Caught Live: Delain, Patronaat Haarlem NL, 12th October 2018

‘Oh, mijn haartje’.

Towards the end of this show, a specially-arranged date intended to preview material from an upcoming EP, Delain singer Charlotte Wessels has to stop to take in tumultuous, and relentless, cheering from the sold-out Patronaat crowd. Addressing her home crowd (mostly) in her native language, this exclamation (‘oh, my little heart’) came after the reception actually moved her to tears briefly.

The show did indeed unveil two new songs, but was based still on last album ‘Moonbathers’. There was no support act, so it was a long wait for the die-hard Delainers who’d been queuing outside the venue, some since mid-afternoon. The doors eventually opened at 8pm and I managed to get a spot just off the front, which meant looking upward on this rather high stage.  When they came on stage, the whole band were wearing something red. What this signifies is unknown to me yet, but from a red dress for the singer, to a natty red suit for keyboardist Martijn Westerholt, the theme was clear. Guitarists Timo Somers and Merel Bechtold both had red jackets on, bassist Otto Schimmelpenninck van der Oije wore a red T-shirt, while new drummer Joey de Boer was wearing a red tie to offset his mainly black attire.  Although the set was mainly focused on the last album, they opted to start with ‘Go Away’, off the ‘April Rain’ album (one I hope they celebrate next year, as it will be a decade old by then). The first of the new tracks, ‘Masters of Destiny’ followed; the main thing which I picked up on here was how Wessels really pushed her upper range in this number. Her voice is far stronger now than it was even a few years ago, so I look forward to hearing the recorded version of this song.

(These photos were taken only on a phone camera, apologies for them not being very good!)

The band always give you 100 per cent whenever they step on a stage and this was no exception; plenty of synchronised head-swishing, band members frequently swapping places and some fine vocal backing from Timo Somers. In fact, for the other new number (‘Hunters Moon’, delivered late in the set) it was he who started the vocals with a raucous scream. A different approach I guess, and again one I need to hear the officially recorded version of to make proper judgement. My only slight reservation was that despite these two new numbers, the set itself wasn’t that far removed from the one I saw them play on the last full tour, albeit with the song order shuffled about. With it being a special show I would have liked a few deeper cuts, numbers they don’t play that often, as they’ve done at previous Patronaat gigs. One thing I did like – they’ve made room in the set for a ‘Timo and Joey spot’; this gives Somers the chance to show his not-inconsiderable guitar ‘chops’ and also showcases de Boer, who has just been elevated to a full band member after spending several months touring with the band in place of previous sticksman Ruben Israel. Anyone who follows Timo Somers’ own Facebook page will know just what a potent axeman he is, in my view he’s in the class of Doug Aldrich or dare I say Gary Moore – he has the tone, the nimble fingers, and the fire. However the regular Delain material doesn’t tend to allow for guitar pyrotechnics, and it’s good to see him show a little of what he can really do.

They did have their usual guest appearances for this show; up popped George Oosthoek to deliver his grunt vocals where required on songs such as ‘Hands of Gold’ or ‘Pristine’ (his headband made me think of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle; I do hope he is not reading this!) and also returning was cellist Elianne Anemaat for the gentler ‘Scarlet’ as well as ‘Danse Macabre’.  For ‘The Gathering’ they not only used the streamer cannons but also a bubble machine – I couldn’t help but think of Ozzy here and his complaint of ‘what’s so evil about bubbles?’ 😀

It was a very good gig as I expect from this band, the only reason I haven’t gone for all five inflatable guitars was that for me it did feel a little too familiar, there were many songs still in the set that appear on the Paradiso DVD which came out last year.  When they come around again next year (I assume there will be a run of UK dates in 2019, Martijn/Charlotte!) hopefully the set will be markedly different.

 

4 – Deserving

 

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2018 – bad start (goodbye Fast Eddie, Chris Tsangarides, Dolores O’Riordan)

2018 has barely got going and we’ve already lost some music greats. Last week the news broke that producer Chris Tsangarides had passed away aged 61, following a bout of pneumonia. Major names in the rock and metal fields including Thin Lizzy/Gary Moore, Anvil, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Y&T and Bruce Dickinson had all worked with him as producer, illustrating his standing in the genre. He also produced records for artists in other styles, including Japan, Joan Armatrading, Tom Jones and Depeche Mode, having had a long career in the industry.

That was soon followed by the even more saddening news that ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke, the last of the classic Motörhead line-up still standing, had died at the age of 67, also while being treated for pneumonia. He joined Motörhead in 1976, having been recruited by founder Lemmy to play alongside then-incumbent guitarist Larry Wallis. However Wallis quit soon after, which left the trio of Lemmy, Fast Eddie and drummer Phil ‘Philthy Animal’ Taylor. The band’s hard and aggressive sound gained favour with both the punk and Metal crowds, while Lemmy would always insist that they played nothing more than ‘rock and roll’, they were nevertheless firmly pigeonholed as a Metal band, furthermore they were cited as influences by many Metal bands which came along after.  This was the line-up which made iconic albums such as ‘Overkill’, ‘Bomber’ and of course the album for which Motörhead will always be remembered, ‘Ace Of Spades’. At the start of the 1980s Motörhead were at their height, as their live album ‘No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith’ topped the UK album charts and they scored numerous hit singles.

It all started to go wrong in 1982, firstly over the production of the ‘Iron Fist’ album (Clarke had, reluctantly, stepped in as producer) which the band were dissatisfied with, then the final straw came when Lemmy opted to record with Wendy O. Williams and her band The Plasmatics, on a cover of Tammy Wynette’s ‘Stand By Your Man’. Disagreeing with the decision, Eddie quit the band while they were on a US tour. His time with Motörhead had changed him from a moderate drinker into a hardened boozer and, having taken a break to recuperate, reappeared in 1983 with a new band, Fastway. This band was intended to feature former UFO bassist Pete Way (hence the name), but contractual obligations meant he could not take part. Their self-titled debut album was a success Stateside, and they released a follow-up (‘All Fired Up’, 1984) before the line-up splintered. He reappeared with a short-lived new Fastway line-up in 1986, most notably contributing the title track for the ‘Trick Or Treat’ film soundtrack album.  Despite landing a tour supporting AC/DC in the US, the band were unable to capitalise on earlier success.

