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I was more than a little dubious about hearing Delight’s new effort. As we all know too well by now, signing to a behemoth the size of Roadrunner does tend to change the sound of a band more than a little and I’ve got a soft spot for Delight. I saw them play in Katowice a couple of years ago in a humdrum, characterless shell of a venue. There was a railinged platform protruding from the front of the stage like Concorde’s nose-cone and a group of three bald aggressive men involved in their own personal moshpit which was so menacing that I and others around me feared genuinely for our health. Fortunately, what stood out more than this was Delight’s performance and, signed to Metal Mind Productions as they were, I know they were desperate to go somewhere else. Everyone was. All the bands were complaining acerbically about how dreadful promotion was in Poland, how you could never play outside, how support and representation were in short supply. To others’ envy Delight won a place at Roadrunner records, and yes, their resultant sound is more accessible, though it’s a shame that their original style has been so dryly smothered in the process.
I shouldn’t act so surprised but it’s unusual when a band who haven’t changed too much from year to year – that’s four albums – get a new tinge to them. Though for Delight it’s not really so much of a tinge but a big slap of the 5-inch brush, a coating of creosote mixed with double cream and molasses that sinews their sound and gums up any of the old recognisable features. Breaking Ground, unless you didn’t know, is not an entirely original album. In spite of the fact that there are twelve tracks on it, at least five of these are direct reworkings of songs from their previous album, Anew. I don’t know who came up with this ridiculous idea, to follow an album with half the tracks from the last album, in fact it’s a pretty dire thing to do for the Delight fans. Anew was released in 2004 and now, three years later, you don’t get a new album but effectively an EP, and I doubt that a large majority of the fan base will think it’s ‘OK’ and ‘understand’ because they’ve switched to Roadrunner. No, the majority probably don’t even have a clue who Roadrunner is and what the label state of their average band is. It’s like giving a kid a huge ice cream cone but only filling it halfway up.
The first song on the album, Divided, is a reworking of an older Delight track called Anew. However, this time round the song has more of the words missing to make it shorter and colossal lashings of reverb on the voice. Straight away it’s clear that Breaking Ground is a different kettle du poisson: the guitars are terribly punchy and meaty, the vocals trails off into the ether and all the songs are quite ridiculously short for maximum effect in minimum time. It’s not only Anew that has been given the lucky reincarnation treatment though: Bare Tree, More, Emotune and Your Name also got mangled on this new release. The reason for doing this evades me since it would make more sense to rework songs from the band’s earlier days off The Fading Tale or Last Temptation rather than songs from the last album, unless the idea was to distribute this thing worldwide with more of an up to date version of the band’s sound recognisable to both old and new audiences. Either way, for those of us who are familiar with Delight’s stuff, these tracks do absolutely nothing and are only there to skip since we know them already. So as far as I’m concerned that’s half the album out the window.
This leaves seven new tracks which are not of the Delight form that you’d expect, in fact, there’s not much here about the old Delight at all. Someone somewhere has decided that Delight need to throw in more crunchy riffs with catchy choruses and more jumpy down-tuned bass. Don’t panic too much though, this is nothing along the lines of Lacuna Coil’s Karmacode and it never skates off into nu-metal territory, but there’s only so much that Delight can do with three minute songs and the numbers here hover between being good, catchy pop rock snippets and forgettable pointless fillers. Therefore while Reasons, Sleep With The Light On and In Too Deep have some nice parts to them, every other song is so weighty and starchy that by two-thirds of the album it’s hard to care since it all sounds the same.
I almost feel sorry for the band since though being on Roadrunner may introduce them to better marketing and fuller audiences, they’ve almost had their old sound raped along the way. They probably don’t mind so much about this – or at least I hope not – but what was once a confident, happy and inventive band on the Polish metal scene seems to have become strangled by corporate need and the shortcomings of their home country. As a result it’s hard to wrench a lot of fun, feeling or emotion out of Breaking Ground and I get the impression there’s been a slight amount of turmoil somewhere behind this release. It’s all very well being signed to a major but Breaking Ground is a short, stumpy little dwarf amongst Gothic metal. It’s got attitude, grit and to an extent, style, but Delight’s most mainstream release is also their weakest yet.
Originally written for www.soniccathedral.com