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April Rain is the second album from Dutch band Delain who were formed by Martijn Westerholt in 2002 as a project involving many of his friends to guest star on the songs which culminated in the album Lucidity. Westerholt was originally the keyboardist from one of my favourite metal bands Within Temptation but had to leave when he was diagnosed with Pfeiffer's disease back in 2001. It was only due to the success of Lucidity that Westerholt decided to proceed as a live band and Delain solidified in 2005 with the final band formation of Charlotte Wessels (lead vocalist), Martijn Westerholt (keyboardist), Sander Zoer (drums), Otto Schimmelpenninck van der Oije (bassist) and at the time Ronald Landa (guitar and vocals).
Delain are best described as a symphonic metal band - they create an effortless blend of heavy guitar riffs with some wonderful classical melodies as well as classical vocals from Wessels in a very similar vein to such bands as Within Temptation, Nightwish, Leaves' Eyes or to a lesser extent Tristania. Whilst Wessels' vocals are possibly not quite in the same soprano league as the female singers from the aforementioned bands, which typically characterise this style of music, she does have a great range and an affecting quality to her voice which fits the style perfectly. Dual male/female vocals are also used sparingly by Delain, as is also commonplace with similar symphonic/Goth metal bands, to create some remarkable contrasts.
April Rain was released internationally in March 2009 but remained fairly under the radar performing well in The Netherlands reaching #1 in the Alternative charts and #14 in the Top 100 chart and also reaching #19 in Japan. Minor success was had in France, Switzerland and Germany ranging from #88 to #96 in their respective charts but the album certainly is yet to make global renown. At only 11 tracks (unless you get hold of a special Japanese version or go for the special MP3 edition to get a couple of live tracks) it is quite a short album track-wise, but is an okay length at 45:30secs so you certainly get your money's worth.
1. April Rain
A very up tempo and lively opening to the album. A piano kick starts the instantly noticeable heavy intro mixed with subtle haunting Goth rock undertones before levelling out with a slightly more restrained tune and the pure vocals from Wessels. There's a wonderful mix of instruments in this song switching from the piano to violin back to rocking guitars in a excitingly fluctuating song. The general flow and intriguing lyrics make the song very atmospheric:
"Every wind that you have sailed upon, a hurricane
Every summer you have seen was filled with April rain"
2. Stay Forever
In a complete reversal Stay Forever starts in a much more controlled fashion before building into a rip-roaring and emotive chorus. Wessels shows off great vocal range in this song which she uses very effectively to express the ever changing emotions throughout and even ventures into the realm of falsetto. Again there are some fantastic guitar riffs in this song contrasted with the much more melodic piano bridges to create a fairly electrifying atmosphere. The lyrics again are intriguing and leave a little to your own interpretation:
"I'll affiche your energy
Running through my veins
Chemical the love I feel"
A much more haunting start to this song with gothic undertones and a more acoustic sound to the guitars leads into the now familiar rocking guitar riffs which are starting to shape this album. Again there is an impressive balance between the heaviness of the guitars and the more symphonic sound which continues the beautiful style of this album. There is a touch more anger to this song accentuated by Wessels' range and strength of vocals and the power of the slightly obscure lyrics:
"I don't want to be like you
It seems like you outrun me every time
I wanted to be you
Why can't I erase you from my mind"
We are also briefly treated to the clean (as oppose to death metal) male vocals of Ronald Landa for the first time to add to the contrasts throughout this song in a very effective way. As catchy as the first two songs.
4. Control The Storm
Again we are hit with another very atmospheric song, as the title suggests one of a very tempestuous nature. There's no holds barred with this one as it does somewhat mimic a storm to a certain extent. It builds quickly with a piano intro joined by a heavy and classical melee followed by some light relief as it passes through the eye of the storm before kicking off in dramatic style with the growling vocals of guest vocalist Marco Hietala. This is easily the heaviest and most relentless tune off the album so far and is one of the more instantly noticeable off the album. Lyrically it is a bit more intense but just as enthralling as the other tracks:
"Fury in your fingertips
Does it grab you too?
Turning hands to angry fists
In rageful bliss"
5. On The Other Side
A very interesting change of style with this one as we are hit with the first ballad-like song off the album. With violins taking centre stage for the most part of the album it is a much calmer and more subtle song with a beautifully melancholy feel to it. Wessels is on top form vocally with this one with probably her most emotionally convincing offering so far. Once again the lyrics are interpretive and dreamlike which creates a wholly mysterious feel to it.
