Delain has been growing. They’ve added a member in Merel Bechtold, an extra guitarist who’s apparent in the riffs, but they’ve also been growing in their scope and content. Those riffs remain understated, though, because Delain doesn’t have anything to prove. They’re exactly what a band of their ilk should be—symphonic metal, but with enough distinction to separate them and a style that’s as easily recognizable as their album artwork.
Begun as the project of former Within Temptation keyboardist Martijn Westerholt, Delain’s early offerings felt like an extension of the band he left, but as they’ve released album after album and wrapped up tour after tour, those experiences have shaped them and they’ve become their own band. Much like Within Temptation, they’ve kept their lead singer and core songwriters, which could be why they’ve grown so naturally into a cohesive group that gets better with each new release. Moonbathers feels tight, for lack of a better word. Nothing about it is unsure or disjointed.
“The Glory and the Scum” is the song that best illustrates their cohesiveness. It begins with a lovely bit of melodic layered riffs before turning up the distortion. Wessels’ voice weaves in and out of the music like a stream of cool water, a metaphor that can be used to describe the entire album, not the least because it feels refreshing. “Suckerpunch,” which was previously released on Delain’s EP Lunar Prelude, is filled with alternating synthesizer and string arrangements, crescendoing to an orchestra-backed guitar solo. “The Hurricane” and “Chrysalis – The Last Breath” slow the album down and allow Wessels to showcase her vocals, which alternate between soaring and conversational.
Delain’s only guest vocals on this album come from Arch Enemy growler Alissa White-Gluz, who lends her characteristic harshness to the first track, “Hands of Gold.” It’s an appropriate addition to one of the heaviest tracks on the record. Wessels does some grunting herself on two songs, the aforementioned “The Glory and the Scum” and “Pendulum.” The latter sets the tone of the entire album, combining elements of all the other songs—heavy riffs, orchestral backdrops, weaving vocals, contemplative lyrics, and light grunting.
Lyrically, the album’s theme seems to hinge upon being present and embracing your personal monsters, turning them into something positive and finding self-worth. Wessels has always been a strong songwriter, but after a decade of Delain, her writing has reached its pinnacle here. Most of the lyrics are uplifting, with the exception of “Chrysalis – The Last Breath” and perhaps “Danse Macabre.” The former is as dark as Wessels has ever been, but it also might be her most well-written song to date, manifesting as a plea from one person to another, not for forgiveness but for acceptance of what they’ve done—and when trying to justify their actions doesn’t work, they resort to guilt. It almost doesn’t fit, when the rest of the album has songs like “Fire With Fire” that literally encourages the listener to “kill them with kindness,” but it’s a welcome departure. It adds a little gray to the overall black and white message of the album.
Moonbathers is a solid album, and a solid album is Delain at their best. None of the songs are weak, except possibly their cover of Queen’s “Scandal,” which is a good interpretation but jolts the overall tone a bit. That aside, each song flows into the next, and Wessels’ ruminating lyrics combine with heavy riffs and melodic breaks to form a piece that’s easy to remain in for a while. Unlike much of Delain’s other albums, this one doesn’t feel like random songs stitched together to form the length of an album, but rather, it feels like each song was placed deliberately to form a greater whole. It’s as close to a masterpiece as they’ve come, and if this is what a decade under their belts has produced, then we should be paying attention to their future.