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Delain – The Human Contradiction
Written by Eastcoaster   
Saturday, 29 March 2014

Delain - CD Review
The Human Contradiction



Delain


CD Info
2014
Napalm Records
9 Tracks
English Lyrics
10 / 10

 

In less than a month, Delain, the Dutch Symphonic Metal group will unleash its fourth album. The title, The Human Contradiction, is not just any album and it isn’t just being released. Unleashed is a more appropriate term. It is “the album,” coming off the heels of their previous We are the Others, a global tour, and the release of the compilation Interlude, which makes it highly anticipated. Delain proves that they have “arrived” in the world of Symphonic Metal, along with the established groups (Epica, Nightwish, Within Temption). Even if I was not a fan, which I am, this album is everything a Symphonic Metal Lover could want and raises the bar on conceptual albums.

Delain, the Symphonic Metal Band from the city of Zwolle, Overijssel, in the Netherlands, was formed in 2002 by Martijn Westerholt (ex- Within Temptation, ex-Infenorama). The band’s early music was very similar to Within Temptation, but through the years, they have definitely shed that label. After going through multiple changes, Delain has maintained the present members since 2010.

Signing with Napalm Records has proven to be a bonus for the band. This has allowed them the ability to take a very active role in the creation of this album. The superb writing team of Martijn, singer Charlotte Wessels (ex-To Elysium), and Guus Eikens, collaborated to bring this album to fruition. Marijn, who was also the producer, further cemented Delain’s control on The Human Contradiction. This musical work is much darker, musically and lyrically, compared to the band’s previous works and they master it very well. In addition, the songs are longer in length compared to their previous songs which doesn’t detract at all.

Charlotte provides a very interesting and detailed insight, through various interviews, to the basis of the album. The cover artwork and title are intriguing and I thank Charlotte for the information which she has provided.

She states: “The title "The Human Contradiction" is taken from one of my favorite books; Octavia E. Butler’s trilogy Lilith’s Brood. A post-apocalypse story, in which the fact that humanity did not last is explained by our two most contradictory qualities; the fact that we are as a species both intelligent and hierarchic. This human contradiction causes an ‘us versus the others’ mentality, which in the book - as well as one could argue, in reality - proves to be a most self-destructive attitude. In a way, "The Human Contradiction" presents a broadening and deepening of the lyrical concept of We Are The Others: ‘otherness’ and how people relate to this, has had my interest for years. Whether it is otherness within our species, so towards people who are perceived as ‘different’ by other people (which was "We Are The Others" main focus) or in our attitudes towards nonhuman ‘others’, which is the lyrical addition made by our new record.”

Additional information from Charlotte concerning the band, touring, etc. can be found by reading Sonic Cathedral’s interview by Robin Stryker.

I know that was a long opening for the album, but I felt it was necessary to provide background for this most excellent collection of songs. Delain grabs and holds the listener’s interest, starting with the lamenting “Here Comes the Vultures,” the other songs in between, until ending with the semi-rocking “The Tragedy of the Commons.” Sprinkled within the collection are guest soloists, Marco Hietala (Nightwish), George Oosthoek , the newest soloist, Alissa White-Gluz (The Agonist), along with various instrumental solos.

The first track, “Here Comes the Vultures,” begins with Charlotte lamenting about the expectations and naivety of humans with an orchestral bell accompaniment. The lyrics for the opening section are:

I once had an understanding that everything would go my way
But now we’ve come too far along for me to hold onto my own beliefs
I’m not in it for the fun of it, but for the pain
I’m not at all interested in your temporary fame
I just want to see you stare as I lay my soul bare for you
To crush upon with heavy feet, I’m in it for the beat.

Before we hear the chorus, the Symphonic Metal flavor kicks in with the driving drums and heavy guitar. There are multiple variations to the underlying instrumental accompaniment throughout the song. We have orchestral including the bells, head banging metal and solo guitar riffs, all preparing us for the “Contradiction” in the album. Another part of the song has Charlotte doing a rock/blues style “Um-um” on the melody over a chanting chorus of “la-las.” At various spots, the guitar and keyboard take over the melody as well.

The most recognizable song from the album, thanks to the video released earlier, has to be “Your Body is a Battleground.” The lyrics are very telling here as it speaks to society’s and industry’s quest to make us “perfect.” A synthesized keyboard solo opens the song before the traditional metal guitar and drums kick in. There is a call/response at the beginning between Charlotte and a chorus. A pleasant addition on this song is the guest soloist Marco. The one disappointment is that he only sings for one short verse. Guitarist Timo Somers has a very nice solo in the middle of the song. Toward the end of the song we have sharp, crisp, synthesized chords interspersed with the lyrics. Charlotte’s voice is strong in this song similar to “We Are the Others,” and she doesn’t hold back here either.