"A giant in the sky
A light flooded horizon
A silent peaceful cry"
6. Virtue And Vice
Obviously one ballad was enough as we are back to full kilter with another rich blend of the classical alongside heavy guitars. Ronald Landa is back with some backing vocals and for the first time we get some growling death metal vocals, which I feel would be out of place for this album but they are used to sparingly on this track that they don't really detract too much from the song or the album as a whole. There is an exceptional guitar sequence towards the latter part in this song to stop it all becoming too samey, but for me this is probably one of the more forgettable songs off the album as it does get a little repetitive. Still lyrically it is compelling as ever:
"I am a nightmare haunting you
I steal away your sleep
A poison running through your veins
A wound, that always bleeds"
7. Go Away
This is definitely a song of two halves. It starts off fairly consistently throughout the first three quarters whereby there are moments you think it's going to suddenly burst free but it tricks you and then unexpectedly in the final quarter it explodes in dramatic style (almost like something out of Phantom of the Opera) like a slap in the face with a wet kipper. Yes, I know my maths was slightly dubious there but ho hum. Once again there is a great classical / heavy guitar mix but I just felt that something was slightly missing with this song, as it seemed a bit slow to get going and the lyrics seemed more simplistic than usual:
Another show you play
Realize, it will not make your problems go away"
8. Start Swimming
In a similar vein to that of "On the Other Side" this one has distinct ballad like qualities with a gentle acoustic start and a subtle piano base. Much emphasis is placed on Wessels' vocals to carry the song which she pulls of successfully with another strong performance. This is definitely the slowest and most serene song off the album and the acoustic element certainly adds a bit of variety to an album which is dominated by electric guitars. There also seems to be less mystique to this song that some of the earlier tracks possessed with the lyrics being less captivating than usual:
"I'm waiting for another day
I'm waiting for the clock to reach the six and twelve
I'm waiting for a holiday"
Still overall a very pleasant song.....
....and back to normal again! A very heavy opening to this song after the tranquil pace of the previous song and Delain seem to be back on form again. With a beautiful classical melody interspersed with some rousing heavy guitar riffs and hints at some gothic undertones this song captures the spirit of the earlier songs. Wessels again displays lovely range with her voice and the complexity of the song compared to the last two offerings goes up a notch through both the construction musically and lyrically:
"It seems we have lost
Lay down your arrows
They won't cause flaming hearts"
10. I'll Reach You
This song is probably my favourite off the album. It is a song which goes through a gradual ascension in the verse sections into a haunting crescendo for the chorus. This is possibly the most emotional performance from Wessels and her vocals combined with a beautiful melody and some excellently contrasting guitars to the soothing piano arrangement creates a genuinely moving song. This is also probably the most tragic song off the album which is accentuated by the lyrics:
"Here's to you if you care to listen
Here's to you, let me cross the distance
Even if you're not here
I'll reach you, I'll reach you"
11. Nothing Left
An excellent finish to the album that sums it all up nicely. It follows the similar pattern of most of the songs by having slow building verses leading into a dramatic chorus. Once again we are treated to the male/female dual vocals with Marco Hietala which again creates a wonderful contrast. This song characterises what the album is about with the evocative classical elements versus the epic guitars and is simply just a brilliant gothic rock tune. Lyrically speaking it is also a pretty decent effort with some evocative imagery:
"Nothing left, the magic is gone
Pallor face in morning light
Someone, close the curtains
Oh, how it hurts your eyes"
April Rain is certainly a very enjoyable album which any Goth rock/metal will be able to appreciate. There are a couple of forgettable tracks off the album but overall it is a very consistent album full of catchy and energetic tunes. Direct comparisons with other European bands such as Within Temptation and Nightwish are inevitable and I'd say that this album holds its own against these giants, but perhaps lacks the intensity and mystical side that these two radiate. Still, with some beautiful classical melodies contrasted with heavy guitars, the sweet and pure vocals from Wessels occasionally juxtaposed with growling male vocals and some compelling and often evocative lyrics this is a really high class album.
Recommended for all gothic rock/metal fans.
