Hi, I'm Chris AKA Andro and I've been an irritating presence in the online female fronted symphonic pop "metal" community ever since I discovered it in 2007 (having just learned what metal was at age 19). I got fame for acting stupid when Within Temptation used part of my Utopia cover in this official video. I also really like Pristine. I followed this album's road to release from its beginning. I have never written a review journal before.
DELAIN IS A POP BAND.
Maestro Martijn in Kerrang magazine:
See the full page here - http://site.delain.nl/upload/3/kerrang_delain.jpg
I've been told he called it "lush, heavy pop music" in some other interview, which I think describes Delain's sound very well. Removing "metal" from the equation entirely is a means of asserting independence from the notion that metal is an inherently superior form of music. Remember our Last.fm shoutbox community creed: there are not good and bad genres, there is only good and bad music. Delain make extremely good heavy pop music.
When We are the Others came out I was on vacation in New York and had no internet access, cell phone service or land line:
Consequently I was not around on Lastfm to spazz out all over everything. The above video has me listening to the album for the first time in the corner, but I had to be quiet to avoid waking anyone up ;D
This review is very long. This is because I wrote the review I wanted to write, rather than the one you would want to read.
TL;DR: JUST LOOK AT THE PICTURES.
This song was originally introduced in live shows as "Manson," which confuses me as it has no apparent connection to either Charles Manson or Marilyn Manson. (Charlotte likes Shirley Manson but that doesn't seem likely either.) It had a nice, short synth-symphonic intro which was cut out on the album, probably a call made by those dastardly producers. Not beginning an album with GUITARS RIGHT AWAY may be a disconcerting choice, despite Within Temptation having put a two-minute orchestral intro on The Silent Force. Or maybe the band just decided it wasn't good. ;( YOU GUUUUIIIISE STOP TAKING MY CANDY
The early live bootlegs of this song first alerted us to Delain's heading in a rockier direction with screaming guitars, a move I was fine with, even though up to that point Delain's existence majority shareholder was the combination of Charlotte's vocals + Martijn's synths, the guitars being just kinda... there. My thinking at the time was that Martijn is so good at what he does that he ought to have license to take the music wherever he wants. And also most of April Rain (album) was on the boring side. As it turns out, the guitars sound great and stand out well on this entire album, so Delain definitely didn't go wrong there.
Mother Machine's theme is the replacement of nature with industry - although it seems that in recent decades more nature has been lost to suburbia than to industry; but The Suburbs are a boring thing to write songs about, and industry is still being super evil especially in China so hey, it's relevant! The fiercely staccato verse structure evokes the relentless pounding of a huge machine, while the melodic chorus offers brief escape as it rises above the incessant pounding, free, but not for long. It's effective and one of the better songs on the album.
I was very pleasantly surprised to be reminded of Lucidity when I first heard this song. Some people like Lucidity because it is supposedly METAAAAAL, which is ironic because in that early period Delain looked like some kind of darkwave rave club act.
Remarkably, the leftmost guy [Sander Zoer] has played drums on all three albums and is still in the band. Of course, the other guys who aren't Martijn are long gone.
I don't mean the guitars. The horns from that oh-so-glorious Pristine outro, THE HORNS ARE BACK. And they sound SO good. In the body of a symphony orchestra, the percussion form her feet and legs, the strings form her bosom (thus the importance of strings in symphonic lady metal), the woodwinds are her delicate facial features, and the horns are her strong arms that will knock you down hard for being a disgustingly sexist boob-metal fanboy. Now granted it's all synths, but that's okay because they're Maestro Martijn's synths. Oh yeah.
So after the horns lay down the law, we get the chorus, the composition of which I found underwhelming at first, but it's made awesome by the lyrics and the feeling of climbing it evokes. Regrettably, after a second brief shot of horns, they do not appear again. The bridge is handed over to a guitar solo which follows the horns' melody, Sirenia style (well okay Sirenia would use the vocal line); and the outro is many repetitions of the chorus, which wore on me at first, but not for long, thanks to the lyrics. I may try to mix the horns in myself sometime. Regardless, Martijn's horns and Charlotte's lyrics make this my favorite track on the album.