He continued to record material, with a solo album (‘It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over’) featuring a guest appearance from Lemmy appearing in 1994. Fast Eddie made occasional guest appearances of his own at selected Motörhead shows, the last of which came in 2014 at Birmingham. He was planning a return to the studio and a possible collaboration with Toby Jepson (Little Angels/Wayward Sons) when he took ill. Fast Eddie will always be associated with Motörhead, although he spent only six years with the band and made much more material after leaving the band, it is that manic period from which numerous iconic albums came, that will be his legacy.

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As I was putting this post together news broke of the passing of Cranberries lead singer Dolores O’Riordan, aged just 46. The Irish band weren’t one I was a massive fan of, but that was still a shock, being so unexpected. She was in London to record new material, and there has been a stunned reaction to her passing. Best known for 1990s hits such as ‘Linger’ and ‘Zombie’, however to close this post I’ll link to their rendition of  ‘Cordell’. Written as a tribute to producer Denny Cordell (who signed the band), its lyric takes on added poignancy now. The song was covered by Delain some years later, and their singer Charlotte Wessels has posted her own tribute to Dolores O’Riordan, naming her as a primary influence.

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DVD: Delain ‘A Decade of Delain – Live At Paradiso’ (Napalm)

It’s taken me a while to get around to this – Delain’s first long-form live video. I’ve described it as a ‘DVD’ in the title, in actual fact this package includes the concert, filmed at Paradiso in Amsterdam on 10th December 2016 (a show I attended) issued on both DVD *and* Blu-Ray discs, as well as audio of the complete set on two separate CDs. They have also featured a short documentary showing the workings of the group behind-the-scenes on their ‘Moonbathers’ tour of 2016, and vox pop interviews with selected fans.  That’s the regular edition; if you look on Delain’s own site there is a limited edition ‘deluxe’ set including all of the above, plus a ‘cover flag’, a laminated ‘pass’ with lanyard and six photo cards. That’d be for the diehard collectors; speaking as someone with plenty of ‘stuff’ already, the standard edition was fine by me. After all you are getting quite a bit for your money anyway.

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All that aside, what’s this filmed concert like? I saw it in full on the big screen in October when Delain arranged a special screening at a small cinema in Utrecht on the day of their concert at TivoliVredenburg. However I wanted to get my own copy before posting a blog on it, so after giving the DVD a spin (I still haven’t joined the Blu-Ray revolution, nineties kid that I am!) here are my thoughts:

The first thing you’ll notice is that they used a lot of camera angles – I do remember a camera on a boom arm flying over my spot on the night, and they used a lot more than just that camera to film this show. There are frequent cuts, sometimes showing singer Charlotte Wessels from one angle for a moment, then a different one two seconds later. They also cut frequently to the other band members, it isn’t the ‘Charlotte show’ by any means. The effect is to give the production a sense of ‘urgency’, if not quite like being there on the front row they’ve aimed to give the home viewer the next best thing. It reminds me a little of how the Whitesnake live DVD (produced over a decade ago, now) was cut, that had similar direction in terms of the amount of camera angles used and how often they cut to a different viewpoint. Anyone who has that DVD will hopefully be pleased to find that Delain did not cut to the occasional grainy black & white shot the way Whitesnake did, though (a trend I found irritating in video production and thankfully one that seems to be out of style nowadays).

The band went to a lot of trouble to make this show a special one, it being a celebration of their tenth anniversary, and so you’ll see tickertape, fake snow, visual projections and a whole host of special guest appearances in this concert. The snow effect looks spectacular on video, viewed from the back of this hall (a former church converted into a concert venue), cascading down on the audience amongst an array of lighting effects. You also see just what a mess all of that made of the stage even at an early point in the show! The guest appearances commenced right from the first song, as Arch Enemy’s Alissa White-Gluz joined the band for opening song ‘Hands Of Gold’. She returned later in the set to duet on ‘The Tragedy Of The Commons’, another track in which she appeared on record. Also making appearances in person were Burton C. Bell (who’d flown in especially for this show) of Fear Factory, on ‘Where Is The Blood’, regular contributors George Oosthoek (growl vocals on ‘Pristine’) and former Leaves’ Eyes singer Liv Kristine who came on stage to duet with Charlotte Wessels on ‘See Me In Shadow’; she was also accompanied by cellist Elianne Anemaat for that song. The other guest performer didn’t appear in person that night (we had to wait another year for that) – Marco Hietala appeared in projected form on the backdrop, for his vocal parts on ‘Your Body Is A Battleground’ and ‘Sing To Me’.  However, the real treat for fans came about midway through this show; a brief interlude allowed the singer to make a quick costume change off stage, while the rest of the band (save for keyboardist Martijn Westerholt) made way for former members Sander Zoer (drums), Rob Van der Loo (bass) and songwriter/studio contributor Guus Eikens (guitar). It was this line-up who played ‘Sleepwalkers Dream’ from their first album, after which they handed back to regular players Timo Somers and Merel Bechtold (guitars), Otto Schimmelpenninck van der Oije (bass) and Ruben Israel (drums).

Much of the set was based on the then-current ‘Moonbathers’ tour, save for the special treats described, with six played from that album, six more from previous album ‘The Human Contradiction’ and four from their breakthrough ‘We Are The Others’ album. Only two from ‘April Rain’ made the cut; that is still my favourite album of theirs and I have high hopes they’ll celebrate that one in 2019! Four from debut ‘Lucidity’ were played, and they perhaps could have done one or two more, such as ‘A Day For Ghosts’ seeing as they had Liv Kristine (who actually performed it on album) with them, but that’s a minor quibble.

If you’re a fan of this band then the DVD/Blu-ray/2CD package included here is a must-buy, just for the concert footage. It’s beautifully presented, and slickly-produced. It almost made me feel like being back there in that crowd, and you clearly see from the live footage how much they enjoy audience participation, with arms waving, clapping about (‘Keep those hands in the air!’ commanded the singer before introducing ‘Get The Devil Out of Me’) and plenty of bouncing both on the stage and on the floor. The additional documentary is a nice extra (that was also shown at the special screening the band arranged in Utrecht recently) in which you see the band rehearsing, meeting fans at pre-show greets and preparing to perform at festivals such as Graspop. You might even recognise one or two faces from the front row, if you’re a long-time fan; luckily for you all though, not your humble correspondent! The video content is completed with the promo for ‘Suckerpunch’ and a live clip of ‘We Are The Others’ shot at Masters of Rock 2015.

I’d advise fans to shop around for this DVD/Blu-Ray however, it is available online via the band’s webshop priced at €30 for the standard digipak (currently around £27) however I’ve seen it retailing for as little as £17 at a well-known UK High street Major record and Video retailer.

