DELAIN — Apocalypse & Chill (review)

DELAIN — Apocalypse & Chill album cover Album · 2020 · Symphonic Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
DippoMagoo
In a recent review, I commented on the importance of naming an album, and how some bands tend to be more creative with their album titles, while others tend to play it fairly safe. I’ve seen plenty of interesting album titles in recent years, as well as plenty of forgettable ones, but one that instantly raised my eyebrows upon seeing it is Apocalypse & Chill. Yep, that is indeed the title of Dutch symphonic metal band Delain’s sixth full-length release, and it sure is a strange one. Oddly enough, though, upon listening to the album, the name actually starts to make more sense, as it both gives an idea of what to expect from the lyrical concepts, as well as accurately describing the music pretty well.

I’ve long seen Delain as a band that consistently releases some very good albums, and I’d definitely consider them one of the more important symphonic metal bands in the world at this point, but I find their albums never quite reach the levels of some of my favorites in the genre. This continues with Apocalypse & Chill, though I do think it’s one of their most consistent releases to date, as well as by far their most interesting and unique.

Stylistically, Delain has always struck a nice balance between heaviness, light symphonic elements and beautiful vocals from Charlotte Wessels. Apocalypse & Chill takes all of these elements to the extreme, with almost every track alternating between some of their most aggressive guitar work to date, as well as having some of their catchiest, most melodic choruses and vocal sections, and while the symphonic elements still aren’t as grand as the likes of Nightwish or Epica, there are some pretty big arrangements on some tracks. For the majority of the album, the band alternates nicely between some pretty modern sounding, at times brutal guitar work, and some very nice keyboards, which are at times very flashy and modern, while at other times they’re more relaxing and atmospheric. While all musicians do a great job, it’s clear keyboardist Martijn Westerholt and vocalist Charlotte Wessels are the main focus of the album, with both delivering their absolute best performances to date. As usual, the production is fantastic, with all instruments sounding clear and powerful, and whenever orchestration is used, it’s mixed in perfectly with everything else.

While Delain has always had great musicianship and excellent vocals, I find their songwriting is generally solid, but not quite top tier. This continues somewhat with Apocalypse & Chill, though I do think this album is possibly their most consistent release yet, as while there’s only one track I’d consider a masterpiece, there are no weak tracks, and every song is great in its own way. The album opens with “One Second”, which is either the second or third single released depending on how you view things (I’ll explain in more detail later.) Either way, it’s a nice, fairly simple track, where the guitar work is heavy, but in a fairly subtle, understated way, with some very flashy keys being the main focus of the music, while Wessels is accompanied on vocals by guitarist Timo Somers, who delivers some very powerful slightly animated vocals during the chorus, where he excels. It’s a solid track on its own, and it gets the album off to a nice start.

Next is “We Had Everything”, a rather fun and upbeat track, which has some very nice, trance infused keys, which again drive the music, though the guitar work is a bit more prominent here, and it does get pretty heavy in between vocal sections. Wessels shines on this track, singing very lightly during the verses, utilizing her higher register, and then delivering some very soft and smooth vocals during the fun and catchy chorus. The instrumental work is nice throughout the track, with the guitar solo in the second half, in particular, being very melodic and epic at the same time. Things slow down slightly with “Chemical Redemption”, a track that again alternates nicely between some crushing riffs and rather light keys, with the verses, in particular, using the keys more for atmosphere and extra flavor, while the chorus is nice but a bit understated compared to most other tracks on the album. The highlight of the track is a very melodic, very beautiful guitar solo, which leads into some pretty epic orchestral arrangements.

