Delain - The Human Contradiction (Napalm Records)

World class metal...
Release Date: 
4 Apr 2014 (All day)

After a brief sung intro from vocal talent supreme Charlotte Wessels that sounds like it’s been half-inched from a West End show (Oliver! at a guess), Delain (the rest of the band, that is) bring the hammer down and then keep the pressure up for the next forty-odd minutes with a frankly top-drawer performance that – I don’t mind admitting this – is as surprising as it is exciting to listen to.

Given the fact that Wessels is one of the most talented singers in all of Euro metal, I don’t know why I’m surprised at this. It’s just that I’ve always had this band tagged as chirpy also-rans, one of the legion of similar acts that keep churning out albums (this is their fourth since their 2006 debut, Lucidity) without ever really making a dent on the wider consciousness or challenging the giants of the female-fronted metal world.

But guess what, by fusing the salient elements of two of those giants – namely Nightwish and Within Temptation – and adding a little (but not too much) of their own personality, Delain have positioned themselves with The Human Contradiction as serious contenders. The opening brace of tracks, Here Come the Vultures and Your Body is a Battleground – are the best two examples of this process and both – but especially the latter – are stunning pieces of symphonic power metal. Wessels sings here arse off on Body… the resultant anthemic results bringing hairs to attention on the back of the neck every time the song is played. Maybe the fact that Nightwish growler Marco Hietela (returning for the first time to guest with the band since that debut effort) makes a prominent guest appearance helps elevate the song? Possibly…

Third song Stardust isn’t quite so effective, marrying some Paradise Lost (circa One Second) keyboard tinkling to a more prosaic, Evanescence type guitar/vocal juxtaposition, before the pre-chorus once again evokes Within Temptation at their mid period height. It’s tricky work making all these bits flow, but the band handles matters admirably with guitarist Timo Somers in particular bringing some welcome crunch to proceedings. 

My Masquerade is much heavier, and carries more PL touches. Wessels really attacks this song, and whilst it’s not the best track on the album it works well, sliding another excellent chorus into the mix.  The weirdly titled Tell Me, Mechanist let’s things drift a bit, inspiration wise, being a bit more run of the mill than what’s gone before, before Sing to Me swings right back into the red zone with some Nightwish-styled orchestral flourishes and another guest appearance from – you guest-it – Marco Heitela!. It must be weird for him to sing on songs that sound so much like his day job, but there you go… Certainly as a listener I ain’t complaining! Army of Dolls goes back towards the Within Temptation scheme of things, and although the song isn’t up to much Wessels absolutely slays with her best vocal of the set. She is a huge talent, make no mistake. 

Closing track The Tragedy of the Commons features metal throat of the moment Alissa White-Gluz guesting and has a nice, epic, other-worldly feel to it that ends the album well. Despite more guest appearances again on one album than many bands manages in a career, Delain actually feel on The Human Contradiction like they’ve become a band as opposed to a ‘project’. This is a fine, fine album.