To coincide with the first anniversary of the concert taking place, Delain have put one track from the show up on YouTube as a taster for fans who haven’t yet got this DVD.
You can watch ‘Fire With Fire’ from the Paradiso show below:

Finally, if your pockets are deep enough you can also buy this recording as a standalone live album on vinyl (on golden coloured vinyl too, if you wish) from Napalm Records’ webshop. As you get the live album on CD with this package anyway, that is really only recommended for the devoted completist.

4 - deserving

4 – Deserving

Gigs of 2017 part three

For part one click here

For part two click here

AUGUST

Always a fairly fallow time for tours, as it’s the height of festival season in the UK, plus I had a holiday in North Wales to enjoy this month! So the only gig I got to was once again at Stalybridge Tavern, for their ‘Punk Sunday’ multi-band bill held every so often. Because it was an all-day event that meant it was possible to get there and back by train from Liverpool, handy for me still recovering from my ankle injury at that time. There were several bands on including Australian outfit The Mis-Made, my reason for going was to see those iDestroy girls once again. They were as usual excellent, however my leg wasn’t up to standing through this whole event so after their set I headed home to give it a much-needed rest! This month saw the Hope & Glory Festival take place in Liverpool; sited at St Georges Plateau it was billed as a ’boutique’ event with three stages, but anyone who knew the area would have foreseen the problems which blighted day 1 (lengthy queues, little space to move) and with some acts actually axed from the bill because of an over-running schedule it all went wrong. The music on offer wasn’t at all to my taste, but even if it were I could have told them there would be logistical issues having an outdoor music event in such a confined space. The second day was simply called off and the organisers were slammed in the local media.

SEPTEMBER

Only two gigs this month; the first was a second outing to see Women In Rock, this time at Chester’s Live Rooms. Their regular guitarist was back (so no Rosie from DORJA this time) and one of the female singers was different to the previous occasion I saw them at Stoke-on-Trent. They have a revolving cast of singers who appear as and when available; the set performed was along similar lines however. Their repertoire is mostly 1980s hits but they do include a few that are not so obvious. For instance they play Skunk Anansie’s ‘I Can Dream’, and also deviating from the norm a little they play Evanescence’s ‘Bring Me To Life’. (That was a number one hit in its day, mind you!) The only aspect of female-fronted rock they don’t really cover is European symphonic Metal; it’d be nice to see a Nightwish, Within Temptation or even a Delain (slight bias!) song added, as I’m sure their audience would be receptive. The other gig I saw this month was also at Chester,  but in the L2 bar area which was decked out with tables and chairs for the occasion. Finnish blues guitarist/singer Erja Lyytinen paid the Live Rooms a visit, drawing a small crowd of blues/rock devotees she blasted away the serene setting with a storming demonstration of rock guitar. I’d never heard of her until this year but made a note of her next visit, which, when speaking to her after her set, she told me would be in March 2018. (She is scheduled to play in Southport at the end of that month.)

OCTOBER

I’d been off the road for some time by this point, the car I could not drive during my injury needed more work doing to make it driveable than I thought it was worth, so it was public transport and strictly local gigs at this point! First up was Martin Turner, a founding member of  1970s rock band Wishbone Ash. He did used to tour under that name but a legal dispute with former bandmate, guitarist Andy Powell, saw the latter gain exclusive use of the Wishbone Ash name. Hence this gig was billed as ‘Martin Turner, EX-Wishbone Ash’! This gig was at the Brindley Theatre, a small civic hall in Runcorn town centre and would see he and his band play two sets, the second being a complete performance of Wishbone Ash’s 1971 album ‘Argus’. The show was extremely good in all aspects; a clear sound balance, fine playing from all concerned and plenty of classic songs to please the audience. Only thing was, this show coincided with an England World Cup qualifier, so the audience was ‘selective’. So much so, I bought a ticket on the night and found myself in the second row, centre of the stalls! A pity, since he is still in fine form, but he has played to a packed house in nearby St Helens too so does have a following in these parts still.

Next up was a long-awaited show from US band Living Colour. Last time I saw these was in 2004 at Birkenhead, and this show at Liverpool Hangar 34 came a year after their planned 2016 UK tour with Glenn Hughes was suddenly scrapped. That left intended openers Stone Broken high and dry, at least until the ex-Purple man arranged his own tour in January of this year. Living Colour then lined up this tour for autumn 2017 and again featured Stone Broken as support. This was my first visit to Hangar 34, situated in Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle it is a very good venue for bands this size, with good sight lines, a decent stage/sound system, and a capacity of around 800 it ranks alongside places like Manchester’s Academy 2. It is however a fair walk from the transport hubs, so even if you are local-ish you have a long hike here from getting off the bus in the city centre. Nonetheless it is a good venue and one that should be able to attract more bands to our city/ Stone Broken gave a good performance, with one or two new tracks from an upcoming album aired (they later revealed they’d signed with Spinefarm Records for their second album) and drummer Robyn Haycock played with such power she managed to knock over half of her kit while playing! Living Colour were greeted like returning heroes; singer Corey Glover was in a flat cap reminiscent of The Lancashire Hotpots (!) but sounded just as potent and passionate as he was in 1990. He has virtuoso players all around with Vernon Reid, Doug Wimbish and Will Calhoun cooking up a mighty storm. A great set, and let’s hope it isn’t another decade before they come back.

Two nights later, and I was back in Chester to see Stevie Nimmo at the Live Rooms for the second time. The difference this time was that his brother Alan was playing guitar for him – days before this tour started, Stevie broke his right arm in a cycling accident. Alan, meanwhile had been forced to reschedule the dates for his own band King King, owing to an ongoing throat ailment rendering him unable to sing. He could still play guitar though, and it was perhaps fated that the two brothers should pool their talents. Alan slotted in seamlessly, so much so Stevie could be seen playing air guitar with his one good arm at times! A week later and I was planning to see Marco Mendoza play a rare solo show in Liverpool, at the Magnet. That was however scrapped by the venue late on (ticket sales were slow, at best!) and it was thanks to support band Black Cat Bones that he still got to play in the city, as they hastily arranged another venue (Studio 2) for him to play. This was a great night, Black Cat Bones were themselves praised by the Dead Daisies man both for their set and that they rescued this gig. When the main man came on, he gave a virtuoso performance with that bass, and with a vocal talent that is all too often hidden as a backing singer in his regular gig. He didn’t care that few people had showed, he gave us what amounted to a private performance and went out of his way to involve everyone present. One of the gigs of the year for me because it was so personal.

