February 17, 2023

With a new Delain release there will be no doubt be some trepidation and hand wringing following the shock split between keyboardist Martijn Westerholt and his entire band back in 2021. Even more so since the split happened a year from their somewhat departure record Apocalypse & Chill, an album that was definitely looking to add to the Delain cannon and laying out more on the band’s future roadmap.

Delain in the beginning had been intended as a studio project with rotating members and guests with vocalist Charlotte Wessels joining Westerholt to then become a live band that toured the world and released something of an envious back catalogue. Following the split in 2021, Westerholt considered taking Delain back to being a studio project but has instead rebuilt the line-up from scratch bringing back both some familiar faces such as guitarist Ronald Landa and drummer Sander Zoer and new members bassist Ludovico Cioffi and Diana Leah on lead vocals.

Delain fans need not have feared – Dark Waters sees Westerholt re-lighting his creative fire to make an album that fizzes with a rejuvenated electrical energy.. Where Apocalypse & Chill  was still very much a Delain album, it was something of a departure whereas, Dark Waters is very much in line with what came before it with 100% Delain DNA running through it; dramatic keys, searing guitar work and songs which will traverse the heaviest to a tinkling pop melody and with beautiful subtleties of choirs, all with a top notch production knitting it all together. It has to be said, the sound is immense and Dark Waters is an insanely good listen but it is some of the songs themselves that cast a shadow. Make no mistake – there are some absolute barn stormers in the catchy stakes, although opener Hideaway Paradise is relatively easy going, loaded with hooks and stunning keys. This contrasts against first single, The Quest And The Curse which is suitably bombastic, sharp guitars wrestle with drama on the keyboards and some gnarly rough vocals lining up against choirs and Diana Leah’s lush voice. Also in the heavier stakes is one album highlight Invictus – featuring long time collaborator and ex-Nightwish, Marco Hietala. Delain has managed to continue in the spirit that they were initially conceived with the guest vocals such as Paolo Ribaldini who appears on three tracks. Moth To A Flame has some excellent juddery guitar which bashes against another infectious chorus and maintaining that heavy/lush dynamic. With such an impressive sounding an album and one following a shock of a split, it feels somewhat cruel to say that the album does contains filler and some songs do drift by where a gorgeous chorus is not enough to hold it together. The album proper (before the bonus piano version of The Quest And The Curse) does end on a high note with the absolutely superb Underland.

Inevitably, there will be focus on Diana Leah, Charlotte Wessels has been the face and vocals of Delain for 15 years leaving some some seriously large shoes to fill but Leah more than carries it off without necessarily being a copycat replacement but on occasions sounding remarkably like Wessels.

Dark Waters is a triumph in some respects, the fact that Delain is actually back for starters and as much as Dark Waters is not their best, it is a good album that leaves plenty of room for forgiveness as the beginning of a new era and a new point to push forward. There are six previous albums that prove Martin Westerholt is a great song writer, with a new line up and that first step over and done with and a tour in support that will fan the flames of renewal, the next album will be a hands down winner.