When the news broke in February 2021 that every member of Delain had quit, bar keyboardist Martijn Westerholt, many fans thought the symphonic metallers were finished. The split came out of the blue; only a year before, the band had released their horribly named, but musically impressive sixth album, Apocalypse & Chill, which had propelled them to another level. And while Martijn vowed to continue as a solo project, many wondered whether the Delain name could survive, not least given the departure of Charlotte Wessels, who had been their voice and face for 16 years.
They needn’t have worried; Dark Waters sees Delain rebuilt from the ashes. Last August, Martijn announced the return of original guitarist Ronald Landa and original drummer Sander Zoer, and unveiled Ludovico Cioffi and Diana Leah as his new bassist and singer respectively, ensuring they’d march forward with both familiarity and freshness.
This feels like a band reborn: grandiose and fizzing with bright energy. Lead single The Quest And The Curse sets the bar high, with Diana, whose pure and powerful vocals pose more than a passing resemblance to Charlotte’s, leading a bejewelled chorus twinkling among dramatic orchestration and barks from Ronald Landa. On the atmospheric Mirror Of Night and Tainted Hearts, symphonic and power metal influences are tempered by sparkling pop sensibilities that drive the band’s new incarnation home. Moth To A Flame is deliciously cheesy, borrowing retro riffs from the Battle Beast playbook, but it’s the choir-led drama of Invictus, which features ex-Nightwish bassist Marko Hietala’s distinctive yowl, that leads things to a thrilling, overblown apex.
Delain have often found themselves overlooked in favour of their more bombastic peers, but Dark Waters sees them stand defiantly alone. Quite the comeback.