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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/)