December 31, 2021 Charlotte Wessels – Tales From Six Feet Under (Album Review)
A lyric soprano who is unafraid to bare her soul, singer-songwriter Charlotte Wessels defies categorization with the artful stories that comprise her solo debut, Tales From Six Feet Under, which arrived on September 17, 2021, thanks to Napalm Records.
Wessels, as you know, recently went through a massive career shift: February of 2021 marked the dissolution of Delain as we knew it. The Dutch Symphonic Metal outfit, founded by former Within Temptation keyboardist Martijn Westerholt, parted ways, leaving its talented founder to soldier onward. As he’s gone on to reintroduce some familiar faces to Delain 2022, Wessels has poured her time into her own music. Thus, Tales From Six Feet Under was born.
Initially inspired by the downtime that came with the pandemic, the album was the byproduct of the global pause on touring that left Wessels with plenty of freetime. Channeling her creative energies into writing, performing, and producing in her home studio, she began to explore without boundaries. With her dedicated Patreon community filling the seats, the exceptional songwriter had ample opportunity to road test her latest material, delivering one gem per month for their listening pleasure.
Unafraid to blend genres or to dance far outside the Symphonic Metal sphere, Wessels’ new compositions ranged from melancholic Alt Pop to synth-laden rockers to poetic strolls toward dawn with her literary influences. Add to all of this the fact that Wessels, a multi-talented musician in her own right, helmed all of the instrumentation, vocals and programming throughout the entirety of Tales From Six Feet Under—save for a haunting duet with another vocal powerhouse, Alissa White-Gluz—and it’s a project that is guaranteed to stun.
Opening the book on these 10 intimate tracks that exhale brutal sincerity, Wessels begins to bring her sonic fairytale to life as she delivers the album’s foreshadowing first line—“This is a sonnet for your soul”—on “Superhuman.” Full of poetic wisdom, there’s a soulfulness to the track’s Pop sensibilities as it melds genres fluidly. This ability to transcend boundaries carries into “Afkicken,” allowing us a window into Wessels’ self-reflection. Delivered in Dutch with a heavy bass groove, and a passion that communicates beyond language, its cinematic qualities assist in depicting its deeply personal words.
What could weigh heavy is carefully balanced by the electronic beats of “Masterpiece,” allowing Wessels to embrace her inner Pop diva before she wanders toward the dawn through the enormous minimalism of the Victor Hugo-homage, “Victor.” If for some reason any of this is not to your taste, our siren continues her language-crossing, genre-bending excursion with the atmospheric painting of “New Mythology,” peppered with psychedelic moments, and the beautifully chill “Source of the Flame,” a deep inhalation of sonic incense.
She then breaks from the original material to tackle a beloved ‘80s classic, “Cry Little Sister.” The Gerard McMahon track originally appeared on the soundtrack to 1987’s The Lost Boys, though it has gone on to reach ‘oh my goth’ status thanks to covers by the likes of Marilyn Manson, Chvrches, Blutengel, L.A. Guns, and many, many more. Here, Wessels dares to put her own spin on the song that makes us all want to be vampires. Of course, she crafts an impressive, powerful homage that respects the original while turning it into a 5-minute long journey far beyond Santa Carla’s boardwalk. Powerful in its presentation, it sets the stage for the outstanding “Lizzie,” which features White-Gluz in a duet that sees the ladies inspiring one another to new vocal heights.
However, as we have learned, Wessels is hardly a one-trick pony. So, for “FSU (2020),” she dredges up some Industrial influences to deliver a darkly rocking offering that is the heaviest among the collection. And for her grand finale? If you think that the vocalist is going to end with another rocker, well, you haven’t been paying attention. She takes a dramatic left turn into the exceptionally minimalist “Soft Revolution,” a perfect representation of this entire package.
Keep in mind, however, that this is a collection that some members of Wessel’s dedicated Patreon community are apt to see as a rehash of ‘old’ material, while some fans of Delain might scoff at the lack of anything Metal. But for the rest of us, Tales From Six Feet Under serves as a brilliant introduction to Wessel’s solo career, a collage of vibrancy that promises no boundaries. With the voice of an angel and the creative soul to match, she delivers an album that fluidly crosses through multiple languages, genres, and feels. It’s a bright portent of the future, and an enchanting sonnet for your soul. For this, Cryptic Rock gives Wessels’ solo debut 4.5 of 5 stars.