Only I don't know why it's called Electricity instead of FEVER. Is Charlotte saying that the lightning is itself like those old feelings of desire? Okay. :3
Update: N3fr0n has suggested it may be "about two people who once met in storm randomly and then let it go and didn't see each other afterwards," which sounds plausible to me.
We Are the Others
The April Rain title track was the main reason why I became a fan of Delain. It is a masterpiece, the greatest song of its genre. None other comes close, not even Nightwish's pop hit masterpieces Nemo and Amaranth, nor anything on the Leaves' Eyes pop metal master opus Njord. So I don't ask Delain to try to replicate that brilliance - that's probably impossible - but I am very much along for the ride with anything else they put out.
I first read Sophie's story some years ago, on ChristianGoth.com. I appreciate Delain's dedicating this album to her memory, and I'm glad that they stand with the gothic community despite not being a traditionally gothic band. Other bands in the symphonic metal scene are often quick to distance themselves from us and insist that they are not gothic, even when they use more gothic imagery in their lyrics and artwork than Delain ever has.
So here begins the song for Sophie:
I'm walking with Sophie tonight
She lives in the air that I breathe
I can't get it out of my mind
How you were left to bleed....
Honestly, I find it a bit jarring to begin a rock anthem on such a solemn note; the opening lines sadden me so much that they distract me from the rest of the song. I think it might have been better to do this in a pair of two tracks, a lament for sophie in a ballad followed by this rallying call. This doesn't seem to affect other fans, though. It's a heavy burden being Andro.
The lyrics repeatedly shift object in rapidfire succession, from Charlotte addressing us ("I'm walking with Sophie tonight"), to addressing Sophie ("You were left to bleed"), to addressing bullies ("You can't hide us"), to addressing us again ("You're not out there on your own," etc.) Compare this to April Rain, which directly addresses the audience throughout.
Back to the music: Her Grace Toria says that "the light [musical elements have] gotten tinklier," but the tinkly piano here seems the same as in April Rain to me...? Framing a song by playing the theme lightly on the keys at the intro and bridge is a textbook symphonic metal formula, demonstrated famously in Nemo and Amaranth, and when I first listened to April Rain the thought crossed my mind: "Ah, that old cliche again, here we go with another generic symphonic pop metal track." Which is exactly what April Rain was, except that it also completely blew my mind with its absolute perfection. Nothing wrong with following the formula if you do it well.
The WATO verses bear a little resemblance to the April Rain chorus, but in the WATO chorus the composition becomes a stark contrast to April Rain's; where April Rain's vocal line had a long hold on almost every note, the WATO chorus is laid out like The Killers' frenzied Somebody Told Me. We first heard the WATO chorus being sung by the girls' choir in this studio vlog last November (following this sneak preview in September). I had considered it a dubious prospect ever since, but it turned out better than I expected! And the girls' choir was used far more effectively than any of us foresaw, solo in the bridge and then in unison backing Charlotte, the voices of the Others. Success.
And when I first heard the full song, I thought it was a perfect anthem. But after the first 15 or 20 plays, I felt that something was a little off. The 2012 London Summer Olympics are kicking off - during the award ceremonies, pay attention to the national anthems. Does any good anthem convey its message by quickly rattling off a series of statements like this? None I can think of does. This album does features one chorus that was perfectly composed to be a great anthem. Unfortunately, that chorus was assigned the (true, but not so anthemic) "we all suck"-themed lyrics of Generation Me.
Milk and Honey
One of the three original songs from the 2011 live shows, I instantly loved the composition of the final part of the chorus - "As long as you are getting older, always look over your shoulder twice" (although I had no idea what the lyrics were from the bootleg). I immediately commented that that was SO RIGHT and SO PERFECT. The rest of the song, though, didn't impress me much. The verses' buildup was pretty good, but the "yoooooooou plaaaayed with my heaaaaaaart" main part of the chorus was uninteresting and, well, dragged. Fortunately, for the album version, Delain amped up the entire song. They took a part of that original chorus and built a whole new chorus out of it, turning what felt like a mid-tempo song into a rockin' good track - and best of all, they kept in the part that I loved in the first place! Even the little "bring back the pain" sample makes it a more fun listen. This track is easily the best surprise on the album.