The second (or first) single from the album is “Burning Bridges”, and to me, this stands as by far the best on the album, as it utilizes on aspects of the band’s sound perfectly, and I’d say it’s one of the band’s absolute best songs to date. It opens with more brutal guitar work, accompanied by some epic symphonic arrangements, which carry on throughout the track. The verses move by at a quick pace, with some rather light guitar work, powerful lead vocals, and more epic orchestral backing, and then the chorus comes and is absolutely fantastic and extremely epic, with some of the best vocals I’ve ever heard from Wessels. The real highlight, though, comes in after the second run through the chorus, where some very intense and powerful harsh vocals are used, for the first and only time on the album, and that’s followed by an epic instrumental section, where the orchestral elements are really pushed to the front. While I do think the track hints at elements that could have been used more throughout the album, I also think that only having them on this track helps it to stand out a lot more, and ultimately, it ends up feeling like the one track where everything just comes together perfectly.

After that stunner of a track, “Vengeance” is a bit more typical, though still pretty fun. It moves along a solid pace, with some rather light and melodic guitar work, as well as more symphonic arrangements. The catch to this track is that vocal duties are split between Wessels and Beast in Black vocalist Yannis Papadopoulos, who sounds as wild and energetic as always. The two work together well, which makes for a fun chorus, and while track overall isn’t spectacular, it is a lot of fun. Another standout is “To Live is to Die”, which utilizes some very futuristic sounding, industrial style keys, which serve as the main driving force, though the guitar work is also fairly heavy at points. It’s a pretty dark and atmospheric track, with Wessels again delivering some very powerful and emotional vocals. One track which really demonstrates the concept of the album well is “Let’s Dance”, with some rather grim lyrics being overlapped with repeated proclamations of “it’s a beautiful day”. While it does make for an interesting effect and is an interesting idea, I do find the repetition to be a bit much, and so the verses are rather irritating to sit through. The chorus is quite fun and catchy, though, the very heavy guitar work is quite good, so the track still ends up being solid, overall, if not one of my favorites.

More heavy guitar work follows on “Creatures”, which comes pretty close to sounding like later Evergrey during its intro, though it does soften up a bit during the verses, with some very dark sounding keys, and the track overall has a rather bleak feel to it, which is somewhat countered by beautiful vocals, and an excellent chorus. It’s yet another track where the whole “Apocalypse & Chill” idea fits in quite well. The one ballad of the album is “Ghost House Heart”, either the third or fourth single. It’s another very atmospheric track, which makes nice use of some soft piano work, and more orchestral arrangements. It’s a very nice track, with some great moments, but it never fully takes off, instead simply remaining a solid track throughout. The first track released from the album is “Masters of Destiny”. However, whether or not it’s actually the first single is debatable, as it was originally released as a single for the early 2019 EP Hunter’s Moon. Either way, it’s easily the most epic track on the album, with the orchestrations and choral vocals being pushed to the max, while the guitar work is fairly subtle and not the main focus. Instead, it serves as an excellent vocal showcase for Wessels, who delivers some of her most powerful vocals to date, especially during the spectacular chorus.

The last heavier track on the album is “Legions of the Lost”, another excellent track, which alternates nicely between heavy guitars, soft verses, a very melodic and beautiful chorus, and it mixes in some very nice keys and orchestral elements, at times. The last vocal track is “The Greatest Escape”, a softer track, which almost feels like a ballad during the verses, where Wessels is accompanied only by some light keys, though it does become slightly heavier and more upbeat during the chorus, which is quite beautiful. Closing out the album is a full-length instrumental track, “Combustion”, which is, in fact, the longest track on the album. It’s a very beautiful track, once again moving from some soft sections with some very nice keys and piano, as well as having some very heavy guitars, especially in the middle. It has plenty of memorable moments, and it certainly closes the album out quite effectively.

Despite the rather strange name, Apocalypse & Chill is another great album from Delain, which showcases all aspects of the band very well, alternating between some very heavy, modern guitar work, to some rather flashy, upbeat keys, some epic orchestrations, some very catchy choruses and vocal melodies, and some very beautiful sections. Fans of the band are sure to be pleased with the album, while any symphonic metal fans looking for a fun album with some great vocals would also be highly recommended to give this album a listen, as Delain has proven themselves to once again be a consistently great band.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2020/02/08/delain-apocalypse-chill-review/
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