My last gig of October was one booked earlier in the year, when funds permitted (!) Dutch symphonic metallers Delain, one of my favourite current bands, were playing a special run of dates and featuring Nightwish’s Marco Hietala as guest vocalist. The only UK date was in London, and I decided that it would actually be easier to travel to Utrecht in their homeland than venture to the UK capital. Fans of Delain know that the Nightwish bassist has a long relationship with this band; he played bass on their first album ‘Lucidity’ and has contributed vocals to several of their albums alongside regular singer Charlotte Wessels. When the time came for this gig however, I was unsure whether I’d be fit enough to make it owing to a recurring back ailment which rendered me almost immobile! It eased off sufficiently on the day however and I travelled,. After surviving a tumble down the steps at the hall (TivoliVredenburg Ronda) I found a good spot and settled to watch the openers, Swiss folk-metallers Cellar Darling who impressed the crowd. Also on the bill were Austrian band Serenity, a high-energy Power Metal act familiar to Delain fans as they’ve supported them before, who were entertaining as ever. Delain themselves were cheered to the rafters from first song to last, in the singer’s home city and when they introduced Marco Hietala, this place needed a new roof! Many songs were played that don’t normally feature in their set, especially ones where the Nightwish bassist did appear on record. They’d just released a live DVD from a show filmed a year earlier and revealed during this show that it was also being filmed. I look forward to that one when it does come out.

Part four click here

Within Temptation. WTF?

Fans of Dutch symphonic metallers Within Temptation have been sent into panic mode as their website suddenly went dark on 3rd November, with this ominous-looking message as placeholder:

The same message has appeared on all of the group’s social media sites, at the time of writing how soon ‘soon’ will be is unclear. Of course putting out a post like that with no further information only generates wild speculation, which is already rife on their Facebook post with this message. What’s known is that they have been working on material for a planned 2018 release, and up until the day before this post they had been updating their social media pages regularly, even providing studio updates. For the site to go dark without warning, just plain white text on a black background (mentioning ONLY den Adel by name, not the group as a whole) looks ominous indeed.

Unconfirmed word is that there will be a statement on Wednesday. *UPDATE* As of 7th November the social media pages have updated to say the statement will follow on Friday 10th. However this is not helping their cause. Like everyone else I can only guess but that sounds like whatever it is needs to be ratified, pored over and checked word-for-word before it goes out. That doesn’t suggest good news any more than the black background does. If they have something major to announce, they’d surely have been better off just doing it when the time was right rather than keep their fans on tenterhooks like this? If however, it turns out to be about a new album, tour or some other product, it will backfire since they have now got their followers girding themselves for a bit of bad news.

Within Temptation have been around for 20 years now and have released six studio albums to date, the last (‘Hydra’) coming in 2014. Built around the pairing of singer Sharon den Adel and guitarist Robert Westerholt, they have slowly become one of the leading bands in this scene alongside Nightwish, and their former keyboardist Martijn Westerholt (brother of Robert) went on to form Delain, who have themselves now become one of the big bands in this sub-genre. It’s fair to say their following is a devoted one, who turn out every few years in great numbers whenever they tour. Their last UK tour was sold out everywhere they went, such followers of a band which is far from being mainstream are the sort to become deeply emotionally invested in them, and that is why the reaction to this post was so predictable. As a fan (not a ‘fanatic’, I’ve seen them twice and have several of their albums) I’d be sorry to see the end of this group but again, while there is little information to go off at this point, that post suggests the singer at least will have more to offer the music world.

If it is the end, they left some great songs – here are two:

Caught Live: Delain ft. Marco Hietala (plus Serenity, Cellar Darling), TivoliVredenburg Ronda, Utrecht NL 31 October 2017

This was a gig I booked a long time ago, having decided that once again the Netherlands was easier to reach than the only scheduled UK date for this tour, at London’s KOKO. It was of particular interest since Delain had a special guest in Marco Hietala, appearing on all dates. The Nightwish bassist and vocalist has a long-standing relationship with this band; he played bass on their debut ‘Lucidity’ and contributed vocal parts for some songs, and has since featured on subsequent Delain albums as a co-vocalist. In addition, he has appeared on stage with the band whenever schedules allowed, notably when Delain toured with Nightwish for a US tour in 2015.

It was going to be quite a long day, as Delain had arranged a special screening of their just-released live DVD, filmed a year ago at Paradiso in Amsterdam and marking their tenth anniversary. I was at that show and at the time of writing, am still awaiting delivery of the DVD which was preordered some time ago.  The screening took place at the nearby Louis Hartlooper complex, a cinema and cultural centre. Needless to say I got there a few minutes late (!) and was greeted by none other than Delain singer Charlotte Wessels. She waved me through even before I could show her the email with my reservation on it, with a cheery ‘See you tonight!’ as she pointed me towards the cinema hall. As it turned out, although I had missed a Q&A with her and the band, the screening had just started with a short documentary which also features on the DVD, chronicling the band on their 2016 tour and showcasing a few of their devoted fans.  That was a fun watch as I recognised several faces in the fan meet and greets, thankfully not mine (!)

Following that there was a brief interval, and I availed myself of a much-needed glass of refreshment before the showing of the Paradiso concert DVD. It was great to see that on a big screen, and with surround sound too and it almost felt like being back there. A full review of that DVD will follow once I get it, but initial impressions were that the production was extremely slick and polished, with many cameras covering it there were a lot of cuts from one shot to the next. It actually reminded me of the way Whitesnake’s ‘Live… In The Still Of The Night’ DVD was presented, which was similarly pacy in style. I’d not even been to find my hotel yet, so after catching up with a few Delain fans I know after the screening it was off to find my place and quickly shower and change for the evening’s events.

TivoliVredenburg is a large, multi-purpose venue with several halls inside; built on the site of the old Muzikcentrum it is close to Utrecht Centraal railway station, so is handy for travelling. The old site was the setting for a Dio live concert film released in 1984, but this show would take place in the ‘Ronda’ hall two floors up. With a capacity of 2000, it has good views from almost anywhere in the hall but with a stage set quite high up, so the advice I had been given from fellow fans was not to queue for the front row. I entered the hall and almost immediately ended up in a heap – the doors lead to a tiered section with steps down, and what I thought were also steps turned out not to be. Dimly-lit and with little to distinguish the actual steps from what was actually a tiered standing area, I took a step off into thin air and promptly tumbled down two of these rows! Luckily only my pride was hurt, but that was a bad start to the evening.

