February 18, 2019 Delain – Hunter’s Moon (Album Review)
It has been two years since Delain offered up their very first live album, A Decade of Delain: Live at Paradiso, and three years since they delivered new studio material on 2016’s Moonbathers. Their brand-new CD/Blu-ray combo, Hunter’s Moon, combines the two — live material along with a preview of their newest studio material — and it arrives on Friday, February 22, 2019, thanks to Napalm Records.
Dutch Symphonic Metalheads Delain began their lengthy journey nearly seventeen years ago when Keyboardist Martijn Westerholt returned to writing and recording music following his departure from Within Temptation. As he poured his heart and soul into this new music and the project developed, Vocalist Charlotte Wessels came on-board and the new group was officially born in 2005. Over the next ten years (and some change), the band would release five epic full-length albums – from 2006’s Lucidity to 2016’s Moonbathers – paving the way for the group to cross the Atlantic and win over a vast array of Metal fans’ hearts with their stellar live show and superb musicianship.
On the heels of their very first live album, 2017’s A Decade of Delain: Live at Paradiso, Delain — Westerholt, Wessels, Guitarists Timo Somers and Merel Bechtold, Bassist Otto Schimmelpenninck van der Oije, and Drummer Joey Marin de Boer — offer fans some new material in the form of Hunter’s Moon. However, there’s a slight catch: Hunter’s Moon is a full-length album, yes, but it’s actually an EP’s worth of new material. The album’s 14 tracks are composed of 4 brand-new offerings and 10 live performances of already beloved material from the band’s oeuvre. So, does that make this the band’s sixth full-length or just a fun addition to an already stellar catalogue? Obviously, that’s for fans to decide.
For our purposes, we will call it a prelude collection that offers insight into the upcoming Delain release, which is slated for release later in 2019. These tracks continue the band’s legacy of exceptional Symphonic Metal, and it all kicks off with the brand-new single/video “Masters of Destiny.” Beginning like a fairy prance and then exploding into a soaring journey through the Symphonic stratosphere, the track is completed by an arena-worthy guitar solo, and some delicate, twinkling bells to complement Wessels’ angelic vocals. Cementing that Delain are still producing killer epics, still dreaming on a massive scale, this is a promise of the greatness to come.
This promise carries into the Metal folktale of the titular “Hunter’s Moon,” starting with a melodic riff that builds the band into full-bodied tones, screams, and Wessels’ signature, theatrical vocals. Westerholt’s exceptional synth-work is given free rein to shine as the band begins the drive into the Somers’ written “This Silence Is Mine,” where Somers’ and Bechtold’s guitars weep to create a truly somber mood that is apt to punch you right in the feels. Lest you think the sextet are going soft, pummeling bass and animalistic growls formulate the core of the rocker-stomper “Art Kills,” written by Bechtold and the final new offering of the album.
For the live portion of the collection, the bulk of this album at 10 tracks, the band present some of the highlights from the homecoming gig of their Danse Macabre Tour. Recorded in Utrecht, Netherlands, at Tivoli Vredenburg, the live material does an excellent job of showcasing the band’s talents while also paying attention to detail and not merely replicating the set-list from Live at Paradiso.
They start the live set by building atmosphere to get closer to the edge for the catchy “Hands Of Gold,” featuring George Oosthoek, where each individual member of the band fires on all cylinders. Then, initially, they go for a more twinkling delicacy on the equally infectious “Danse Macabre,” as the audience claps along to Wessels’ sweet vocal theatrics. Meanwhile, ballad “Scarlet,” with its poignant piano work, continues to keep the mood soft.
“Your Body Is A Battleground” amps it back up to soaring heights, with the audience rejoicing in the Rock-n-Roll as Wessels and special guest Marco Hietala of Nightwish tackle the side-by-side leads flawlessly. For “Nothing Left,” we witness Wessels traveling into the highest reaches of her vocal register for a song that is both mournful and hopeful.
The hills and valleys of “Control the Storm” make way for Hietala to implore the audience, “Sing To Me.” The sing-along that rightfully ensues leads to the steady beat of “Not Enough,” while, for “Scandal,” Wessels gets the audience pumped to welcome Hietala back to the stage for the fiery duet. Ultimately, they end with the full-blown choral vocals of “The Gathering,” a magical serenade that caps the show off with a sonic bang.
On Hunter’s Moon, the 10 live tracks serve to yet again prove Delain’s exceptional talents in a live setting, to cement that outside of a studio they can still deliver a truly impacting Metal performance that both awes and inspires. However, as the band’s last release was a double live disc, the argument could be made that Hunter’s Moon is, in effect, more of the same; stalling for time while the band crafts new material. On the plus side, the four new tracks on this release promise that great things are in the near future and, truly, who can argue with a talented band proving their exceptional skills while they take the time to lovingly craft their next masterpiece? For these reasons, Cryptic Rock give Delain’s Hunter’s Moon 4 of 5 stars.