Delain have come a long way since my first encounter with them, back in 2009, at the Femme Metal Festival, housed in The Birmingham Asylum, and I saw the band play to approx. 20 devotees, who must have all been in the know and aware that they were in the presence of greatness. Even when I saw them back in 2013 at the Dames Of Darkness Festival in Wolverhampton, they were playing to a significantly smaller number than they certainly were worthy of.
Now with 18 years under their belts, a number of anthems and various line-up changes, they are ready to deliver a new touring cycle on the back of the release of their latest opus, ‘Apocalypse And Chill’. This was my 9th Delain gig and to say I was excited to catch them again was an understatement.
Manchester must love a good symphonic metal gig as the queue clinging to the side of the building pre doors is testament to the popularity Delain have amassed. The confusion over door times hadn’t done the early arrivals any favours especially considering the bitterly cold northern weather we were subjected to. Once inside, the frustration was still audible amongst many of those in attendance, as the support wasn’t due to hit the stage until an hour after the doors had opened into the cavernous Ritz.
cyHra were the chosen support for this tour and they are labelled as a ‘super group’ which boasts members with credentials and CV’s made up of their time in household names such as In Flames, Amaranthe, Annihilator, Kamelot, Rhapsody and Shining (the Swedish black metal outfit, not the Norwegian Jazz metal band of the same moniker). cyHra hit the stage running and the Swedes looked like they were out to prove a point and make a few new friends during their visit to Manchester tonight.
The cyHra machine exhibited slickness and a visual tightness that was bolstered by ‘classic’ rock star poses either end of the stage courtesy of Euge Valovirta and Jesper Stromblad, and a further rock star persona being exhibited by ex Amaranthe vocalist Jake E. The band were slick and they worked the stage with ease, interacting with the crowd and doing their best to gather some audience participation, although this fell almost flat, aside from the eager few at the front, the rest of the crowd stood still, with no movement being generated aside from the odd head banging in unison to the music being omitted from the stage.
Alex Landenburg had bags of enthusiasm on the drums and was beating the kit with eagerness and enthusiasm throughout, a true machine. The whole set was full from start to finish, with the band exhibiting their brand of melodic rock, almost verging on ‘pop metal’, a brand that they have undoubtedly made their own with the gusto and energy which was layered upon a backdrop of synth and melody overflowing, almost covering 2 or 3 of the lighter genres in metal. Conspicuous by their absence was a bass player tonight, and I think that caused the tracks to verge on the pop end of the spectrum, and the rock star poses which the band adopted didn’t seem to do anything to make this band seem honest or raw, natural with their talent, instead they appeared as over produced, manufactured and too ‘clean’, with vocals which surely lie within a top 40 chart somewhere.
As the lights dropped and a hologram of the now infamous hummingbird was projected onto the back screen, the stage erupted and Charlotte Wessel et al launched out to a triumphant and exhilarating roar from the amassed disciples who stood before the Dutch symphonic uber group Delain
‘Burning Bridges’ started the proceedings and the band laid waste to a colossal set list, totalling an impressive 19 tracks in total, although this set consisted mainly of the newer stuff, 8 from ‘Apocalypse And Chill’, 5 from ‘Moonbathers’, and the other 4 albums being represented by a mere 6 tracks, a brave move some might say as, even though the tour is moulded around the release of ‘Apocalypse’, you would expect more of an even covering from the back catalogue. As much as some may argue that a current tour should be made up of the album the said tour is promoting, Delain’s arrival tonight is on the launch day of the said album, so not much time for the gathered crowd to become familiar with the new material.
The Delain mastermind, Martijn Westerholt, was all too unassuming, stood in the shadows tonight, silently orchestrating the proceedings with obvious ease. Westerholt looked proud of the show before him, appearing almost like a doting parent proud to show off his offspring to the world.
‘April Rain’ was the first ‘classic’ of the evening and was received to rapturous approval from the masses in the Ritz. Every word was sung back to band with passion and energy overflowing. The set continued with the energy and passion, growing with every track, ‘Let’s Dance’ got the floor moving in unity and energy, each word of the chorus was thrown straight back at the stage and the mood was turned up to 11. Joey De Boer was a titan on the kit, and hammered the beats home with gusto and versatility, the shift never faltered and he was mechanic and powerful in his working of the percussion tonight. Timo Somers and Otto Schimmelpenninck Van Der Oije stalked the stage, criss crossing like a pair of perfect metronomes, engaging with the crowd at every possible moment, both locking eyes with each member of the devoted tribe and spitting the lyrics back at the marionettes with as much passion as they were receiving from every single silhouette, from the barrier to the back. Charlotte Wessels was a true angel; her persona and voice intertwined to exude a delicate and beautiful package. Her deliverance of each and every lyric was perfection and the beauty was overflowing in her sound and tone. She was mesmerising at times and commanded the whole venue with her angelic and delicate tones.
‘Ghost House Heart’ was a personal highlight of mine and saw the stage stripped down, Wessels stood centre stage and Westerholt moved down to take up a more prominent position, and the whole ballad was delivered with passion, meaning and feeling. The whole crowd stood in absolute awe of the event unravelling before them, a true competitor to replace the ‘classic’ ‘See Me In Shadow’
‘The Gathering’ was the usual beast that we all know and love it for, smoke and confetti accompanied it and it was a real crowd pleaser, turning up the energy levels and volume tenfold. ‘Pristine’ was another tune from yesteryear and it was received with obvious pleasure and approval from the crowd. The whole of the band were now visually on cloud 9, each one of them soaking up the love and appreciation being thrown at them from the floor below, soaking it up like the proverbial sponge and then exuding it out of every pore within their body. The evening finished on the first ever live outing of ‘We Had Everything’ and the totally gargantuan, anthemic, ‘We Are The Others’. Emotion and passion accompanied the song, and the whole track seemed to pull the whole venue together, even tighter than had been witnessed prior to it. The whole essence of the track, and the story on which it is built is still raw in everybody’s minds, even though it’s been almost 13 years since that tragic event, the memories are still emotional and the song just seemed to knit each Mosher, freak, weirdo together even closer, a perfect end to a perfect set from Westerholt and the Delain crew.
I also have to mention that the set was punctuated perfectly with injections of cello which added a further dimension to the tunes on display. The string sections added complexity and definition to the multiple layers of the songs it accompanied and this is a new element which the band have introduced to create an even more delicate and intricate monster.
The only negative I could possibly mutter, and it may just be from a personal perspective, but there were too many of the anthems missing, the classic slabs we have grown to love from the Dutch masters, tracks such as ‘Sleep Walkers Dream’, ‘Stardust’, ‘Sever’, ‘Frozen’, ‘Here Come The Vultures’, ‘Stay Forever’ and ‘Army Of Dolls’ to name but a few, oh, and get rid of the pointless and unnecessary drum/guitar solo doodle mid set, it really wasn’t necessary and was visually losing the majority of the crowd. All of that said and done though, maybe it is just time that we can start to grow and love a new batch of tunes, a new era of Delain, one theory I will leave you with though, here is to another 18 years.
Review and Photos Phil Pountney