Having dusted myself off and found a decent spot across the floor I settled for openers, Swiss folk-metallers Cellar Darling. I only heard of this band in the summer when a track of theirs was featured on a rock radio show broadcast in the Merseyside area, and only later learned that the group were formed by three former members of Eluveitie. On record they are a trio comprising of singer Anna Murphy (who also plays hurdy-gurdy),   drummer Merlin Sutter, and guitarist Ivo Henzi but as the latter also plays bass in the studio, for live work they bring in bassist Nicolas Winter. They do have a unique thing going on in that hurdy-gurdy, though the material was a curious mix of nu-metal rhythm and folky rock. The main soloing came from Murphy’s hurdy-gurdy rather than Henzi’s guitar and from my viewpoint to the side, it looked like she was wielding an overgrown bus conductor’s ticket machine (!) I was still intrigued enough to get their album afterwards, which features a cover of Queen’s ‘The Prophet Song’. I’ll be interested to see whether or not Bus Conductor Metal is the big thing for 2018!

Cellar Darling's Anna Murphy

Cellar Darling’s Anna Murphy

Georg Neuhauser of Serenity

Georg Neuhauser of Serenity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up next were Austrian power metallers Serenity. This was the third time I’d seen them and each time it had been as support to Delain. They’re another band with a long history of working with Delain, they’ve toured together several times and Charlotte Wessels has collaborated, on ‘Serenade of Flames’ (a track from previous album ‘Death & Legacy’) as well as working with Serenity vocalist Georg Neuhauser on the Phantasma project and concept album ‘The Deviant Hearts’. They were their usual bombastic selves, plenty of energy and enthusiasm, some nimble-fingered playing from guitarist Cris Tian and excellent vocal performances from both Neuhauser (a soundalike to Sonata Arctica’s Tony Kakko to my ears) and bassist Fabio D’Amore. For all that I’ve never quite got into these guys, despite having two of their albums on CD I enjoy them more in the live setting than when actually sat down to listen to their studio work. Each time I’ve seen them they’ve had a different guest female vocalist, this time it was Natasha ‘Tasha’ Koch who accompanied Neuhauser on several songs, including ‘Serenade of Flames’.  She sounded good and looked glamorous, as well as having a sense of fun – she is Dutch and laughingly mocked Georg’s attempts to address the Utrecht crowd in their own language! They’re well worth seeing whenever they come around, although by the singer’s own admission they don’t come to the UK often because it is ‘so expensive’, as he once told me.

The current run of dates marks Delain drummer Ruben Israel’s last shows with the band before standing down; and they’d pulled out the stops to make these last few dates special. There was the usual huge backdrop (based on the ‘Moonbathers’ artwork) but this time the ‘moon’ changed to show visuals throughout the set, reminiscent of ‘Mr Screen’ from Pink Floyd tours of days gone by. The set was changed around a little too, in order to accommodate songs not normally performed, especially those which on record featured Marco Hietala. The now-familiar intro tape of ‘The Monarch’ heralded the arrival first of Ruben Israel then guitarist Timo Somers, soon followed by the rest of the group as they launched into opener ‘Hands of Gold’. The first treat for the audience came in this number as George Oosthoek appeared to perform the ‘growl’ vocal parts, another vocalist whose history with Delain dates back to ‘Lucidity’. From there it was a regular-ish Delain show, although they played usual set-closer ‘We Are The Others’ second this time. It was high-energy stuff for the first part of the show, until the band left the stage to just the singer, keyboardist Martijn Westerholt and guest cellist Elianne Anemaat for the gentler ‘Scarlet’. After resuming the bombastic stuff and keeping the crowd on edge for ‘Here Come The Vultures’ and ‘ Fire With Fire’, Marco Hietala was finally introduced for ‘Your Body Is A Battleground’. That sent the crowd into even greater raptures, cheering his name loudly between songs. He stayed for a few more songs (including the seldom-performed ‘Nothing Left’) before leaving the stage temporarily, while Charlotte Wessels urged yet more cheering, saying ‘he might come back’! This crowd needed little encouragement, their crowds tend to be enthusiastic wherever they play and it was certainly no different in the singer’s home city.

Delain's Timo Somers

Delain’s Timo Somers

Merel and Otto of Delain

Merel and Otto of Delain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most of the material Hietala performed on stage were songs he recorded with them, the exception being the Queen cover ‘Scandal’. On record it is sung by Wessels alone, but here it was presented as a duet and worked better than I had anticipated this night. The ensemble ended with ‘The Gathering’, complete with loads of streamers and then the whole band plus guests took bows, and posed for a group pic in front of the still-cheering crowd.

This was by my reckoning the twelfth time I’ve seen Delain, four of those have been in their own country and this went straight up there as one of the best shows I’ve seen them give – even better than the Paradiso show which we saw again earlier in the day. Charlotte was in splendid voice all night, she has really strengthened her vocal in the last couple of years and is now no longer that slightly shy girl fronting the band. She’s confident, assertive and has a full house like this in the palm of her hand from first song to last. She even quipped after one prolonged bout of cheering that their next album would be called ‘Delain – drunk on power’!  The addition of the Nightwish man was icing on the cake and it was a privilege to see him add his distinctive tenor live to songs he contributed to in the studio. Only minor quibble (there’s always one!) is he could have been on stage with them for a bit longer, I would especially have liked ‘A Day For Ghosts’ played (even though it was Liv Kristine he duetted with on the record, the live band have performed it in the past).

Charlotte Wessels of Delain

Charlotte Wessels of Delain

Guest vocalist Marco Hietala from Nightwish

Guest vocalist Marco Hietala

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For all that it was a terrific show, as I do not expect to see the band again for at least a year this and their new DVD will keep me going until then. Whenever that DVD arrives!

Some fan-filmed footage from the show is provided courtesy of youtubers Delain UKTV and TauRush2:

5 – Delightful

Caught Live: Delain (with Evergrey, Kobra And The Lotus), o2 Ritz Manchester 12 November 2016

Another year, another Delain touring cycle. The Dutch symphonic metallers have put a lot of miles over the past few years, with prestigious support slots with Nightwish in the US as well as headline shows in the UK and Europe. This time around the tour is in support of their recently-released sixth album ‘Moonbathers’ and for their Manchester date they were booked into the 1500-capacity o2 Ritz, a step up from their previous appearances at Club Academy.

