Delain: Moonbathers (Napalm)
Since their symphonic metal debut Delain have been refining their sound on each album cutting the fat and adding some nuances to set them apart from the rest of the female fronted pack, for the most part they still play symphonically powered metal but they also add some electronica, lots of Gothic elements and wrap it all up with a dark pop sheen. Moonbathers is the Dutch band's fifth record and sees them consolidate the more experimental sounds from previous records to create a more definitive one, the Gothic sounds on this record come from the lyrical content which seems to have an obsession with death both the haunting Chrysalis - The Last Breath and Danse Macabre both deal with subject although Danse is much more reliant on pulsing electronics than Chrysalis.
The band's sound has always been built upon the keyboard playing of founding member Martijn Westerholt and here for a fifth time he shines never overdoing his contribution but adding enough to flesh out the songs and give them an extra edge whether that be the operatic orchestral elements on cinematic opener Hands Of Gold and the heartrending Turn The Lights Out, a song that Ville Vallo would be proud of, plaintive piano on closing instrumental The Monarch and some shimmering synths on Suckerpunch or with Queen cover Scandal which has just right amount of pastiche and their own sound to work very well, I see this one being added to the live show.
Westerholt is not the only member of the band however the rhythm section of Ruben Israel's drums and the amazingly named Otto Schimmelpenninck van der Oije on bass can shift the sound in an instant from thumping industrial grunt on The Glory And The Scum a bouncy bottom end on Suckerpunch which was the standout track from their taster EP. As the backroom pumps out such powerful sounds it's up to guitarists Timo Somers and Merel Bechtold to provide the riffs and riff they do Bechtold especially bridging the gap between the rhythm section and top end.
Her amazing heads down riffage allows Somers to show flashes of brilliance in his leads on Suckerpunch, the classic metal feeling Fire With Fire and the album's heaviest track Pendulum which borders on thrash and has bassist Otto adding his own grunts. The record is well paced building and falling at the right times and once again Westerholt doing a sterling job behind the production desk making everything sound huge and evoking a sense of scale on the songs which is a benefit to Charlotte Wessels still stunning vocals she has a fragility to her vocal that is forgotten when she gets to the jaw dropping top of her range which sprawls opera and pop defiantly.
Every record Delain has produced they have added a little bit more to their sound while taking away the bits that don't work, they have become more progressive as they have matured as a band and all of this musical alchemy has come to fruition on Moonbathers, Delain have come of age with this record it will hopefully see them break away from the female fronted metal stamp into a league of their own. 9/10
Chariots Of The Gods: Ages Unsung (Self Released)
Ages Unsung is Ottawa five piece Chariots Of The Gods' second full length album and comes three years after their debut, after a short hiatus and a line-up change they were ready to record again and for the second time they bring the sounds of the NWOAHM to the modern day, Chariots Of The Gods play groove heavy, thrash influenced metal that straddles classic sounds and metalcore with clean/harsh vocal dynamics, searing lead riffs, massive breakdowns and great songwriting. Fans of In Flames, Machine Head, Killswitch Engage and especially Trivium will love this record, from the haunting opening instrumental piece Primordial Dawn the sound is akin to the Florida band's Ascendancy opening and drives straight into Tusk (not Fleetwood Mac cover) which builds up into a flurry of blastbeats, pumping basslines and nasty riffage with impressive lead guitar dancing over the top.
Lead guitarist Mathieau St-Amour is the main songwriter for the band and he knows exactly how to construct almost perfect modern metalcore. The vocals of frontman Christian Therien are great we get barked at and sung too all in the same song and unlike many in the genre both are good his roars a bone rattling and his clean delivery is powerful and sounds like Matt Heafy mixed with Rob Flynn.
There is a lot of melody on this record balancing out the heaviness Of Prometheus And The Flame has the Killswitch influence running through it, As The Sky Falls is a drumming masterclass, Resurrection brings back the Trivium sound while New World slows everything down as an atmospheric piece that explodes in it's last part. Ages Unsung is an album that looks back to an early millennial period of music but brings it modern day showing that it's still relevant. 8/10
Illustr8ors: S/T (Self Released)
OK so I've gone about this backwards, I reviewed Illustr8ors debut record back earlier this year, but now I'm faced with what is their debut EP. Maybe I was a little harsh on the record but I was expecting to review the second album from Bristol hard rockers and MoM favourites BlackWolf but during the Pledge Campaign they changed their name and adapted their sound to a funkier style of hard rock. Now musically I loved the record it was hard to find fault but I don't like the name (particularly the 8) however I probably let that influence my review a little too much, so this EP is a great way to reassess the band and their music.
Opening with the impressive hip shaking Your Animal Scott Sharp's vocals are still some of the best in the business and Ben Webb (bass) and Tom Lennox - Brown (drums) and Jason Cronin (rhythm guitar) lay down a sturdy foundation for John Greenhill to let his fireworks let loose. The hard rock influences still loom large on Something Biblical but Swimming With Anchors has a furious rocking groove but moves the band away from their previous incarnation enough to sound fresh while Shush Shush has the groove of bands such as Vintage Trouble and stands out as the strongest declarative statement of something fresh.
In retrospect I was unduly harsh to Illustr8ors PledgeMusic full length but for those that haven't heard the full length, this EP is an excellent precursor to the rebirth of this band, I still have my reservations about the name but BlackWolf is dead this is Illustr8tors time now. 7/10