By Carl Begai
Get past the fact the title for Delain’s new record sounds like an episode of the Teletubbies, and that the artwork is perhaps better suited for a ’70s hippie album than a metal band, Moonbathers is the all-important next step in a career that could have easily – some might say should have – wheezed and died years ago. Diehard fans will argue that Delain’s 2012 album We Are The Others yanked them out of symphonic metal obscurity, but it was The Human Contradiction two years later that made Delain big deal players on an international scale. That record stood head, shoulders and elbows above anything Delain had offered previously and set the bar for the follow-up pretty damn high, particularly since the album’s appeal led to major tours with Sabaton and Nightwish, guaranteeing maximum exposure. The fan-fuelled jury will weigh in over the coming months on whether the band succeeded in meeting the challenge, but from a former fence-sitting convert’s point of view Moonbathers is even more diverse than its predecessor, the song-writing top notch. And give Delain an extra point for having the audacity to cover the Queen classic “Scandal”.
Founder / keyboardist Martijn Westerholt, who started his career as a member of Within Temptation way back when, agrees that the 2016 Nightwish tour through North America was one of the best forums possible to introduce new material to Delain’s growing fanbase, which was one of the reasons for releasing the Lunar Prelude EP early this year.
“People were asking when we were going to tour again, and they were asking when we were going to release new material. We can only do one thing at a time, but we thought ‘Why don’t we do both?’ and chopped the album production in pieces. That way we had some material for the new tour, and it was a good warm-up for the album. The response from the fans was great. Most of the time, doing a support tour means that you lose a lot of money on it because you have to pay for expenses, but we had amazing merchandise profits on the Nightwish so we were able to cover our costs. That’s something that is very rare, so it’s a good sign to see whether people like the new music or not.”
During his previous run-in with BraveWords (February 2016), Westerholt outlined the band’s on-off writing process for what would become Moonbathers. You have to wonder, however, if the band ever considered the danger of coming up with a batch of songs that weren’t cohesive in the end. Life can turn on a dime, and the mentality you have at one point may be totally different three months later.
“That’s a very relevant question. I didn’t regard it like that at all because for me, somehow, it wasn’t a big risk. I have to be in a certain mood to write and it’s always been that way, so I didn’t feel the danger of being in a different mindset three months later and getting a different result. There are a lot of factors that make an album cohesive or not. Next time I’d like to be even more extreme and do it like they do with dance music; just write a song, record it and mix it, and then move on to the next song. It makes things a lot more flexible and you can reflect on things. I really like that.”
There’s no question vocalist Charlotte Wessels came into her own on The Human Contradiction, and she somehow managed to top that performance on Moonbathers. No longer generic by a long stretch, she uses her voice as a multi-faceted instrument over the course of the new record with (admittedly unexpected) brilliant results.
“That’s a huge compliment to Charlotte, and you’re right. Her voice is used in many different ways on this album; she even does some growling on ‘The Glory And The Scum’. She tried to use her voice in many different ways and sometimes it was hard. Nowadays she records at home, which is a huge improvement, too, because she has more influence on the recordings. It has worked out really well.”
It’s safe to say the live exposure Delain received for The Human Contradiction forced Wessels to up her game.
“That’s true,” Westerholt agrees. “Of course, when we started Charlotte was only 17 years old so she needed some time to mature, and I’m really proud of where she is right now. I think in the beginning the band had to carry her a bit, and now it’s the other way around.”
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