With a club night scheduled to follow this gig, it was quite an early start for the show (a three-band bill); following a meet and greet/acoustic performance by Delain for the small group of fans who took up the VIP package (and got first pick of spot on the all-important barrier) the doors opened and plenty were already in place for openers Kobra and The Lotus. A Canadian quintet fronted by the stunning Kobra Paige, their music is traditional Metal with plenty of fist-pumping and shredding solos courtesy of guitarist Jasio Kulakowski. Paige, a classically trained singer who turned to Metal while still in her teens, demonstrated a strong voice and was pleased at the warm reception from the Manchester crowd.

Kobra And The Lotus

Kobra And The Lotus at Manchester

Evergrey were up next, a Swedish outfit based around vocalist/guitarist Tom S. Englund. Their style of Metal is also old-school with plenty of harmony guitars from Englund and fellow axeman Henrik Danhage, and has more than a little Maiden influence. The quintet had a better sound mix (a little less bass-heavy) for me than the openers and went down well with the crowd, some of whom were clearly there for Evergrey as the band’s name was chanted from pockets of the crowd on the floor. The frontman got a cheer when he mentioned that they’d play ‘In Orbit’ which on record features Nightwish singer Floor Jansen, only for him to dampen it down by adding that he’d have to perform her part as she wasn’t there (!) He then got a boo when he announced to this crowd that he was a Man Utd fan (cue some loud boos emanating from my spot, ahem!); presumably he thought that’d go over better than it actually did! (Not everybody there was from Manchester, Tom – those who were could well have been City fans 😉 ) Football banter aside, they gave a very good set and are worth seeing if they play in your area.

Evergrey's Tom S. Englund

Evergrey’s Tom S. Englund

Delain came on at 8:30 sharp with drummer Ruben Israel appearing first to the intro music (‘Monarch’ from the recent ‘Moonbathers’ album), who then started to play along to the intro, joined by guitarist Timo Somers and then the rest of the band. They opened with album lead-off ‘Hands Of Gold’ and were straight into that synchronised headbang routine that has become a familiar sight. Lead singer Charlotte Wessels then made her grand entrance (clad in a glittery 1980s-style outfit complete with shoulder pads) to tremendous cheers. From the off she had the crowd in the palm of her hand, easily getting arms raised, fists pumped and ‘hey, hey!’ chants going. Bassist Otto Schimmelpenninck van der Oije once again handled the ‘growly’ vocal parts on this track and others that called for it, when not doing those he was all over the stage, frequently swapping places with Somers and fellow guitarist Merel Bechtold.

Charlotte Wessels of Delain

Charlotte Wessels of Delain

Guitarist Timo Somers

Guitarist Timo Somers

The set was heavily weighted towards the current album (always a sign that a band really believes in their latest release) with no fewer than seven tracks from it performed. ‘Suckerpunch’ got the crowd chanting along with its ‘whoa, whoa’ hook, and the singer got the crowd clapping along for the first of many times to ‘The Glory And The Scum’. Their older albums were not ignored however; the crowd were encouraged to ‘keep those hands in the air’ for ‘Get The Devil Out of Me’ and ‘Army of Dolls’. They’re also celebrating the tenth anniversary of debut album ‘Lucidity’ this year, that record was acknowledged with ‘Sleepwalkers Dream’, ‘Pristine’ and ‘The Gathering’.

‘The Hurricane’ (from the current album) was as much a highlight of the live set as it was on record, showcasing both Wessels’ sweeter lower range as well as her stronger vocal in the chorus. She delivered it with real passion and power, on that sort of form she’s as capable as a Floor Jansen of tingling the spine. ‘Fire With Fire’ showed how much more they’re now using Timo Somers’ vocal, he possesses a fine voice himself and since the addition of Merel Bechtold, he seems to have been given a little more freedom in both his guitar playing and backing vocal.

Guitarist Merel Bechtold

Guitarist Merel Bechtold

Bassist Otto Schimmelpenninck

Bassist Otto Schimmelpenninck

Indeed the whole band contributed not just musically but visually too; the focus is inevitably on the singer when it comes to female-fronted bands of this type but from drummer Ruben Israel right through to keyboardist Martijn Westerholt, all were dynamic. Founding member Westerholt is often overlooked, high up on his perch at the back of the stage and stuck behind keyboards, but look up and you’ll often see him headbanging away – all while playing! During ‘Don’t Let Go’ (performed in the encore) everybody was bouncing around the stage (and into each other in the case of Wessels and Somers!) while the crowd also began to jump. The floor of the Ritz is notoriously bouncy and was effectively a trampoline during this number! After the usual closer of ‘We Are The Others’ the band took their bows.

Charlotte wth Martijn Westerholt

Charlotte wth Martijn Westerholt

Delain’s popularity is growing each time they come to this country, they drew around twice as many this time as they did a year ago at Academy 2. Before long they’ll be at the same level as a Within Temptation or even Nightwish, just reward for the hard yards they’ve been putting in over the past five years.

4 - deserving

4 – Deserving

LP: Delain ‘Moonbathers’ (Napalm Records)

When my copy of this, the fifth full studio album from Dutch symphonic metallers Delain arrived (on the day of release – kudos Napalm Records and the Royal Mail!) the shrinkwrap covering the record sleeve contained a sticker trumpeting this as ‘Delain’s Finest Moment’. It’s certainly had a lot of build-up; as early as January this year I and other attendees at their ‘Suckerpunch’ gig at Haarlem Patronaat were treated to some short extracts from the sessions they’d been working on. Soon after that came ‘Lunar Prelude’; an EP containing two new tracks, some live material and some previously released songs reworked for the EP. Those two tracks (‘Suckerpunch’ and ‘Turn The Lights Out’) are also featured on this new album, along with a cover of Queen’s 1989 hit ‘Scandal’. More recently, in the weeks leading up to this release, some other tracks have been getting airplay on rock radio; ‘Fire With Fire’ has been featured on a local radio station’s weekly show and ‘The Glory And The Scum’ has also been released as a lyric video on YouTube. On top of all of that, the band released short extracts from all the album tracks, initially to fans who attended the aforementioned ‘Suckerpunch’ show and later on, to YouTube.

