DELAIN – DARK WATERS
LABEL: Napalm Records
RELEASE: February 10th, 2023
AUTHOR: Mike Smith
01. Hideaway Paradise
02. The Quest And The Curse
03. Beneath (feat. Paolo Ribaldini / Seraphiel)
04. Mirror Of Night (feat. Ruud Jolie / Within Temptation)
05. Tainted Hearts
06. The Cold
07. Moth To A Flame
08. Queen Of Shadow (feat. Paolo Ribaldini / Seraphiel)
09. Invictus (feat. Paolo Ribaldini / Seraphiel & Marko Hietala / ex-Nightwish)
Beyond The Waves Of Madness – DELAIN Rises From The Depths With “Dark Waters”!!
DELAIN is a Dutch symphonic metal band that needs no introduction, certainly not for any symphonic metal fan. This will be their 7th studio album. The album will be released on Napalm Records. I’m sure it’s no secret to most anyone that aside from Martijn, the band currently features a completely different line-up from the previous several releases. I have seen Martijn explain how this came to be and I’m convinced he did everything he could possibly do to try and come to a solution that would keep the band together. When he realized that was not going to happen he began, with his longtime friend and music partner Guus Eikens, to try and find the best path forward. His first instinct was to take DELAIN back to a ‘project’ as he had done in the very beginning, but events transpired which caused him to see there was hope left for DELAIN as a band after all. One by one the members were revealed beginning in June of 2021 with the news that original drummer Sander Zoer had returned. In July it was confirmed that original guitarist Ronald Landa would also be returning. In February of 2022 it was announced that original DELAIN bassist Rob Vanderloo, who had gone on to join Epica, would be reuniting with the band as a ‘guest bassist’ and would be recording all of the bass tracks for the album. Meanwhile Martijn continued the quest for a permanent bass player. In May of 2022 they disclosed that Italian musician Ludovico Cioffi would be the new bass player for DELAIN. And not only the bassist but also would be handling backing vocals and growls. He was (and I believe still is) the lead vocalist and guitarist for his own band Nightland. In July of 2022 the identity of the new vocalist was finally unveiled to the world, as the Italian connection continued with the addition of Italian resident but Romanian born vocalist, Diana Leah.
So lets ‘dive in’ shall we? “Dark Waters” begins with “Hideaway Paradise”. It’s a huge song with strong pop elements, big guitars, bass and drums, lush keyboards and synthesizers. The first thing that strikes me is the incredible production. It sounds amazing! The mix is fabulous, every instrument is heard clearly and each packs a powerful punch! Diana sounds fantastic with her beautiful pristine vocals and harmonies! It’s immediately apparent that Martijn has found the perfect voice to sing the classic DELAIN material, having a similar timbre as Charlotte, while at the same time bringing her own style and personality and sounding amazing on the new songs! The chorus goes like this… “Let the world keep turning above me / Voices broken in the dark / As the storm is raging above me / Let me hide away here on my own”. It seems to be about finding that place in your mind where you can feel safe no matter what’s going on around you. A wonderful song and introduction to the new DELAIN and perfectly setting the stage for what’s to follow!
Track 2 is a song I’m sure everyone has heard many times by now as it was the first single and video released August 9th, 2022 titled “The Quest And The Curse”. After a brilliant build-up to the video with several teaser clips giving us small glimpses of Diana, the video and single were finally released and the world had it’s first chance to see new bassist Ludovico Cioffi in action with DELAIN, and to finally see and hear the amazing Diana Leah for themselves! To say the song and video are incredible would be an understatement. Diana is not only beautiful, but she sounds fantastic! The song has a powerful catchy guitar riff that doubles at times with the keyboards. It’s got that perfect blend of pop elements, symphonic orchestration and crushing down-tuned guitars that DELAIN has become so well known for! The video is spectacular! Beautifully shot in a gorgeous location in Rimini, Italy. The track also features Ronald and Ludovico alternating growling vocals which adds depth and heaviness to a song that already has everything! Remarkable!
“Beneath” was the second single and video which was unveiled on November 29th, 2022. This song features guest vocals from another Italian, Paolo Ribaldini who also sings for the bands Skiltron and Seraphiel. Another incredible song with that amazing guitar sound, beautiful and dramatic orchestration, a huge memorable chorus and fantastic melodies! Diana really shows the strength, range and versatility of her vocals on this one! At times she delivers beautiful haunting melodies without words, while other times she’s belting out powerful notes during the chorus which begins like this… “Beyond the waves of madness / Around my neck a stone tied / Enduring crushing darkness / Starless void of ageless night”. The song seems to be the tale of going through a deep dark period yet overcoming it and triumphing. In the video the woman almost drowns but comes back to the surface. Martijn has even said that it’s a sort of metaphor for what DELAIN went through as a band almost ceasing but then returning. One of the album’s best tracks for sure!
Track 4 takes us through a journey of something surely most of us can relate to as we lay in bed at night and sometimes ponder our words, choices, or actions from the immediate or distant past. “Mirror Of Night” is sort of a moody reflective piece with big choirs and epic orchestration while yet not forsaking the heavy guitars. In fact, joining the band on guitars for this song is none other than Ruud Jolie from Within Temptation! Martijn says Ruud recorded his parts just before the band headed out on their tour supporting Iron Maiden! Diana sings gently in a higher register during the verses and then in the chorus she takes it up a notch or two and delivers these lines… “It’s the quiet of the night I fear / The inner torrent that’s unleashed / Replaying me the thousand times / I should have spoken other lines”. A super catchy chorus you’ll be singing in your head later for sure! Diana sounds angelic at times and purely magical at others!
