It seems that in the world of dramatic, symphonic metal, there is an endless amount of drama going on behind the scenes. Nightwish seems to live in a state of perpetual drama, and now we've had an uproar over the changes in Leaves Eyes. I'm not going to be that person and say, "why can't we all just get along?", but there does seem to be a lack of professionalism leaking in. And since we live in a world now where we have access to the thoughts of everyone at all times, that means that we have a better picture of the inner workings of tumultuous bands, which is something that depresses the hell out of me. I really wish I didn't know about their dirty laundry, which makes me glad that Delain is still around, operating like a professional band should. They release solid records, go on tour, and you never hear anything else about them. That's how it should be.
"Moonbathers" is the band's fifth album, and in light of what's going on in the scene, it's a good chance to elevate their stature even more. There's a movement going on where all of these bands keep going bigger and bigger, to the point where some of them are hardly metal bands at all anymore, and even when they are they write songs that are so obtuse that you would never want to repeatedly expose yourself to them. Delain is not one of them. They have faithfully maintained themselves as a metal band that writes catchy songs that just happen to be symphonic, rather than the other way around.
"Hands Of Gold" proves that in the first songs. There's a deep, heavy riffing rhythm, and Charlotte Wessels sings a sweet melody, all the while symphonic parts elevate the background music to something more than just a simple metal song. That's the right way to build these songs. The focus needs to be on the song itself first and foremost. You may have already heard that approach in "The Glory And The Scum", one of the videos that was released to promote the album. It's a solid track that shows exactly what Delain is all about. Heavy, dramatic, but still melodic and catchy.
"Suckerpunch" is an interesting track. There are elements of electronic percussion that bubble up, while the chorus is more sweeping with its use of backing vocals. But what I find intriguing is that the instrumental part of the track brings to mind the band Hollenthon. That's not a sound you hear all that often, so it certainly piques my interest.
I really enjoy the balance of elements that Delain presents, but there is one thing that keeps me from falling head over heels for this album. While they are playing symphonic metal that wants to be heavy and catchy at the same time, the melodies just don't hit me as hard as I would like. It's almost as if the band is holding back from fully embracing the pop elements that would make the music even that much sharper. Everything else is in place, all they need to do is hone the choruses a touch more, and this album would work on every level. Charlotte can deliver, that I'm sure of. "Hurricane" does this, and it's easily my favorite song on the record. A few more like that would make this one heck of a record.
As it stands, "Moonbathers" is a record that adds another solid entry to Delain's career. It isn't the leap forward I was hoping for, but it's not a step backward either. Delain is growing by being steady, and that's exactly what they do here. They're a good band, and "Moonbathers" is a good album. The question for you is whether that's enough to give them a chance.