DELAIN - Flying High Again
February 19, 2016, 7 years ago
There was a time when the most interesting aspect of Dutch symphonic rockers Delain was that they'd taken their name from the Stephen King fantasy novel, The Eyes Of The Dragon. That isn't to say the band had nothing to offer when they surfaced in 2006, but as a female fronted act following in the wake of fellow Dutch artists The Gathering, Within Temptation, After Forever and Epica, Delain was a tiny "So what?" blip on the metal public's radar in comparison. In 2012 the band was in danger of being crushed by label issues surrounding the release of We Are The Others, but 2014 saw their fortunes change for the better with an unexpectedly brilliant record, The Human Contradiction. A heavier sound, out-of-the-box songwriting, a new record label, and several international touring opportunities shoved Delain towards the top of the heap, doing wonders for their credibility.
Their push to the front of line continues with the release of the Lunar Prelude EP, issued the same day as the beginning of their new North American support tour with Nightwish (February 19th).
"It was a combination of things coming together," says keyboardist Martijn Westerholt with regards to The Human Contradiction's success. "When we did We Are The Others, Roadrunner Records was sold and died so we suffered a lot from that. We didn't do a lot of promo, there weren't a lot of tour offers, so it was kind of like the chicken and the egg scenario. For The Human Contradiction we worked with a different production team, we did more on our own, and that was very liberating. I won't say The Human Contradiction was better or worse than We Are The Others because from an artist's perspective that's like choosing between your kids. We learned a lot from producer Jacob Hellner and his team, and we had great tour offers from Within Temptation, Sabaton, and later on with Nightwish. Everything came together and we were able to present our new stuff to so many people, and they liked it."
It's easy to credit the addition of guest vocalists Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy), Marco Hietala (Nightwish) and George Oosthoek (ex-Orphanage) on The Human Contradiction as the push Delain needed, but even without the extra ammo the album would come off as far superior to anything the band has released previously. Short and sweet (by today's standards), and not a lot of showboating clutter to bog things down.
"It was a no nonsense record, yes," Westerholt agrees. "As I said, we felt very liberated because of what happened with Roadrunner, so maybe that influenced the quality of the music. It's difficult for me to say because I'm in the band."
The tour offers Delain received and ultimately accepted - all of them high profile outings - were effective in selling them as being much more than an uninspired copycat band. Particularly in the case of supporting Sabaton, which put Delain in uncharted and potentially abusive waters.
"We were very spoiled," Westerholt laughs when presented with the rather impressive tour partner recap. "In the context of the bands we supported it was fantastic. Sabaton is a fantastic band and they're wonderful people, so on a musician level and a personal level I had the most fun ever on with those guys. I've been in this business for 20 years so that says something. When it comes to Delain playing for the Sabaton crowd, that was really good for us because it was a very different crowd from our own. If you choose safely, as we did with Within Temptation and Nightwish, of course their fans are more open to our music. On the other hand, you will reach fewer new people so it's a blessing and a curse. With Sabaton we had to work much harder to convince people, and I really did notice during the headline tour we did last fall that there were a lot of fans from the Sabaton tour in the crowd. We succeeded in breaking some boundaries so I'm really grateful for the Sabaton tour. But you're right, it's difficult. There were some critical crowds and we really had to convince them."
"It also says something about Sabaton," he adds, "because they're very confident about their own stuff and clearly not intimidated by anyone playing before them. We just tried a similar thing with a Dutch band called The Charm The Fury supporting us. They have more of a metalcore sound with a female vocalist doing the growls, and our crowd really had to adjust they're thinking from 'What the hell is this..?' (laughs). I think they succeeded, so it was kind of a similar situation."
In October 2015, Delain took another bold step and invited touring guitarist Merel Bechtold on board as a full time member, making them a sextet. Westerholt doesn't see the band becoming heavier as a result, however.
"With all due respect to Merel, the band's sound hasn't changed a bit because it's always Timo (Somers) and (former member) Guus (Eikens) playing the guitars when we write. But, now that we have two guitarists it helps the live show tremendously. One of the other reasons for adding Merel is that she's a crowd favourite with a very open vibe. And, when Delain started we had two guitarists so we thought she should stay. When you look at the crowd, the music is only one way of entertaining the people. They also want to see the people on stage interacting with each other and the audience, so it was very easy for us to make the decision to keep Merel in the band."
"When it comes to the sound Merel didn't influence it at all, but we are very open to involving everyone when it comes to songwriting. Charlotte (Wessels/vocals), Guus and myself write 95% of Delain's music so it's a very stable situation. But, Merel recorded her first song with us for the new album two weeks ago. I think she'll be noticed more and more on a musical level as time goes on."
Common thinking when a band releases an interim record like the Lunar Prelude EP is that leftovers from the previous outing, shelved for being sub-par, have been dusted off and given a new look.
"It's absolutely new stuff meant for the album," Westerholt insists. "Because of all the touring we've done our original plan got blown to smithereens (laughs). We were planning to release a new full length album in January but it just wasn't possible because we had so many offers to play live. At a certain point, besides the requests to play we also had requests for new material from the fans. Without the fans we don't have a job so we went ahead and started writing new songs. We split the writing, recording and mixing sessions into three mini-processes, so when we had the first group of songs we realized we could offer them to the fans, which is where Lunar Prelude came from. It's a warm-up to the new album. We're touring with Nightwish in North America so we can offer the fans some new stuff live, which is why we did it this way."
"I'm hoping we can deliver the master for the new album to the record company in June," he continue. "We have seven songs written and we just had our second mixing session, so when we get back from the Nightwish tour we'll be doing the last round in April and May. In terms of production we're working with the same people when it comes to mixing (Studio Fredman) and mastering (Ted Jensen). When it comes to the new music there's always a contradiction because we want to stay recognizable as Delain, but we also have to come back with refreshing stuff. I hope we succeed in both but that will be for the fans to decide."
It's interesting to note that Westerholt is actually not entirely happy about some of the the studio material on Lunar Prelude - particularly lead single 'Suckerpunch' - being keyboard heavy. Blame it on the mix, he says, and promises things will be different when the new full length album finally surfaces later this year.
"There's the influence of Fredman in there on the forthcoming album because when you mix with them the guitars are very much up front. I think that's good because there are so many symphonic metal bands where the keyboards are up front, and to be very honest I think the keys and orchestrations on 'Suckerpunch' are too loud in the mix. We just didn't have time to make the next tweak, so we'll do that for the new album since 'Suckerpunch' will be on it."