Elsewhere, in my feature on Nemesea, I recalled how close I came to losing two of my hands. The threat, the near miss came from Delain’s album, April Rain. Was it better than Nemesea’s The Quiet Resistance? My hands survived thanks to the release dates and a technicality.

For the kind of metalheads who like their music to sound as if it was recorded in a tin shack Delain are probably a bit too polished, a bit too musical. Keyboards! Strings. Songwriting. (They write music, for fuck’s sake. . . . Can’t be heavy metal if it’s musical!!!!!!)

One of the problems with a lot of contemporary metal is that the bands have forgotten how to write a decent song. Afraid they’ll be accused of being a pop group. Well, the fact is you can still write a decent song and be as heavy as fuck.

Delain’s roots lay in symphonic metal. What they did that a number of other symphonic metal bands should have done, was tone down the pomp and work on arrangements; forget how Wagnerian they could sound after the Korg plug-ins went through Pro Tools.

On April Rain they hit a glorious sweet spot and produced one of those rare albums: filler free. Every track a gem. On the third album We Are The Others they actually defied expectations and went one better. WATO was a slow burner. Where April Rain danced around the palate, WATO had all sorts of mysterious aftertastes that lingered.

Key to Delain’s sound is lead singer Charlotte Wessels. Her voice wraps itself around every word and phrase like warm mead, or honey. Hers is an extraordinary richness of delivery that holds the attention, lures you siren-like before the rest of the band turn up and take your head off. See, they’re at it again. Threatening to lop off limbs and what have you.

Their fourth album, The Human Contradiction came out earlier this year. On it is a song called Your Body is a Battleground. It’s a big song, it has the Goblin King himself, Marco Hietala from Nightwish, providing guest vocals. It’s an enormous song. It’s the Grand Canyon of rock music. And when your prickles are still crackling they hit you with the stomping riffs of Stardust. And in Lullaby they’ve written one of the eeriest rock songs of all time. What is it about? ‘We are sinking the ship now. . .’ This from a band who have performed on a cruise liner; not the kind of song I’d want to hear in the middle of the North Sea. (Alissa White-Gluz also made a guest appearance on the album and was rumoured to have been paid in throat lozenges.)

They’re in America, in theatres supporting Nightwish, but in an ideal world Delain would be part of a triple headlining bill alongside Nightwish and Nemesea in an arena with a big light show and perfect sound. Maybe throw in an orchestra a la Within Temptation Black Symphony. Five hours of thrilling, challenging, interesting, crafted rock written by musicians, performed by musicians. Bands who don’t read the Heavy Metal Handbook with its diagrams on how to stand, correct facial expressions and places where you can jump on the latest bandwagon.

And as if the best album of 2014 isn’t enough they have the ‘Official Greatest Guitarist in the World.’ Yes, official. Timo Somers is leading the Metal Month guitarists poll, ahead of Hendrix, ahead of Blackmore, ahead of van Halen. (Okay, There was no Bert Weedon), but he’s in the lead which makes him the man.

And The Human Contradiction is the business. Go and buy it (directly from the band or the label, not those tax-avoiding tossers at Amazon) and listen to some real music.

Official site Delain

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