Delain
"April Rain"

(Sensory Records 2009)Delain - April Rain

The cover of this album tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the music contained within; there might as well just be a stamp saying Symphonic Gothic Metal in lieu of a picture. Someone (probably at the record label) knows where their bread is buttered, and put vocalist Charlotte Wessels front and center, relegating the rest of the band to darkened shadow figures striking rockin' poses. Funny, that in this case, the most obscured person on the cover is the keyboardist. Delain is the brainstorm of ex-Within Temptation key-slinger Martijn Westerholt, who jumped that ship to start an act that bares more than a passing resemblance to his old crew.

Comparisons to the legions of like-minded bands are unfortunately inescapable, and Delain do little to separate themselves from the hordes of female-fronted metal acts. They lack the full orchestration or bombast of bands like Nightwish, and they don't have the sharper edge of an In This Moment. Delain falls somewhere in between, turning in glossy, competent, yet unremarkable slices of slick emotional outpourings. "April Rain" is fairly predictable throughout, unfailingly alternating between galloping arena-made anthems and moody down-tempo tearjerkers. The album's high point is clearly "Go Away;" it's no coincidence that the darkest and heaviest track is also the most memorable. Too bad it's followed by the boring, insipid ballad "Start Swimming," the latter half of which sounds curiously similar to Iron Maiden's "Blood Brothers."

Delain's strongest asset is undoubtedly Wessels. The proud owner of an outstanding set of pipes, her voice has a lovely soaring quality that's also powerful enough to keep up with the band's metal rumblings. Her performance alone pushes "April Rain" through the barrier of complete mediocrity. It's too bad she isn't given much to sing over; her band is running in background music mode, content to let the vocal lines completely carry the day. And a few of the tracks are marred by the intrusion of some very uncomfortably male vocals. Guys, your singer's really good, just let her handle her shit, okay?

If you're into girly metal (and that's by no means an insult, girly metal done well can be just as good as brodude metal), "April Rain"'s bound to have some morsels that'll stick to your ribs. But if you're new to the realm of metal with less sweat and more X chromosomes, you're probably better off starting elsewhere.

B

buy it!