Delain – Surviving The Human Contradiction

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Delain Charlotte 001 GoodDelain have entered 2014 with the purpose of unleashing their fourth proper studio opus The Human Contradiction to audiences, and this release marks what has been a very busy three years for the band.  In 2012 they released their third album We Are The Others to critical acclaim as it tackled issues concerning the habit of sectioning off parts of society simply due to the way people dressed and looked, distinguishing human beings from being ‘normal’ or ‘other’.  Immediate hook-laden hard rock songs like the title track, or Hit Me with Your Best Shot and Get the Devil out of Me made the album push the envelope of success and reiterate the consistent quality they had showcased with their previous two albums.

In 2013, Delain then promptly followed up the momentum and activity surrounding We Are The Others by setting loose a collection of songs that mixed up live recordings, cover versions, new songs and rearranged versions of older songs.  It went by the name of Interlude and despite the sceptics sensing a possible greedy incentive behind releasing such a collection; it was also well received by fans and critics alike.  So two albums released in close proximity and after taking a short deep breath, Delain find themselves ready to tackle a mixture of subject matter and to present their new artistic expression.

Lead vocalist Charlotte Wessels recently graduated with a Masters in Gender Studies and during the course she was presented with the first book in a trilogy that was written by female author Octavia E. Butler.  The trilogy was called Lilith’s Brood and the first book in the series was titled Dawn.  The story was sci-fi based and tackled issues within humanity during a post-apocalyptic backdrop.  Wessels explains via the band’s social networking sites the background to the title of this new album and the core theme of The Human Contradiction; “A post-apocalypse story, in which the fact that humanity did not last is explained by our two most contradictory qualities; the fact that we are as a species both intelligent and hierarchic.  This human contradiction causes an ‘us versus the others’ mentality, which in the book – as well as one could argue, in reality – proves to be a most self-destructive attitude.  In a way, The Human Contradiction presents a broadening and deepening of the lyrical concept of We Are The Others: ‘Otherness’ and how people relate to this, has had my interest for years.”

Delain 002 GoodWhere the previous albums had shorter and more immediate arrangements, when you wrap your ears around The Human Contradiction you’ll hear from the very first track Here Come The Vultures how they are exercising their musical muscles, as the song builds into a dramatic zenith without losing sight of its melody and sense of identity.  Fans of Nightwish, Within Temptation and Xandria amongst so many other fine examples from this corner of the universe of rock will have plenty to salivate over.

Those who are nervous perhaps of the maturity that lurks within this new material need not worry, as songs like Stardust and Your Body is a Battleground possess their previously exhibited values and grasp of delivering tight female-fronted powerful rock music.  There are various versions of this latest studio album including a deluxe edition.  There is a bonus disc containing orchestral versions and some new tracks on this specific elaborate version of The Human Contradiction, and one of those new songs in particular called Scarlet, is a reflective ballad which Wessels confessed was one of the most depressing songs they’d recorded, but it was still a track with a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

Delain - The Human ContradictionThe cover artwork for The Human Contradiction is striking and Wessels had this to say about what they tried to capture.  “When we did the photo shoot for this album we’ve been very much kind of aware of not just, because of course this is what a lot of people request when you’re shooting promo for this – Just make yourself look good!”  As Wessels searches for the direction of her explanation, she’s laughing as she remembers the moment when she posed for the photo-shoot and what situation was presented to her.  “We wanted to kind of really have the feeling of the album in the photo as well, and I think that the photo which is used for the cover; I have been told that I don’t look my friendliest on the cover.  I think I was very intense and I think it very much fits the topics and the themes and the atmosphere of the record, so I was really happy with that.”

“With the designers I basically conveyed that I wanted both this cosmic element in there to honor where the title comes from.  To have the contradiction visible and in this case we went for the contradiction between human and non-human nature, that’s why there’s tree branches on the right side of the cover.  I actually wanted to add technology as well, but it became too much.  If you would take it literally it would become too much of a sci-fi thing.”

When quizzed about the arrangements being more grandiose, Wessels responded “You know we kind of went in to the studio with the same goals that we usually have when we start to write which is just to have songs which are strong in the basis, the type of songs that really still stand up even if you just play them with the chords on piano or guitar and the vocal line.  But then of course we always aspire to have the fattest riffs and the heaviest sound.  I don’t know what it is exactly that made it turn out like this, this time more than other times.  I do think that it probably has something to do with the turn that we took for this album and the fact that we really didn’t worry so much about for example – when we had a song and there were a lot of prominent grunts in them, then I think maybe with previous albums we would have thought hmm, people don’t expect this from us anymore.  For this album we kind of thought if that’s what the song asks for then that is what we’re going to do!  So it’s kind of a conscious decision to let everything that happens unconsciously happen if you know what I mean?”

Wessels also added that with their We Are The Others release, they had a lot of input from different people due to a record label shuffle and the involvement of music industry related people wishing for certain directions and specific results.  On this latest studio outing, Delain found they were in a relatively quieter and isolated situation, where the core members could focus and feel some space in which to be creative.  Another element Wessels made reference to was how they didn’t look back so much and re-write any of the material as on previous creative sessions for earlier albums.

Delain Charlotte 003 GoodAcknowledging how hard Wessels must have been working these past few years including her studies and the creative energies, the recording and the touring too, Wessels explained “I died a little bit in December I must admit because the deadline for my thesis and the deadline for the record was the 7th and the 17th of January so the time leading up to that was like completely crazy!”  The lead vocalist continued,  “I do think that for this album the time pressure was the worst pressure we had.  This wasn’t so pleasant at times, but on the other hand I’m really happy that we kept sticking to the schedule that we had originally planned.”

It wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to ponder over whether Wessels might use her future studies to inspire and provide a muse for future recordings, as the formula this time around has worked so effectively.  “I still have a mile long reading list that I have made during my studies which I still haven’t finished, so I hope I will get some intellectual food from that.  But I have been thinking about this.  This has given me so much creatively, so what am I going to do now I’ve finished my studies?  Up until now I have been able to combine everything rather well, and I’ve been considering a PhD but I think that’s too much to do at the same time and too much to combine!  I really need this kind of food for thought and I really like the format of classical studies that people put together for you about a subject, like these are the sort of fundamental things you should read and to have the discussions about this.”

With the thoughts of books and reading material circling the creative and academic mind of Wessels, the conversation naturally reached its finale.  The band who hail from the Netherlands leave a remarkable musical legacy of top quality hard rocking music which borders on being symphonic and gothic in texture, but retains both melody and power in equal measures.  Delain like their music to be loaded with metal, mixing textures of aggression and angst with a feminine touch and a sincere observation of the world they witness around them.  Look out for these hard-working rockers as they tackle a touring schedule to promote The Human Contradiction in Europe and a second visit to the shores of the U.S.  They have a healthy outlook on society, tender and genuine warmth, and they also know how to rock!

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