From the ashes, Delain rise again. After a drastic line-up change where only brainchild Martijn Westerholt was left, he picked himself up, dusted himself off and returned with a brand new group of musicians backing him up. While some might view this as a bit of a worrying sign, the band have always produced good music, so we shall have to see if this is too! Let’s dive in!
A slow, almost electronic-based intro opens the album and first track, ‘Hideaway Paradise’. The heaviness soon comes in with a big guitar riff and some steady drums. The verses strip back a bit, dropping the distorted guitars, but it just means the band can masterfully build back up to the huge sound for the choruses. Said chorus is the typical catchy, arena-filling hugeness. The bridge is kinda heavy and fun, with a slight lead guitar line that followed the vocal melody. Then we head into a lower part before it explodes into a final chorus. It’s a pretty simple, radio-friendly structure, but it works well as an opening track and has enough fun stuff to sink your teeth into!
Single ‘The Quest and the Curse’ immediately opens heavier and more epic, a huge metal riff exploding in with some choir voices over the top. The heaviness continues throughout the verses this time, it feeling more like a symphonic metal track. Also, both the verse and chorus vocal melodies are MASSIVELY catchy. Diana Leah is clearly impressing in her first studio outing with the band. The screams coming out the back of them are also awesome, it’s not a female-fronted symphonic/power metal band if there isn’t a guy playing an instrument that also screams at times.
The bridge is pretty epic, heavy and steady with some awesome string stabs and more choir voices. Even if half of this would be backing tracks, this would be sick to see live! The rest follows the typical formula, but excellently. This hooked me a lot more than the opener did, and easily made our playlist!
Another single, this one featuring Paolo Ribaldini, keeps the heaviness going with another big riff. Again though, the vocals are the main highlight of the track. Between Diana and Paolo, they do a great job of making everything feel huge, catchy and hit some insanely effortless, amazing notes in the process. It’s a shame Paolo didn’t get much of a solo spot to shine, instead providing more powerful backing vocals. It seems to be a thing this year, with Joe Elliot also doing a similar thing for both Ghost and Black Star Riders. The rest is standard symphonic metal fare, and is rather similar to the previous track.
‘Mirror of the Night’ is another awesome symphonic metal track, albeit with not much ‘standout’ stuff about it. The same could be said for ‘Tainted Hearts’. The orchestral intro for ‘The Cold’ was fun and an interesting change of pace, but the rest of the track fell into the similar formula aside for the extra emphasis on the orchestra and choir.
The final single on the album, ‘Moth to a Flame’, opens with Diana’s vocals on their own, singing through the chorus melody. It sounded great, but also rather 90s pop, which is probably not how they wanted it to come off as. The riff is the best on the album though, fast and ferocious while still fitting the genre perfectly. The vocal melodies are again catchy throughout, the real highlight of the album. The chorus still feels kinda 90s, but it definitely metals back up with the guitars and drums behind it. It was a good call for a single as it is definitely one of my favourite tracks on the album!
The following two tracks, ‘Queen of Shadow’ and ‘Invictus’, see Paolo return, and the latter also sees former Nightwish vocalist and bassist Marko Hietala also make an appearance. Both tracks give their guests more time to shine than ‘Beneath’ did, which was nice. Paolo sounds amazing on ‘Queen…’, fitting perfectly into the bands sound. He and Paolo play off each other well. The latter is one of the heavier tracks on the album, fitting given that Nightwish are a tad heavier than Delain. Both are great tracks and the added dynamics of more vocal styles kept me a little more interested.
The final track, ‘Underland’, is more of the same. It definitely feels like an epic conclusion to the album, but when everything is epic it means it’s not quite as impactful. A good song but a tad indistinguishable.
Overall: I’m very much in two minds with this album. It’s a damn good symphonic metal album, and when listening to the tracks individually going forward I’ll most likely love them. However, it doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel, and listening to ten rather similar tracks in a row did wear on me a little. It could have maybe done with a ballad or even something heavier in the middle there to mix things up a bit. But still, as I said, it’s a great album!
The Score: 7/10