the same way. There’s also a fair bit of piano and electronic key work here as well, with Westerholt proving he is capable of atmospheric, memorable piano pieces just as well as he is with catchy, electronic synths and grand orchestrations. These are then fantastically paired with the heavy metal riffing and perfectly harmonized with their angelic singer, Charlotte Wessels. Although Wessels definitely takes a softer vocal approach to Delain’s music (as opposed to aggressive female vocalists like goddess Doro Pesch or Dinah Williams), I’m thankful she doesn’t try to stuff it full of faux-opera nonsense. Like when you listen to early Nightwish, some of those parts are just so botched and terrible, and most bands do no better. But with that in mind, Wessel can and does put some operatic elements in there, but rarely and always as background vocals, so there’s no evidence that she’s terrible at the style here.
To sort of go off track for a second, a lot of people categorize Delain as gothic metal. Except, in my opinion, just like bands such as Lacuna Coil, Within Temptation, Nightwish or Epica, this is bullshit (but that’s a rant for another day). Anyway, to get to the point, I think the only reason anyone would call these bands “gothic” is because the lyrical content is decently bleak and melodramatic. But to be honest, that definition has pretty much been whittled down into “talking about heart break and angst” nowadays. I can’t really say there’s much angst in “We are the Other’s” lyrics, but most of the songs, like 6 out of 11 , are about wanting someone or heartbreak. There are some good lyrics in there, and they’re great songs – as this record is incredibly consistent – but the themes aren’t really tragic enough to be considered gothic. The rest of the lyrics do tend to be quite interesting though. The opening track I mentioned, “Mother Machine“, takes on quite a science fiction-orientated theme, not to mention that there’s some pretty well written songs about society and self turmoil amongst the rest of the songs.
By the end of it, this is probably one of the strongest records in this vein of metal to come out in a really long time. It’s funny because by all means, this is the record Lacuna Coil has been trying to make for a long time. It so successfully appeals to metal heads, while also having moments casual rock listeners would enjoy, that it would merge their fanbases completely had they been the ones who made it. It’s catchy, atmospheric, cathartic and soulful, without being generic and watered down or saturated in pretentious synth-nymphomania, and almost every song is great on its own.
(Originally written for AXIS OF METAL as Adam Korchok http://axisofmetal.com/2012/07/delain-we-are-the-others-review/)