Lyrics include:

Any infection (Imperfection)
Any affliction (Imperfection)
Each imperfection (Don't you settle)
Spread the addiction (Take some action)

Any disorder (Imperfection)
Bi or tri polar (Imperfection)
For your protection (Don't you settle)
Just an injection (Take some action)

Marco’s lyrics are:

One bitter pill hard to take
And one more each day just to feel the same
Kill the pain
Kill the pain

A nice easy rock beat by drummer Sander Zoer (ex-Nemesea) opens and ends “Stardust.” Following this a nice back and forth vocal duet, with both parts sung by Charlotte. The traditional Symphonic Metal format is followed here with the driving guitars, (including bass guitarist, Otto Schimmelpenninck van der Oije (ex-Detonation)) and drums. In the middle there is a nice choral interlude.

Perhaps the oldest song on this album is “My Masquerade,” which Delain performed live last November. After opening with a symphonic, orchestral sound, the features the solo voice followed by the chorus. This song, though not as dark as some of the others, points out the tendency of humans to hide behind “masks of deception,” or to not let out true selves be seen. This especially fits into the theme of being the “others,” and not accepted, and therefore the need to put on a masquerade. The instrumental parts are very driven and provide a solid base for the vocals.

“Tell me, Mechanist” starts out as a ballad supported by the keyboards. This continues with the rest of the instruments providing a stronger rock beat underneath. The addition of the heavy grunts/growls, provided by George Oosthoek, who was a guest vocalist on the album, Lucidity, provides a nice change of pace. Continuing with the darker theme, this song, unlike some of the other ones, deals with the treatment or mistreatment of animals by humans. Charlotte and George provide a nice duality of opposing vocal styles. One snippet of interesting lyrics to me is:

Tell me, mechanist, is it true
Does none of it bother you

The most melancholic song on the album has to be “Sing to Me.” This song is a pure Symphonic Metal song, with the instrumentation, vocals, and choral background. I liked the fact that Marco was able to showcase his voice more on this song compared to his other appearance. The way that vocalists interact with the instruments, and background chorus, reminds me of the song “Phantom of the Opera.” You have the voices soaring over all the music underneath.

“Army of Dolls” is an anthem and as Charlotte has stated in her Sonic Cathedral interview, deals with the “objectification of women.” This song, like the earlier “We Are the Others,” speaks to me because I at one time, volunteered for an organization that worked with men who committed violence against women. There are many questions posed by her in the song. The instruments provide a solid base for Charlotte’s vocalizing. Halfway through the song, the vocals turn in a semi-chant over the instruments, and the guitar solo adds a mid-eastern flavor to the melody.

The song, “Lullaby,” starts with a light keyboard solo, followed with a heavily distorted guitar part. Besides the vocals, the guitar and keyboard are the prominent instruments. There’s a slight bit of sadness to this song. Charlotte’s vocals are the softest, and show the most range in this song, as compared to the rest of the album. Perhaps, the most interesting aspect of the song is that it ends suddenly with approximately 12 seconds left in the song.

This album, because of all the great songs, gave me the most trouble when deciding on my favorite song. My decision, which was difficult, came down to several factors. One was the power anthem flavor of the song. Another was the addition of the new guest soloist. The final factor was the musicality of the song itself. My favorite song of this album has to be “The Tragedy of the Commons.” This song starts out very simply and quietly. However, it changes very quickly. There is, in addition to growling by Alissa White-Gluz, some nice duet parts with her and Charlotte. If this doesn’t become an anthem, I will be very surprised. The message is very plain, which is a trait of anthems. It has that driving quality to it both vocally and instrumental. Another nice quality to the song is the soaring vocals of both ladies over the chanting, underlying vocals. The balance between the instruments and vocals are the best I have heard. Possibly the saddest and scariest lyric in the song is:

Kiss the world goodbye

The Human Contradiction is a must for any Symphonic Metal follower. This is true even if you are not a fan of Delain. In case you can’t tell, I am a fan of Delain, and I am not kidding when I say that if you haven’t pre-ordered this album, Run, Do Not Walk, to the nearest music store or go online immediately to purchase it. The album is put together so well, that it will be difficult for it not to be my “album of the year.” The music is classic Symphonic Metal, including orchestral parts a la Epica, guest vocalists and grunts, all with a darker tone. My hat is off to Delain, as they have proven that they are up with the top tier Symphonic Metal Bands. They have continued a high standard in conceptual albums and I look forward to seeing them live, and as well, producing more outstanding work.

More information about Delain can be found at the following web links:

www.delain.nl/band
www.facebook.com/delainmusic
www.facebook.com/pages/Charlotte-Wessels/156346401053951

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