Hit Me With Your Best Shot
First heard last september in Studio Vlog 6: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2r-27hx31YI#t=1m02s
Here begins the three-track middle part of the album which I chose to not put on my MP3 player when I first got it, and consequently mostly ignored for the couple of weeks during which I came up with most of the Deep Thoughts in this LIFETIME LITERARY ACHIEVEMENT OF A REVIEW. Oh, and these are also the same three tracks that were never played live, a call I would consider to be rather good, although after some listens they have grown on me, as many people say they do. This is a nice song, especially the part at the end: "This will be your final chance to fight for what we've got." If I try to write more about it I'll veer into essay-drivel territory.
"But," you say, "This entire piece is essay-drivel!"
"Ah," I reply, "Yes. It is. But everything I've written here was something I had to say. Essays for school, on the other hand, tend to require one to keep writing when one would otherwise have nothing to say."
I Want You
This is easily the creepiest song Delain have ever done. Wait, it's their first creepy song. But still, these lyrics are downright Holopainful. They make Wish I Had An Angel look, well, innocent.
At first I thought this was from the POV of some kind of incubus spirit or ghost, which seems pointless. But maybe it's just from the POV of a murderous high school girl, which is still pointless but also more boring. Either way, it's easily my least favorite song on the album. Moving on....
Where Is The Blood
So I was going put some time into a nice photoshop but I've been working on this review for close to two months, so forget it! TIME FOR SOME MS PAINT ACTION
Okay I guess maybe that should be this Burton C. Bell fellow instead of Maestro Martijn, but who even knows what that guy looks like? I certainly don't. All I know of Fear Factory is that they kept turning up in 2005 when I was trying to find the soundtrack to the Fear Factor TV show, much like how Alien Sex Fiend kept turning up when I looked for my Polish Maestro Martin Kiszko's score to the BBC's Alien Empire.
So the Lacuna Coil thing works, the guy's not annoying (to me), and the song is quite catchy. I was rather expecting this one to fall flat, so chalk this one up as a mildly pleasant surprise.
Also, I just noticed that my hero the Maestro totally looks like Gary Busey.
Marvin Chesty Hoe - former keyboardist. Still haunted by the "Starvin' Marvin" nickname given to him by his brother, this talented artist is working on his own project band entitled The Lane. The lead singer is said to have once walked down an actual lane. -Uncyclopedia: Within Temptation
Easily the best song ever to reference MySpace porn! (No really, Charlotte sings "Here I am in all my majesty, THERE IS NOTHING YOU WON'T GET TO SEE") Compositionally this song is an absolute gem, flawless, and yes, I am a little bit miffed that the lyrics aren't equally uplifting. But they are a timely and welcome indictment of the misuse of social networking, so they are enjoyable in their own way.
Let's see now just how many Delain songs are or appear to be about bad/strained/severed relationships, WRITTEN IN THE SECOND PERSON.
Yep. They've taken over. Well, this is a pretty well done lament with a strong lead in to the chorus ("can't you hear what I say, like a child calling out in the night") and bridge ("I can't hear from your words, but I see in your eyes").
Are You Done With Me
See Me in Shadow is still the Delain ballad. There may never be a better one. But that's okay, because Delain really aren't about ballads - they didn't play a single one when I saw them at ProgPower (I was in no way sorry), and the inclusion of approximately one ballad on this album reaffirms that upbeat lush heavy cinematic power pop is Delain's stronghold. Are You Done With Me is still heavier than a lot of April Rain.
I seem to be the only one who gets a nice 80's vibe from this track, so never mind that. The chorus is strong and the surprise high notes are welcome; we had a discussion back in 2010 that it would be nice for Charlotte to occasionally use her high range as a highlight, but not constantly like some kind of bad Oceanborn imitation. So here that is and it really paid off.
Get the Devil Out of Me
The bootlegs came out in May 2011, it was amazing, easily the best of the three and one of Delain's best tracks ever. It was easy to forgive the chorus lyrics for being ambiguous and uninspiring. Best part: the false ending, which tricked the crowd into thinking the song was over, only to have Delain come roaring back in a shower of dazzling light, Charlotte jumping exuberantly to Martijn's soaring keyboard crescendo, an amazing 25 seconds.
