(Napalm Records)

     Within the oft-tumultuous realm best known as the Symphonic Metal sub-genre, few groups have been as consistently and inexplicably underrated as Zwolle, Netherlands-based iconoclasts Delain. Formed in 2002 by former Within Temptation keyboardist Martijn Westerholt and Classically/Jazz-trained frontwoman Charlotte Wessels (ex-To Elysium, the Phantasma project), the group burst onto the scene in 2006 with their full-length debut Lucidity. Named after the Kingdom Of Delain from the Stephen King novel The Eyes Of The Dragon (1984), the group hit their proverbial stride with the release of the Jacob Hellner Produced We Are The Others (2012) and The Human Contradiction (2014). Quickly finding themselves justifiably at the forefront of a 'later-day' Gothic and Symphonic Metal revival, the rest, as they say, is history as the group now flexes their more-than-considerable creative muscles with the release of Moonbathers (2009), their most ambitious efforts to date.

     On the brilliant Moonbathers (2016), an expertly assembled eleven song collection of Symphonic Heavy Metal, each track, beginning with the Alissa White-Gluz-fueled (Arch Enemy) tirade “Hands Of Gold” and the curiously-titled--albeit highly-effective--'verse' “Chrysalis: The Last Breath”, instantly commands the rapt and undivided attention of even the most jaded and unimaginative of listeners, myself most definitely included. Wisely attempting to re-capture the fist-pumping and mosh-inducing intensities that personified the previously mentioned We Are The Others (2012) and The Human Contradiction (2014), the group fires on all cylinders early an often without resorting to the shameless, payola and chart position-driven tactics so often employed by their few acknowledged contemporaries. The ensuing sonic barrages, while not necessarily groundbreaking and certainly not revolutionary, yields material entirely worthy of the highest of critical and commercial distinctions.

     Continuing with the delightfully-overwrought, shred-laden “Pendulum” and the multi-dimensional “Danse Macabre”, the impossibly airtight combination of vocalist Charlotte Wessels, guitarists Timo Somers and Merel Bechtold (Mayan, Purest Of Pain, The Gentle Storm), keyboardist and primary songwriter Martijn Westerholt, bassist Otto Schimmelpenninck Van Der Oije and drummer Ruben Israel (replacing ex-Antares/Han Uil/Spool skinsman Sander Zoer) steamrolls ahead at what can only be described as a carefully-calculated pace. Deftly avoiding the stereotypical clichés of the genre in favor of stark originalities, the group holds the listener captive amid an ever-evolving 'soundscapes'. Wasting little--if any--time driving home each key focal point without overwhelming the proverbial average listener (i.e. you, the increasingly faithful reader), the group effortlessly delivers an unnervingly airtight barrage of multi-octave vocals, blistering fretwork and truly punishing rhythms.

     Mastered by acclaimed Ted Jensen (Bring Me The Horizon, Evanescence, Styx), other standouts, including the maddeningly infectious lamentation “Turn The Lights Out” and the soaring, equally impressive closer “The Monarch, offer a wealth of compelling further sonic evidence in support of the group's reputation as a creative force not to be ignored. Fortified throughout by a bonus disc featuring live renditions of “Suckerpunch”, “Turn The Lights Out”, “The Glory And The Scum” and “Don't Let Go” recorded live in the Netherlands, the group ultimately succeeds by pandering to their target demographic. An absolute must-have for anyone with a genuine and sincere appreciation for all things Symphonic Metal and Symphonic Metal-related, even if you somehow find yourself less than enthralled with the group's unabashedly bombastic compositional approach, one must, at the very least, sincerely admire their ceaseless, overzealous dedication to further honing their razor-sharp chops.

     So what, exactly, are you waiting for? Undeniably one of the improbably long-running group's most easily-accessible efforts to date (surpassing both The Human Contradiction and We Are The Others), the majority--if not all--of the delightfully overwrought wares contained herein are seemingly guaranteed to appeal to both die-hard completists and clueless newcomers alike. Now seemingly poised for a significant mainstream crossover or perhaps even a genuine multi-Platinum breakthrough, the end result(s) of the group's efforts are once again nothing short of extraordinary, making the mighty Moonbathers one of the finest new Metal releases of 2016. Needless to say, if you've once again found yourself in search of a refreshingly intricate reprieve from the veritable wealth of puréed, Pop and Hip-Hop-fueled frivolities that are so often force fed en mass, then this, my friends, might just be the high-octane remedy for what it is that ails you. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.

Select Discography

Moonbathers (2016)

Lunar Prelude (EP) (2016)

The Human Contradiction (2014)

Interlude (EP) (2013)

We Are The Others (2012)

April Rain (2009)

Lucidity (2006)

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