Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Human Contradiction | Delain

In the symphonic metal realm of the Internet, Delain has been gaining recognition, especially with the release of their latest album, The Human Contradiction. It was a bit easier for Delain to make their name known in the world of symphonic metal as it was started by Martijn Westerholt, brother of Robert of Westerholt and initial keyboardist of Within Temptation, but they've only been growing in popularity as they've been releasing albums. Lead vocalist Charlotte Wessels has a unique voice since she's had both classical and jazz training, and while it took her style a while to grow on me, the fact of the matter is that Delain is making music that's catchy enough and heavy enough to demand attention almost instantly nonetheless. The Human Contradiction is a lovely symphonic metal album because of these elements.
"Here Come the Vultures" kicks the album off with a horror feel reminiscent of songs like "The Howling" by Within Temptation and "Cloud Nine" by Evanescence. It begins softly with chimes and piano as Wessels sings along to a creepy melody, but then heavy and infectious guitar riffs come in at the end of her powerful opening verse: "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." This is the longest song on the album, clocking in at about six minutes, and even though the overall structure is a bit repetitive, more elements are added to make the song more interesting. The choir and strings become more and more prominent as the track continues, and there are moments where I definitely see the resemblance between this band and Within Temptation. The final section of the bridge is a thrashing jam session that is a perfect blend of guitars and strings, and I don't think I could be happier with this opener.
"Army of Dolls" also stands out as one of my favorites. I fell in love with it right away when I heard it during Delain's setlist as they opened for Nightwish last month, and it's actually what motivated me to look up more of Delain's music. It's an epic track about body image and the struggle to accept oneself amid society's impossible standards... It actually surprises me that there aren't more songs about this; I'm very happy Wessels decided to tackle the subject. The chorus is a fantastic blend of guitars and keyboards and it's easy to get it caught in your head as Wessels repeats "Do you want me...?" The middle eight seems to slow things down before all hell breaks loose (sort of like in "Here Come the Vultures," yet still distinctive). I love this song.
The first single, "Stardust," primarily stands out because of its catchy chorus and pretty lyrics: "Bring me to life / Bring me to starlight / Bring me the sun and moon / Release the stars tonight." However, the second verse helps the song chug along since guitars are added and it doesn't rely quite so heavily on vocals alone. The piano part of the pre-chorus almost seems to imitate a heartbeat and continues as one of the chorus' layers, another of the song's great elements. Even though it's one of the poppier songs from the album the middle eight certainly still rocks and adds a soothing choral layer. I wasn't initially crazy about "Stardust," but it definitely grew on me once I was able to truly appreciate the standout chorus.
"Lullaby" is also a pretty solid track with a mystifying use of keyboards. It's one of the more repetitive songs, but it's quite fun and energized. The way Wessels vocalizes in the middle eight reminds me a bit of Sharon den Adel of Within Temptation, and I also hear this resemblance in the beautiful chorus of "The Tragedy of the Commons." Death metal vocalist Alissa White-Gluz of The Agonist and Arch Enemy is featured in the bridge, a dark and interesting contrast to Wessel's lighter voice. "The Tragedy of the Commons" has a perfect combination of heaviness and lightness, thus making it one of my favorites and a relatively memorable album-closer.

This album features a couple of other high-profile guest vocalists. Marco Hietala of Nightwish sings on "Your Body is a Battleground" and "Sing to Me." "Your Body is a Battleground" is definitely the heaviest of the two with its intense, war-like feel, and "Sing to Me" is more melodic. Neither are favorites of mine but I prefer "Sing to Me" as it's more relatable and the string line during the middle eight is quite pretty.

I was more excited for "Tell Me, Mechanist," as it features the ex-Orphanage vocalist George Oosthoek... We all know how much I love George. And while he sounds great on this track, it's a really good song nonetheless. It begins with just Wessels and the piano: "Tell me, Mechanist, is it true? / Does none of it bother you?" But heavy riffs reminiscent of Amaranthe's music comes in and it sounds fantastic. It's definitely a highlight.

In short, I was pleased with The Human Contradiction. I actually enjoyed it more than I anticipated. Even though there are a couple of mediocre tracks and I just couldn't get into "My Masquerade," I really like what Delain is doing here. Plus, on the two-disc edition we get the piano ballad "Scarlet," which is undoubtedly one of their best pieces - it's so subtle but so epic! Their blend of strings and guitars is really well-balanced and they display some wonderful moments in terms of songwriting. While I can't quite rank Delain among symphonic metal legends Within Temptation, Nightwish, and Epica, I must say that they are leagues ahead of quite a few of the bands within this subgenre. I'm impressed.


  1. I love how thorough this review is! I usually get burned out/distracted after a couple tracks when I am trying to review music-no matter how much I love it.
    I agree with everything you wrote about Delain in general. I actually love "Lucidity" the best (what is it with early albums?), but The Human Contradiction is certainly worthwhile. I adore Charlotte's voice because it's so different for the genre, and I find Delain a lot more creative than many of their counterparts.

    1. Thank you! I'm still kind of new to Delain so The Human Contradiction is the only album I've heard in full so far. Aside from that one, I've only heard bits and pieces of We Are the Others and April Rain - nothing from Lucidity yet. I'll have to give it a try.