Flash forward to early 2012, and the news that the album might never be released. I thought, "If only Get the Devil Out of Me could be released, that would be enough." Then the word came that the album would be released and that this would be the single. And then it came out, and the chorus was worse. The new lyrics irritate me to no end, as an apparent abusive partner uses the excuse, "I'm no Jesus Christ." Oh, you're not perfect? We all fall very far short of perfect, man, and your ordinary imperfect nature is no excuse for you to physically or mentally abuse someone. Why on earth would I want to listen to those lyrics in an amazing, upbeat Delain track like this?
So I don't. I cut together my own version from the live bootleg and the studio track, and now I can enjoy this song again. I WILL HAVE MY MUSIC MY WAY.
\m/ ಠ益ಠ \m/ I put back the pause before the bridge, too, because it's just not nearly as fun and powerful without it. Oddly and thankfully, they're still playing the false ending live.
At this point I realize that I care more about this music than some people care who they have sex with. Intriguing....
I must say I am glad Charlotte is writing the lyrics; if not for her, Delain's lyrics would still be stuff like this. True, several of the lyrics on Lucidity (including PRISTIIIIINE) are either cryptic or completely incomprehensible, but at least they're still loaded with cool phrases.
DOOOOOON'T SAAAAAAY WE HAVE COME NOW TO THE EEEEEEEEEND
So whereas April Rain ended with Nothing Left, here we have Not Enough, not to be confused with Unsun's Not Enough, Epica's Never Enough, Tarja's anti-Tuomas tirade Enough, Tarja's new song Never Enough, or the Nemesea song Charlotte recently guested on, High Enough.
I choose this as the overall second-best song on the album. It's odd that the epic closer should be under three minutes long (not counting the tail), but there you go.
A simple but effective motif on the keys sets the intro (0:13), and then in the verse, the music itself suggests an ending is near. HOW? It seems to be that the music answers itself and provides a finished-sounding statement before the chorus, rather than leaving itself open and leading into the chorus as the composition of most verses does. I feel like this kind of musically suggested completion within the building blocks is an aspect of good longer epics, too, but I'm not a student of music so I don't know. I find it increasingly facinating how epics and epic closers work on me.
Now, the chorus. The "how hard I try" was a hard sell for me, initially feeling like weak composition, a choice made because nothing better suggested itself; but after the first 30 or 40 listens it grew on me. It's not perfect, but I like the way it suggests a climb. (I said the same thing about the Electricity chorus? I must really like climbing music.) It's the second half of the chorus that really stands out, as the music stops chugging and starts rolling along (1:29), and it always takes me with it: "I'm the jury, I'm the judge, and I committed all the crimes; how hard I try, it's not enough," followed by the motif on keys in full force. At this point the song portion is already two-thirds over. One more verse and the chorus again, and suddenly a change: as it nears the three-minute mark the song spends ten seconds changing gears, and then it transitions into THE GREATEST OUTRO IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. No, that's the outro of Ghost Love Score. But this is magnificent stuff.
The first live video of the ending was extremely beautiful. Here was a coda like the legendary Pristine's theme of "ultimate resolution," but this time with Charlotte singing over it in a manner unlike anything she had done before. I commented that "Delain becomes Leaves' Eyes" in the final 15 seconds. Charlotte's stage performance in that video is transfixing: she meekly begins to vocalise with her hands behind her back, then raises them in the classic symphonic metal woman's gesture of giving blessing to the audience, then finally clings the mic and stand as she delivers her final notes of the night, ending with a theatrical bow of (portrayed) surrender to exhaustion. This performance was so magical that I had this as my desktop background for two months:
And here lies the album's final disappointment. On the studio recording, for no good reason at all, Charlotte's vocals are faded down in the mix, and are further muted by post-processing, reverb and other effects. It's still magnificent, but not what it should have been.
And that's the case for the album, really; normally when a band I love releases a new album, I will really love a few of the tracks and like the others, but in this case every single one of my favorites could so easily have been better in some obvious way. My reaction is a bewildering blend of joy and disappointment that makes it very hard to define exactly how I feel.
The best way I can think of is this:
TL;DR: THIS ALBUM IS REALLY GOOD.