DELAIN — The Human Contradiction (review)

DELAIN — The Human Contradiction album cover Album · 2014 · Symphonic Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
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The Human Contradiction (2014) is the fourth full-length album by Dutch symphonic metal act Delain. Like with the first two Delain releases The Human Contradiction features guest vocals from Nightwish/Tarot vocalist Marco Hietala, as well as former The Agonist and current Arch Enemy vocalist Alissa White-Gluz, former Orphanage growler George Oosthoek and finally Oliver Philipps of the progressive rock/metal act Everon. The latter also provided some additional guitars for the album as did regular Delain collaborator Guus Eikens (also formerly of Orphanage) while some additional drums have been performed by Within Temptation's Mike Coolen and fill-in live drummer Ruben Israël.

I think that we all have bands that, despite belonging to a genre we really enjoy, we just don't like, for whatever reason. For me the genre is symphonic metal and the band is Delain. Despite what I've heard from them being comparable to Within Temptation up to a point, and Within Temptation being one of the best symphonic metal acts in my opinion, I haven't really been able to enjoy the Delain past releases that I've tried. I don't hate them by any means but I have found them boring. Because of this I very nearly overlooked The Human Contradiction, despite receiving a promo invite for it. After all us reviewers get a lot of promo releases, more than we can humanly review so why dedicate the time to something you're sure you're not going to enjoy? Well the clincher was that a friend of mine happened to see the band live supporting Within Temptation and was very impressed by them. The promo copy was sitting there and as The Human Contradiction isn't an overlong album at 42 minutes I figured I really didn't have anything to lose by giving Delain a clean slate and another go.

Well I was certainly in for a pleasant surprise. The Human Contradiction is easily the best Delain release I've tried yet. Stylistically the band differs from the normal symphonic metal approach in that they have a bit more modern alternative metal influence to their guitar riffs. Symphonic metal releases that don't have at least a few elements of something else are actually rare, but compared to the usual suspects of power metal or gothic metal elements Delain does stand out on The Human Contradiction as having that little something different. It isn't exactly major; although less overtly poppy my earlier comparison to Within Temptation is still more or less valid. It's easy to tell the work of the two band's apart though, we're not talking a clone act here. Singer Charlotte Wessels in particular has a very different vocal tone to Within Temptation's Sharon den Adel and a non-operatic way of singing that adds to the album's alternative metal vibes and further sets the release apart from the more numerous operatic voiced acts.

Although it is a major step in the right direction, with tracks such as Here Come the Vultures, My Masquerade, Army of Dolls and The Tragedy of the Commons standing out the most I still must say that I feel Delain are on the lower end of all the symphonic metal acts whose music I've listened to, but they are now at least an act I can say I've finally managed to enjoy. The Human Contradiction is light years ahead of everything else I've heard from Delain up until this point. My major issue with it really is that their symphonic elements aren't always as grand as they could be, although there certainly are some good examples of them as in Sing to Me. I'm otherwise impressed with the songs on the album, especially with the way there are different moods on offer ranging from the catchy to the extreme metal influenced and it's left me really keen to hear how the band might expand on the sound of the album in the future.
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