With all this activity, it has heightened excitement for the eventual release but also served to spoil a little of the suspense; we already knew two of the songs (three if you are a Queen fan and familiar already with ‘Scandal’) and by the time this record was out, anyone interested will have heard at least half of it. Napalm Records have done what they usually do with acts on their roster, and have issued this album in a bewildering choice of formats including two different vinyl options (my choice this time was the initial double vinyl issue on 180 gram ‘gold’ vinyl) and, for those who have yet to discover the bottom of their pockets, a wooden box containing the CD in ‘mediabook’ packaging, a bonus silver vinyl 7″ disc and – a flag! Once again, the cover features art by Glenn Arthur, whose trademark style is becoming synonymous with this band. But is ‘Moonbathers’ the band’s ‘finest moment’ as trumpeted on that sticker? Time to shred the shrinkwrap and put those 180 gram discs on the turntable to find out…

Things get off to a good start with ‘Hands of Gold’, a lively rocker very much in the familiar style, with symphonic fanfares and downtuned guitar crunches. They have picked up pretty much where they left off with 2014’s ‘The Human Contradiction’; using the same writing team (lead singer Charlotte Wessels, keyboardist Martijn Westerholt and studio collaborator Guus Eikens) and with production duties once again handled by Westerholt, it does feel like a continuation of that record. They even brought back Arch Enemy’s frontwoman Alissa White-Gluz to contribute ‘death growl’ vocal on this track as she did on the previous album closer ‘The Tragedy Of The Commons’. I confess I’m not a fan of that style of vocal, but used sparingly I can handle it. ‘The Glory And The Scum’ is another typically Delain track, one that could have sat on the last album comfortably. All the trademarks are there, I can picture Wessels getting the crowd clapping along to the second verse; they’ve deployed a familiar trick in backing off the guitars, leaving Wessels to sing over a bass drum beat. ‘Suckerpunch’ we know all about, with its Bon Jovi-esque ‘whoa-whoa’ hooks, leading into what I consider to be a highlight of this record, ‘The Hurricane’. A slower, quieter number more akin to what they were doing on ‘We Are The Others’, it has a catchy chorus that lodged its way into my head straight away. The cooling of engines here allows Wessels to use her sweeter vocal, which was what drew her to my attention in the first place, rather than the ‘roar’ she has developed in recent years. Things are taken down still further with the epic ballad ‘Chrysalis – The Last Breath’, once again showcasing the singer’s remarkable voice.

Back up to speed next for ‘Fire With Fire’, as the guitars come roaring back with another high-tempo, but catchy song. The difference between this album and the previous one is that the songs are more ‘hooky’ – with few exceptions they’d moved away from the more pop sensibility of 2009’s ‘April Rain’ but here, it seems to be a partial return to songs you can latch onto quickly, the sort of thing that ‘walks off the disc and into the concert hall’ (if I may steal an old quote from David Coverdale!) ‘Pendulum’ follows, probably their most Metal number on the album and somewhat reminiscent of 2012’s ‘Where Is The Blood’. Towards the back end of the record, it gets a little more experimental; ‘Danse Macabre’ has a strange but catchy ‘eeeyyaahh’ vocal throughout, an unusual hook but effective. I’d been anticipating their cover of ‘Scandal’ since they announced they were to do it.  One of the lesser-known Queen songs (originally from that band’s 1989 album ‘The Miracle’) and from their later period, it was written by Queen guitarist Brian May (although credited to all four members). Its lyric dealt with the relentless intrusion of band members’ personal lives. I did wonder whether that was something Delain also felt hence their decision to cover this track, but it turns out that Martijn Westerholt simply liked the song and was even given May’s blessing to cover it. It’s heavier (the synth riff in the original is now accompanied by guitar), it is a little faster in tempo, but otherwise not too different. However, much as I love Charlotte, nobody beats Freddie Mercury! 😉

‘Turn The Lights Out’ is the other previously released track and is already known (in truth, not one of my favourites) and the album closes with ‘Monarch’. I detect more Queen influence here; the song is mostly instrumental with only a short vocal contribution from Wessels in the middle. Queen did something very similar with the track ‘Bijou’ on the ‘Innuendo’ album; although this song is slower and more keyboard-orientated the effect did remind me of the concept of the ‘inside-out song’ as Mercury and May aimed for with ‘Bijou’.

Following the studio tracks, there are several live tracks presented from a recent show in the band’s home country of the Netherlands; including a live rendition of ‘The Glory And The Scum’. Closing the fourth side of the double LP are orchestral versions of that song and ‘Hands Of Gold’. That’s something they’ve done on previous releases; it is essentially filler material to make up a double LP but the live tracks are more of interest to me personally.

This is a strong album with probably their most accessible songs since ‘We Are The Others’; however I do feel that the ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ production takes some of the gloss off for me. One of the things that attracted me to this band some years ago was that their music was less overblown than other bands of this type; the symphonic elements weren’t swamping their vocalist so much. The 2009 album ‘April Rain’ got that balance right for me, but here I found myself struggling to hear Wessels over the wall of sound on some of the heavier tracks. I’ve already heard two of the songs delivered acoustically by her and guitarist Timo Somers; they worked better for me as the strength of the songs was more evident once stripped back. I still think it is a very good album, but one that could have been improved had they left that extra egg from the pudding. (Apologies to Charlotte for the analogy, since she has been vegan for some years now!) 😉

Finally a word about the choice of vinyl this time around; I bought a vinyl LP of ‘We Are The Others’ at a show last year, and on playing it I’d noticed how much more comfortable a listen it was than the CD. I found out later on that it had been mastered differently for that release; further investigation revealed that the CD (and all the others in their catalogue) were ‘brickwalled’; i.e. mastered for maximum ‘loudness’ at the expense of ‘clipping’ of some of the higher frequencies. That makes for an exciting, but wearing listen if played on even halfway-decent stereo equipment, and the vinyl LP proved to be so much more preferable. Since then I’ve bought their subsequent releases (this LP, and ‘Lunar Prelude’) on vinyl and will continue to do so as long as the CDs are mastered that way. (I already had the LP version of ‘The Human Contradiction’.) They’re far from the only band whose CDs have their phasers set to kill, but it is a trend I could do without. If the music can be mastered properly for LP, it can be done better for CD – after all, that format was sold to us back in the 80s as ‘perfect sound which lasts forever’. Not true as we now know, but CD is capable of a far better listening experience than what we are being offered today in the never-ending ‘loudness war’.

4 - deserving

4 – Deserving

Moonbathers cover

Moonbathers cover

 

 

EP: Delain ‘Lunar Prelude’ (Napalm Records)

NB: For reviews, Air Guitar ratings will appear from now on. 5 – Delightful; 4 – Deserving; 3 – Decent; 2 – Dreary; 1 – Dismal. Look out for the inflatable guitars! 

