Delain – Lucidity
01/09/2006 § Leave a comment
Far be it from me to think badly of Roadrunner, a label that have put out a myriad of good albums over the years and gave us all the informative filth and expletive-fest that is Blabbermouth. Yes folks, many times every day Blabbermouth will be sure to deliver you not only the latest in the world of hard rock and metal but will also bring you up to date with the latest profanities, swear words, and exceptionally offensive phrases ensuring that you know the very best way to ridicule your fellow man even though you have absolutely no idea who you’re talking to. It will also tell you the best concerts to avoid unless you want to get beaten, shot or pulverised by a bunch of overenthusiastic nu-metal fans. So it’s something of a relief that Roadrunner can sign calm and ungritty artists, reminding us that the metal universe can be a nice place from time to time. Still, I’m a little confused as to the reasons that Delain found themselves on this label since Roadrunner are not normally known for signing bands with female singers. It seems there was a bit of incest going on somewhere but then anybody who’s anybody has got somewhere in the music business by getting through a back door.
Whatever the reasons behind it, and whatever the reasons for the four-month delay in Lucidity being released, finally I managed to hear the album after a wait that was at times a little frustrating. The samples on the Delain site this time last year taunted a lot of us with promises of an album’s-worth of fantastic female-fronted Gothic rock and metal, and I was starting to think the triad that dominate the top of the femme metal pyramid were about to become a foursome, and it’s not hard to see why when you realise that Martijn Westerholt, the ex-keyboardist from Within Temptation, decided to make this his main project a few years ago.
If there’s one thing that Lucidity oozes, it’s professionalism. This is no debut album recorded in the dingy confines of someone’s basement on phonographic cylinder and mixed with the finesse of Keith Floyd after one and a half bottles of sherry, but classy and full sound production that you would expect from bands at the top of the ladder. The guitars are full, the vocals are rich and the whole thing is as beautifully put together as a male beach volleyball team chosen by Julian Clary. And this is part of the problem, really. One of the things that was primarily noticeable to me was that Lucidity is so perfect and Brylcreemed as an album, that the genuineness and authenticity seem to have been totally removed from the music. There is no heart, no core to many of the songs, and I get the impression that a lot of them have been toyed with over a few years to the point where they’ve lost their original essences.
Charlotte Wessels, the vocalist who carries most of the songs and who is no doubt set to be a star, has a most beautiful voice. Her sound is clear, warm and vivid over the thickness of the music and it’s almost as if she’s been singing on albums at this level of professionalism for years rather than someone who’s come more or less out of the blue. The songs that she’s given to sing, however, are not always the most interesting of offerings though there are two – possibly three – which are stunners. Frozen, Pristine and Daylight Lucidity are by far the best of the bunch and are some of the most instantly satisfying treats to come to this side of the genre for a very long time.
Shamefully though, the good points don’t go much further. Delain’s music is very much in the vein of Within Temptation – almost identical at times – so it’s not surprising to see Sharon Del Adel making a guest appearance on one of the songs. However, the guest appearances don’t stop there. Not only Sharon makes a contribution, but also Liv Kristine from Leaves’ Eyes, George Oosterman from Orphanage and Marco Hietala from Nightwish/Tarot who is on a ridiculous number of tracks on the album. If there were just one or two appearances that would be fine, but with so many of them the band seems to have tuned Lucidity into some kind of Gothic rock party for the sole purpose of money-spinning, since the inclusion of these voices does very little for the music. Delain ends up feeling very much like a project rather than a band, and this isn’t helped by the fact that Marco’s vocals, as much as I like them in Nightwish, clearly just don’t fit in here. His voice is too powerful for the drony simpering splodginess of this kind of music and he’s way under his league. Liv Kritisine, for her part, adds very little to the album as well, and See Me In Shadow, one of her two offered tracks, turns into quite a boring, drawn-out squeak of a song which offers little to the experienced or casual listener.
It’s very easy to be cynical about albums in general – sometimes far more than it is to be positive – but Delain did set themselves up for something of a fall here. I was really under the impression that this was going to be a special and quenching piece of work but instead Lucidity is little more than a piecemeal mishmash of musical offerings, pasting in talents from all over the genre and throwing them into one Gothicy melting pot. It’s very much a case of overseasoning and things aren’t helped by the standard, unimaginative chord progressions that don’t give the singers very much to work with or elaborate on, the upshot being a deluge of tracks which are as fulfilling as watered-down Sunny Delight – sweet for a split second, but ultimately insipid and plain. The younger Gothic demographic will hoover this up like heartagram patches but the rest of us will be left feeling undernourished and unsatisfied. In spite of two or three very good songs, Lucidity is not quite the success and saviour some of us had hoped for, and eight more tracks of guest-fuelled junk do little to save this disk from being stuck on the shelf and forgotten.