Let the epic battle begin, first shots have been fired.
2020 finds us with three Symphonic Metal masters lined up like ducks in a row. First will be Delain with Apocalypse & Chill. Then, Diabulus in Musica threatened to come online a bit later. And – last, but not least – Nightwish will be playing the rearguard in April.
How neat of them all to get into creative gear at that very same moment. And the RMR deck crew really can’t wait to find out who on earth will win this contest.
RockmusicRaider covered Delain and their impressive career extensively already. Albeit that the reviews were not even all that positive over time. Apart from Lucidity and April Rain, that is. So, there’s that perceived need for urgent improvements and repairs. That urge for oomph and spice. This power that we need to feel, lest their tune disappear in Loki’s mainstream hell forever.
But will Apocalypse & Chill deliver that kind of goods? Or will Delain continue to sail into the apocalyptic yonder on an even keel without any creak in the woodwork whatsoever?
Let’s find out.
Once Hunter’s Moon – that dreaded commercial – released in 2019, the workable pieces really pleased us. There was renewed oomph in their tune, a spring in their step, a spirit of new beginnings and hints of new exciting tunes to hit our turntables. And that proverbial freshness we missed so badly over the last releases was back, too. With a pretty cool, grinding groove to boot. One that definitely wasn’t there before.
Yet and to our stark dismay, Apocalypse & Chill pretty much continues where Moonbathers left the building. True, the band will treat ye to the usual stellar musicianship that we all grew used to. All fine-tuned to a point and cooked to perfection. Perhaps apart from the drum work that stretched my patience with its endless bass/snare treatment and boring drum patterns. And no, meatiness is not obtained by hitting the drums ever harder.
Sure, Charlotte Wessel‘s comfortable crooning throughout the record is enjoyable. And she delivers that with the usual gusts of energy and pretty boundless talent. A bit like mama bear delivering a metal lullaby to the fans. And tracks like Vengeance will even get you a metal scream of a watery Winkler kind here and there. Even if Yannis Papadopoulos (Beast in Black) ultimately saves that particular tune.
In other words, Delain kept to the middle of the road, where travel is safe and the waters calm. Can’t risk that experimentation thing, right? No naughty brutalities, metallic grinds, and excursions into swampy territories unknown.
And that’s unfortunate.
Yet, Apocalypse & Chill does deliver pretty solid Melodic Metal with a hefty dose of Power Metal. Whilst their excursions into their alma mater – Symphonic Metal – became less stringent, but clearly remain in the DNA of this band.
And true enough, often their tune sounds like some crazily tilted mix of Avantasia meets Kiske with a little hint of Kamelot. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Delain would probably benefit from a speedier and more powerful delivery. One that would force some of those home-grown automatisms out the window.
Then there’s the thing with the tracklist. Master of Destiny reappears on Apocalypse & Chill. Don’t get me wrong, I love the song. But I already loved it on Hunter’s Moon. So, been there, done it, got the t-shirt. As to this record, it is just filler material. Together with one or two others, like the slightly nauseous Combustion. I can’t fathom why they didn’t whip this list into a much leaner shape. A shorter, yet crisper and – I daresay – more brutal selection of offerings would have been so much better.
The speedy start of One Second gave me hope with its airs of early Within Temptation. Especially with Timo Somers on a row, providing pretty cool backing vocals. Also, we enjoyed that meatiness appearing by about mid-point. And whilst We had Everything sounds like something Nightwish might have committed, Burning Bridges blows things out of the water. This one truly is the filet piece of Apocalypse & Chill. With Ms. Wessels’ vocal powers at their mightiest and a song structure that finally renders things more interesting.
Legions Of The Lost follows closely on the latter’s heels, even if parts of that track eerily sound like some early Epica at times. Just listen to the choir and background structure. Same as Burning Bridges, this track packs a certain epic brutality that ain’t very prevalent on other tracks.
It’s also no wonder that Ghost House Heart made it onto a clip. Good Power Metal records always carry a ballad or two, right? And this one beats anything in that department from Delain. It’s an artfully done piece, and – no doubt – Wessels can’t wait to perform that one live.
Music for the masses. That is how Apocalypse & Chill comes across. One of these balancing acts, where a band and the powers that be will try to reach countless potential fans to buy their wares. Without killing too much of the metal in the process, if they can help it. The outcome – though – is that anything else out of that metallic neck of the woods will sound similar and pretty sanitized. If not outright identical.
That said, Delain nonetheless injected a fair amount of rumbling power into their new record. A somewhat meatier approach than their last studio album. With fat beats that sometimes just about avoid that terrible trespass onto the territory where the pop god reigns supreme. Only, that heavier material is not the guiding beacon to metal nirvana but often appears as some sort of afterthought at strategic locations.
Yet, I still consider Apocalypse & Chill to be one of the better records Delain made so far. Even if – to my chagrin – the new-found, bouncy energy of its tiny predecessor almost entirely disappeared, swallowed by the mainstream it now so comfortably depicts.
Let’s just hope that what comes next will have a new spring in its step.