Back To The Stars – Charlotte Wessels of Delain

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Ever since the emergence of their debut Lucidity in 2006, has their unique blend of catchy melodies and heavy riffs made Dutch symphonic metal outfit Delain a force to be reckoned with. Originally planned as a studio project only, nowadays they are a successful live band and about to release their fourth, highly anticipated full length studio album The Human Contradiction (Napalm Records). Front lady Charlotte Wessels charmingly reveals the idea behind the mysterious title.

The name is actually taken from one of my favourite books. It’s a trilogy called Lilith’s Brood by Octavia E. Butler, and it is a post-apocalypse story. It’s kind of sci-fi, which is funny, cause I never really took to sci-fi before, so this is the first time where I really appreciated it. Basically they introduce the human contradiction, as a theory which explains why humanity didn’t last. According to the book, the contradiction is that as a species we are both intelligent and hierarchic. The fact is though that successful intelligent life forms are not hierarchic, because this hierarchic thing makes for this ‘us versus the others-mentality’, which makes us rank things by random qualities.”

In the last couple of years Charlotte has been especially interested in the whole idea of otherness, both on an artistic as well as on an academic level. “This topic was of course already very present in our previous record. With The Human Contradiction we actually continue this idea lyrically. There are many songs which are about otherness in one way or another.” The topics Delain address in their songs seem to have become much more diverse and rooted in current social and political happenings than at the start of their career. Charlotte agrees with that. “I have definitely become more political myself. In the past we had some discussions about this in the band, because first and foremost we are making music and just want people to have a good time when they come to our shows and rather forget about their problems than take more home with them. So there is no agenda behind our music, I simply write about what’s on my mind by default.”

Nevertheless,The Human Contradiction contains some songs whose lyrics are quite complex. For example the song ‘Tell Me, Mechanist’, tells the captivating story of a dispute between the philosophers Descartes and Voltaire. Charlotte is still fascinated by the subject. “In the 17th century you had this philosopher and scientist called René Descartes. He was very famous and had a lot of ideas where he was really ahead of his time and one of his ideas was that all things on this earth are made up of small mechanic parts, like a clock. This was quite a smart remark, because of course they hadn’t discovered DNA yet, or atoms and his idea that the world was made up of smaller parts is kind of were science went later. But his statement had a lot of negative implications also, because he claimed that humans are the only ones with a God granted soul. So basically he said if you hurt animals, you cut them open, and they scream, this is just the spring that you have touched that is attached to screaming, it’s not that they actually feel pain, cause humans are the only ones that feel pain. And this was very convenient, because it was the time when they started to really get interested in human anatomy and they opened up animals to see how the heart works, how the lungs work, when they were still alive so they could see the blood flow et cetera. People who still believe in this mechanistic world view today are called mechanists. Then Voltaire, another philosopher, replied to Descartes theory by saying, and this is actually were I shamelessly stole my lyrics from, Voltaire said: ‘You cut open this animal and you see in him exactly the same veins of feeling as in yourself, tell me, mechanist, did nature arrange all the springs of feeling in him in order not to feel?’ And I thought this was so beautiful. However, I’m very much aware that this song especially is kind of more abstract and hard to get when you do not know the theory behind it. Of course the lyrics in the chorus go ‘If we could go back to the stars, we would see we are not that far apart’, if you don’t know that it’s talking about evolution and stuff, then it could just as well be a love song, which I really like about it.”

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Charlotte is a real animal lover and has recently made some significant changes with regards to her lifestyle. “I’ve become a vegetarian recently and I’m cutting back on my entire animal intake. I cannot call myself vegan yet, because I have to cheat still a little bit too much, and the actual vegans will become upset. So this is one of the recent changes I’ve made and I try to make our house eco-proof. I live in a house from the 1600, which means that we have only one layer of glass everywhere and basically for years we thought that is okay, but we are heating so much that it is not in line anymore with the ideals that my partner and I have.”

However, she doesn’t want to impose her own values on other people in any way. “Everybody should decide for themselves what they want to do. When I talk about these matters in our songs, I just want to address things I care about, but never suggest that I know all the answers. Whenever you make big changes in your life, you really have to believe in them yourself. I will never say ‘you should do this or that’ that is simply not my style.”

The talented musician has just completed her master’s degree in Gender studies and is now standing at a crossroads in her life. “I was doing my studies and Delain, and now I don’t know what I will end up doing in the future, so this really isn’t the right time to ask me about it, because now of course I fall into this black hole,” she says jokingly. Then adds: “Actually Delain is becoming more and more of a full time job, so the next year is really going to decide whether I can do this full time or whether I have to do something next to it.”

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Asked about the writing and recording process of the output, Charlotte has a lot to convey. “We always write the songs with, what we like to call the ‘Delain writing team’. It consists of keyboarder Martijn, me and Guus Eikens. Guus Eikens is actually not in our live band, but he has been involved with Delain from the very beginning, so he feels like a band member to us. The rest of the work on The Human Contradiction was very different from our previous album, because for our last release we were involved with three different labels. First it was Roadrunner, then it was Warner Brothers and we were moved to another office on top of that. After that it was the label which actually released the album, so we had a lot of people involved, a lot of opinions involved. So that’s why at this point, we thought that we are just going to make music by ourselves and are only going to include other people when we really need to. As a result, this is undeniably an album were we took matters into our own hands again and purely relied on ourselves for both the writing of the songs and also the production. Martijn was back as a producer which he had done for Lucidity and April Rain as well and I think that has created a very creative and free atmosphere within the band.” 

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ISABELL KÖSTER 

Delain – The Human Contradiction

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Dutch symphonic metal five piece Delain have just released their highly anticipated fourth full-length output, which lyrically continues the well-received We Are The Others (2012). The more generic gothic metal of the early days has been replaced by a distinctive sound, which inclines more towards symphonic metal and is heavier, more melodic and more original than ever before in the career of the formation.

 

The quintet displays great attention to detail, the rhythm section of Otto Schimmelpenninck van der Oije (bass) and Sander Zoer (drums) lays a firm foundation for Timo Somers passionate fretwork, which lends Delain’s sound a very energetic vibe. Moreover, the band has paid particular attention to the vocals, which are a lot more varied then on previous releases.

 

On the one hand that is surely due to Charlotte Wessels diverse vocals, which are as sweet as they are powerful and manage to draw you in completely. Over the last years, the chanteuse’s voice has become considerably more distinct and expressive, making her much more mature as a vocalist and resulting in her best performance as yet.

 

On the other hand it’s down to the versatile input of the assembled guest musicians. Most prominent amongst them, certainly Nightwish’s Marco Hietala, whose intense voice forms a stark contrast to Charlotte’s more endearing tones and who provides the two songs he sings in (‘My Body Is A Battleground’, ‘Sing To Me’),with a rougher edge. A further highlight on the record are George Oosthoek’s powerful grunts in the philosophical ‘Tell Me, Mechanist’ and last but not least the impressive growls of Alyssia White-Gluz (Arch Enemy, ex-The Agonist), in the highly symphonic but at the same time rather heavy, ‘The Tragedy Of The Commons’, which are a true delight for every metal head.

The Human Contradiction (released on their new label home, Napalm Records) contains nine carefully crafted and evocative compositions, which strikingly display all of Delain’s trademarks, energetic riffing, catchy melodies and arresting female vocals, but also present some fresh elements. With keyboarder and mastermind Martijn Westerholt (ex-Within Temptation) back in the producer’s chair, the band has managed to fashion their best release to date, making you want to hit the repeat button over and over again.

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9.5/10

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