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Catchy, Great Symphonic metal - 80%

absurder21, July 6th, 2012

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