Although it’s been close to four years since their last studio album: 2016’s excellent ‘Moonbathers’, Delain have hardly been idle. The Dutch symphonic rockers celebrated the 10th anniversary of their debut album ‘Lucidity’ with a lavish reissue, followed a year later with the Paradiso live album/blu ray. The first hint of new music appeared in the form of the ‘Hunters Moon’ EP in February 2019, and suddenly all was well with the world again. Now, twelve months later we have perhaps their most diverse album to date: ‘Apocalypse & Chill’.
‘Apocalypse & Chill’: a fantastic title that recently became scarily prophetic with the devastating Australian bush-fires. Watch slack-jawed as the country goes up in flames, then turn over for ‘Love Island’…ladies and gentlemen…’Apocalypse & Chill’.
Delain have always balanced pop sensibilities with a heavier sound, ‘Are You Done With Me’ and ‘Suckerpunch’ being just two examples. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that ‘Apocalypse & Chill’ continues down the same path. The keys/synths from the maestro himself: Martijn Westerholt, are pushed front and centre on tracks like ‘We Had Everything’, but not at the expense of the guitars from Timo Somers. It’s not in the same cheesy Euro-Clubland realms as Amaranthe, or even the extreme levels that Sabaton can reach. Perhaps imagine a band like Chvrches adding a wall of guitar riffs and solid drumming to their sound and you have ‘We Had Everything’. Another example could be ‘Chemical Redemption’. What begins with a simple John Carpenter-esque synth intro soon develops into a heady mix of pulsing drums, light electronica, crushing riffs, ethereal vocals from Charlotte Wessels, and the first hint of how large a part the choir plays on ‘Apocalypse & Chill’.
Unlike the most recent Within Temptation album: ‘Resist’, Delain has not forsaken guitars for electronics, and Timo Somers plays a major role on the album. Whether it’s cranking it up on ‘Vengeance’ or laying down some neck-straining buzzsaw riffs on ‘Legions Of The Lost’, he is definitely not hidden in the mix. In fact, the album opens with his shared vocal debut on ‘One Second’ and it’s one of those spitting-a-drink-out moments. With the exception of those within the Delain camp, and anyone who caught Somers gigging around the Netherlands pre-Delain, most would be surprised to hear that he has such a strong voice. A solid mixture of clean vocals and screams that compliment the, as always, angelic vocals of Charlotte Wessels.
Many highlights amongst the thirteen tracks (sixteen if you include the three orchestral bonus tracks); the aforementioned ‘Vengeance’ is a glorious romp that features Yannis Papadopoulos from Beast In Black on guest vocals; the big-ass sound that Otto Schimmelpenninck van der Oije coaxes out of his bass on ‘Let’s Dance’ and ‘Creatures’; new drummer Joey Marin de Boer setting the galloping pace on ‘Burning Bridges’, to name but a few. But it’s the latter stages of the album that really stand out. The gorgeous, piano-led ‘Ghost House Heart’ is a genuine stop-what-you-are-doing moment, the lavish string arrangements are simply stunning. Wessels is in the form of her life and on ‘Masters Of Destiny’ she delivers her strongest vocal performance to date. The pacing on the album is key, and the contrast between these two tracks is staggering, even more contrast when ‘Masters Of Destiny’ fades into ‘Legions Of The Lost’ and Delain venture into “epic” territory. Buzzsaw riffs, a choir that reaches Carl Orff – ‘O Fortuna ~ Carmina Burana’ status, simple but effective electronica, precision drumming and even more buzzsaw riffs – five minutes that soar.
Ultimately ‘Apocalypse & Chill’ is a very strong, modern sounding album, which features some moments that will have the rewind button worn out, the latter stages especially should have long time Delainers purring in delight. It’s Delain for a new decade. Don’t skip the orchestral bonus tracks though, they are truly magnificent.
Available 7th February on Napalm Records.
Catch Delain on tour –
Fri 7th Feb – MANCHESTER O2 Ritz
Sat 8th Feb – BRISTOL Anson Rooms
Sun 9th Feb – LONDON Electric Brixton
Review – Dave
Photo credit – Tim Tronckoe