It has been quite a while now since symphonic metal ensemble Delain released the album Dark Waters. However, this album had not yet been reviewed on Zware Metalen, and after the bands dazzling performance at Graspop Metal Meeting, this album certainly deserves its spot on our website! With this new release, Delain delves deeper into darkness, both thematically and musically, while simultaneously introducing some notable shifts in the lineup.
In 2021, the band announced that their paths would diverge, leaving only Martijn Westerholt from the original lineup. One of the most remarkable changes was the departure of singer Charlotte Wessels, who played a significant role in shaping Delain‘s distinctive sound. She had been the frontwoman of the band since 2005, making her voice and stage presence integral to Delain. A potential successor would certainly have big shoes to fill. Fans were pleasantly surprised however, when successor Diana Leah was announced a year later, followed by the release of their new single The Quest and the Curse. Besides Wessels’ departure, there were other shifts in the lineup. Delain also welcomed drummer Sander Zoer, guitarist Ronald Landa, and bassist Ludivico Cioffi to the band. While the first single sounded promising, fans naturally wondered whether these new members could elevate the band to a higher level without losing the original identity and style of Delain. Fans who wondered two years ago if the band had a future ahead can now breathe a sigh of relief. After attending one of the recent performances of the band and listening to Dark Waters, the answer is undoubtedly a resounding ‘yes.’
Hideaway Paradise, the first track of the album, opens with ethereal, dreamy piano, immediately immersing the listener in their enchanting sound. However, this tranquil beginning quickly explodes, as the song alternates between cinematic, ethereal atmospheres and flirtations with the symphonic metal sound of electric guitars. In this track, we quickly hear that Leah excels in delivering both the serene, delicate moments and the powerful sections in the music. The song occasionally carries a pop-like quality and serves as a solid, though not exceptionally powerful, opener for the album.
Much more thrilling is The Quest and the Curse, the first single released by the band with the new lineup. It starts off strong, featuring plenty of guitar and drums that nicely contrast with Diana Leah’s once again somewhat dreamy and calm vocals. A robust choir and more intense grunts are also heard intermittently, firmly placing this track in the metal realm rather than the pop direction of the album’s opener. It’s a genuine earworm and undoubtedly one of the standout tracks on Dark Waters.
The most remarkable track on the album is undoubtedly the catchy Moth to a Flame, where the group continues in the same vein as The Quest and the Curse. The song is characterized by a blend of melodic symphonies and heavy riffs. It starts a cappella with an extremely catchy chorus that will undoubtedly stick in your head. The lyrics might have a somewhat pop-like feel again, but the melodeath riffs keep it sufficiently powerful. This will undoubtedly become a massive hit when performed live, prompting lots of dancing and singing along!
While the individual tracks certainly stand strong on their own, despite the changes in the lineup, the album doesn’t offer a significant amount of innovation. One of the few elements that prevents the album from becoming a homogeneous blend is the presence of guest artists. They add excitement and variety to the album, though some songs might be more memorable than others. Don’t get me wrong, Dark Waters is a solid album that will resonate well with many symphonic metal fans. Additionally, the band delivers a fantastic live experience and is certainly worth seeing in person. The band members radiate energy on stage and engage actively with the audience, making you feel truly involved in the show.
While the album might not take a giant leap in innovation, it successfully maintains the beloved sound that fans cherish. With Diana Leah as a worthy successor and Martijn Westerholt’s adept songwriting, the band manages to create an atmosphere that seamlessly aligns with their earlier work. The addition of guest artists injects the necessary variation and excitement, although some tracks might linger more than others. Dark Waters is an album that can be enjoyed both in the background and with full attention, and it promises to offer an exceptional live experience for fans. Delain proves that they are still a prominent name within the symphonic metal genre, and this album unquestionably adds value to their impressive discography.
Napalm Records, 2023
- Hideaway Paradise
- The Quest and the Curse
- Mirror of Night
- Tainted Hearts
- The Cold
- Moth to a Flame
- Queen of Shadow
- The Quest and the Curse – piano version
Martijn Westerholt – Keyboard
Sander Zoer – Drums
Ronald Landa – Guitar, backing vocals, grunts
Ludovico Cioffi – Bass, backing vocals, grunts
Diana Leah – Lead vocals