Slotted at number 5 is the track titled “Tainted Hearts”. For me this song has a sort of a Within Temptation vibe, almost a “See Who I Am” type of feel. I can’t quite explain it, maybe it’s the drums but I keep thinking of Within Temptation when I’m listening to it. Which is of course to me a very good thing! One of the many reasons I love DELAIN is because of the Within Temptation connection (most of you I’m sure already know, but in case you’re not aware, Martijn‘s brother is Robert, original guitarist and founder of Within Temptation and husband of Sharon den Adel, vocalist for the band). It’s a terrific song that gets even better with every listen and with a great chorus and a really cool eerie sort of breakdown and instrumental section around the 3 minute mark.
“The Cold” struck me right away as being a standout track the first time I heard it. I think it’s partly because I’m a sucker for choirs! 😀 But also because of those killer riffs and that amazing chorus! It’s another track that to me seems a bit reminiscent of early Within Temptation. Diana sounds fantastic as she sings the first half of the chorus… “I’m awaiting the sunrise, to awaken my frozen heart for you… But the dead of the night deepens the cold”. The track also has a really cool sort of mid section with a short guitar solo and a fantastic groove!
Up next is the track that was released as the third single and video on January 10th of this year titled “Moth To A Flame”. Diana actually wrote the lyrics for this one (most, if not all, of the rest of the lyrics were written by Martijn‘s wife Robin) and she has stated the lyrics are very personal to her dealing with the matter of finding yourself attracted to a certain person or situation that you know is potentially not good for you. Musically it’s a dynamic song with several different elements, including a strong pop vibe. There’s a particular effect used that I think I’ve heard before in the song “Kings And Queens” by pop star Ava Max. It starts off with almost an 80’s sounding intro but then quickly switches gears with a really heavy guitar riff and beat. The chorus is a huge almost ABBA sounding pop style melody, and then right back to the heavy riffing. The arrangement is genius! There’s a super cool sort of mid section with a really nice synth pattern. Just a tremendous song!
Track number 8 will be the next single and video, set to premiere the day before the actual album release which is scheduled for February 10th. The track is called “Queen Of Shadow”. Diana has just today disclosed that lyrically “this song is inspired by a character from the book “Crooked Kingdom” by Leigh Bardugo and is about someone who is stuck living in the past and can’t seem to break free of it”. The opening lines go like this… “Grief of yesterday / Wrapping me so tightly in the darkness / Crowning me in flame / Never drown”. She goes on to say about the song that “our past is our shadow but it’s not our prison. We can learn from it instead of letting it rule us”. What a fantastic message! This song also features guest vocals from Paolo Ribaldini. Diana and Paolo do a sort of call and answer type vocal delivery throughout the song. Clocking at 4:02 this is the shortest song on the album.
“Invictus”. In Latin, ‘invictus’ means ‘undefeated’ or ‘unconquerable’. Track 9 seems to allude to the tragedies of war and the foolishness of a ruler who fought a war for pride and greed. Or possibly it addresses something more personal? The last verse goes like this… “[Invictus maneo / Perge ad victoriam / Undaunted, in the end I’ll be standing no more sorrow / I’m watching far below / Soaring pride is your downfall / Your cunning collective, fierce today but gone tomorrow]”. ‘Invictus maneo, perge ad victoriam’ is translated: I remain unconquered, go on to victory. The song is perhaps DELAIN‘s Magnum Opus. Martijn has even referred to it as a sort of a mini rock opera. It’s a sprawling epic track with a running time of 5:31 making it the longest song on the album. It thunders in with pounding drums in unison with a choir chanting the words of the first verse. Diana shines bright on this track! She almost snarls the opening lines, twice issuing the warning… “You’re heading towards your own destruction”. She soars with the next lines and then seamlessly slips into a beautiful haunting wordless melody! Paolo Ribaldini joins in on vocals for this one as well and we’re also treated to the distinctive vocals from longtime friend of Martijn and the band, Marko Hietala of (ex-)Nightwish and Tarot. It’s a musical ‘tour de force’! A standout track among standouts! A powerful epic masterpiece!
Track 10 “Underland” is another magestic, 5 minute plus track of bombastic magnificence! Big choirs, soaring vocals and harmonies, hypnotic melodies, infectious choruses, crushing guitar riffs, huge bass and drums, epic orchestration and everything else we’ve come to expect from DELAIN! It’s an incredible conclusion to an absoultely spectacular album!The album includes a beautiful bonus track “Piano Only” version of “The Quest And The Curse”. With this version you can really hear Diana‘s spectacular vocals! She sounds like an Angel!
In closing: this album is the perfect response to all the doubters who thought DELAIN couldn’t continue. Every song is fantastic! Martijn and Guus Eikens have always been the heart of DELAIN as well as the main songwriters and I knew that if they could find the right members there was still a bright future ahead. Reuniting with Ronald and Sander from my favorite two DELAIN albums in combination with adding Ludovico and finding the perfect vocalist in Diana Leah has proven that! DELAIN has definitely ‘returned to the light’ with “Dark Waters”.