April Rain is the second album from Dutch symphonic metallers Delain. It is different from the first album in that it features far fewer guest musicians, though I was pleased to not that Marco Hietala (Nightwish) came back to work with them for their second album.
The album opens up with the eponymous track April Rain, which starts as a sweet piano piece. The song is slightly more synth based than any of the songs on the previous album but still retains that atmospheric symphonic quality. The riffs are effective, and Charlotte Wessel's voice is still good, though she sounds a little more like a pop singer on this track. Overall this track is a little more pop than previous work, but still retains a metal core.
Stay Forever is track number two, and continues the synth based, pop vibe of the first track. Again, despite this, the riffs are solid and very metal. I particularly enjoy the lyrics on this track. This is a less atmospheric song, but still very effective, and I think, shows some of the growth the band went through s a result of performing live.
Track number three is called Invidia, and opens up as a 'classic' atmospheric and moody Delain song. It goes into almost acoustic sounding guitars and a tiny dance section before the main riff kicks in. As with nearly all Delain songs, they operate a on a loud for intro and chorus and quite for verse policy. It may be an often done trick, but Delain do it really well. This song features male vocals as well, by guitarist Ronald Landa, and they are good.
The fourth song is Control the Storm and features Marco Hietela; now I may just be biased because of my love for Nightwish, but I think this is the best song on the album. Something about Marco Hietela's voice works with Delain like he's a part of the band. It opens as another piano piece, and the atmosphere is there again. There's a heavy riff overlaid with choral vocals, and then Wessel's voice starts. Her voice is good, the lyrics great, and then there's the chorus. Marco sing's the chorus with Wessel in the background, and again, for me it is perfect.
On the Other Side kicks straight in with the vocals and a cello backing track. This is a much softer track than the previous ones. There's no chugging riff, everything is toned down, but this song is no less effective than the more metal tracks on the album.
Track six Virtue and Vice is another synth-pop effort with a metal undercurrent. The vocals seem slightly distorted in this, but the sound suits Wessel's voice. There is a particularly nice riff in the bridge of this song. This track does feature growling vocals from Ronald Landa, which I'm not fond of, but it doesn't spoil the rest of the track, which is a good thing, because this is a good song.
Go Away is the seventh song on the album and is quite a big, pompous symphonic affair right from the start. It's quite fast paced and very catchy. Everyone is on top form for this song, and here you really get to see what Delain can do.
The eighth song on the album is Start Swimming, which starts out as almost and acoustic number. They keyboards are there too in the intro, and it's a really good sound for Delain. Even when the drums kick in, this is a much more restrained song, and it's really good. Some metal bands struggle to pull off the quieter, softer songs, but Delain manage this and still retain their own sound.
Lost is another big symphonic metal song. Delain seem to have a habit of gearing up for big finishes. The guitars soar in this song, and it's a real toe tapper. There are distorted vocals on this song again, and it doe work well. My only complaint about this song is I'm sure that the chugging riff has been used somewhere else on the album. Apart from that, the guitars are awesome.
Track number ten is called I'll Reach You and sounds a little bit different from the outset. The guitars are less chuggy here, and the keyboards seem to take over on the verse. It works really well, and pretty poppy little song with sweet lyrics. Also the guitars are let loose a little.
Nothing Left is a very symphonic song, and Charlotte Wessel really shows of her vocal range here, the first time she does so on this album. This sing also features Marco Hietela, on his second appearance on the album. I think that after Control the Storm this is my second favourite song on the album (closely followed by Start Swimming).
The final two songs on my album are live versions of The Gathering and Silhouette of a Dancer from the Lucidity album. Live Delain really come into their own and prove that they are a band in their own right, and are not just relying on their guest musicians to hold them up. That said, The Gathering does lose something for not having Hietela's vocals, though the other band members make an admirable effort. Silhouette of a Dancer live is a very good representation of the album version.
Overall this is a very good album. Delain are a band with a lot of potential, and I don't yet think they've reached their peak. It will be interesting when they do, because then they may well be an international contender for Marco Hietela's day job Nightwish's crown.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 April Rain
2 Stay Forever
4 Control the Storm
5 On the Other Side
6 Virtue and Vice
7 Go Away
8 Start Swimming
10 I'll Reach You
11 Nothing Left
12 Come Closer [*]