Delain’s next full studio album is currently in progress, but as that isn’t due until later in the year the Dutch symphonic metallers have issued this mini-album. A similar idea to when they issued their ‘Interlude’ compilation between studio albums, the artwork for this release is once again provided by Glenn Arthur, who started working with the band on 2012’s ‘We Are The Others’. The record was issued in both vinyl and CD format, and this time I plumped for the ‘gold’ vinyl edition, available only by mail order. I treated myself to a vinyl copy of ‘We Are The Others’ at their merchandise stall on the last UK run, and found it a better listen than the CD edition; it seemed to have better range in its sound.

The record comprises two new studio tracks (‘Suckerpunch’ and ‘Turn The Lights Out’), one song from the last album (‘Don’t Let Go’) reworked and several live cuts, plus an ‘orchestral’ arrangement of ‘Suckerpunch’. It is therefore a shorter offering than ‘Interlude’ (which was a collection of ‘B’ sides, reworked material, live tracks and two new songs) but is intended to serve much the same purpose: to keep the band’s profile high while they work on the follow-up to 2014’s ‘The Human Contradiction’, scheduled for release later in 2016.

Taking the record from its sleeve, first impressions were that the streaky yellow appearance of the vinyl gave a  rather different impression to the ‘gold’ effect that they were going for (!) but the disc itself appears to be heavy duty vinyl; you can’t use it like a wobble board like you could with some LP records back in the 1980s! Disc colour notwithstanding, the needle was dropped into the groove and it was time to pin back the lugholes…

Both ‘Suckerpunch’ and ‘Turn The Lights Out’ have been performed live; the latter debuted on the UK tour and the former provided the basis for the theme behind the band’s recent show at Haarlem which I attended. On record they are rather ‘lighter’ in tone than live; there’s not as much emphasis on the guitar, even though the group now boast two axe-slingers with the recent addition of Merel Bechtold as a permanent member, alongside incumbent guitarist Timo Somers.

‘Suckerpunch’ sounds rather like a 1980s pop-rock song, with it’s ‘whoa-whoa’ hook and also using the old modulation trick on the chorus near the end, it isn’t a million miles away from the sort of thing Bon Jovi broke big with 30 years ago. One definitely aimed at the radio, even if the lyrical content isn’t quite the sort of standard boy/girl stuff of typical chart hits (‘Suckerpunch the demons from my dreams’, sings Charlotte Wessels over those Jovi-esque ‘whoa’ chants). ‘Turn The Lights Out’ is even lighter in tone, with the singer’s sweeter side shown on the chorus. Whether this suggests a rather poppier direction for the next record is still to be determined, but if they are going that way then remember to pack the guitars – their best album to date (IMO) ‘April Rain’ was very much in that vein, strong pop songs with enough of a heavy guitar base to satisfy those of a more metallic persuasion.

Next is the reworked version of ‘Don’t Let Go’, a track originally found on the expanded edition of ‘The Human Contradiction’. This one HAS been given a slightly heavier treatment, but is still difficult to distinguish from the original version. Similar to the reworked treatment of ‘Are You Done With Me’ found on ‘Interlude’, you have to listen to them back-to-back to spot differences in production. I’d have liked to see something completely different to the original if they are going to redo a recent track, the differences are so slight as to render this version almost redundant.

The best part of this record is definitely the live section; there are four live tracks presumably taken from a recent show in their home country, as the frontwoman can be heard addressing the crowd in her native Dutch between songs. All the live tracks (‘Lullaby’, ‘Stardust’, ‘Here Come The Vultures’, ‘Army Of Dolls’) featured on their last album , these versions showcase Wessels’ excellent live vocal and feature (I’m guessing) the expanded six-piece line-up. The lead guitar part on ‘Stardust’ does sound a little different in tone, suggesting it’s Merel Bechtold’s six-string we’re hearing. The songs do sound heavier, harder-hitting live than on the record now that they have a twin-guitar attack, and it’s to be hoped they can bring some of that heavier sound into the studio for the next album. The record closes with the orchestral version of ‘Suckerpunch’; again this is an idea reused from ‘The Human Contradiction’ where two songs were given similar treatment for the expanded 2-disc edition. I’d have preferred another live track personally, these orchestral arrangements sound like film scores and are little more than filler in my view.

All in all then a bit of a mixed bag; of the two new songs ‘Suckerpunch’ is the stronger but the live material is the most worthwhile for me, while I find the orchestral number and the remade song somewhat non-essential. One for existing fans rather than anybody new to the group; if you are just finding them I’d recommend starting with ‘We Are The Others’ as that album provides much of the basis for their live show still.

3gtrs

Decent

Delain-Lunar-Prelude-album-cover-delain-39117326-720-720

The artwork for Delain’s ‘Lunar Prelude’ by Glenn Arthur

Caught Live: Delain presents Suckerpunch, Patronaat Haarlem (NL) 29 January 2016

Once again, Delain pencilled in a show at Patronaat, a 1000-capacity venue in Haarlem, Netherlands to close out a touring cycle. This gig, dubbed ‘Suckerpunch’ after a new song they unveiled recently, follows on from their ‘My Masquerade’ show at the same venue in late 2013. I was at that gig as well, so knew my way around the town and the venue. Although the band said this was to be their final show of their club tour for the current album ‘The Human Contradiction’, within days of this gig they had jetted off to the US, initially to perform on a cruise ship for ‘70000 Tons Of Metal’ and then to tour the United States as guests on the next leg of Nightwish’s world tour.  They’re currently working on material for their fifth full studio album, and are about to release another interim mini-album (‘Lunar Prelude’) featuring two new cuts and some live material.

A large contingent of British fans had made their way over to Holland for this show, and as on their autumn run of UK dates, they had arranged a VIP meet and greet for those who chose to take it up. The format was similar to the VIP package on the UK tour; there were posters and photo cards for the band to sign (many of us from the UK did not take the posters, being much too large to carry home when we’d brought only an overnight bag!), a photo taken with the entire group, two acoustic songs performed by guitarist Timo Somers and singer Charlotte Wessels, and priority access to the main venue. The latter is the chief reason I had taken up this option, although the venue isn’t that big so was not quite on the front row as hoped. Once we’d settled into our spots in the main hall, Charlotte herself came running in to remind us that there was one more element to this VIP package. She then handed over to keyboardist Martijn Westerholt, who was stood at the mixer desk. He then gave us a little background on the progress of the next album, before playing us brief excerpts of material they had so far. The extracts weren’t really enough to make an informed judgement, other than to note that what we heard was very much in the style they’re known for. Following this, we then took our places as the hall filled up rapidly.

The support on the night were fellow Dutch metallers The Charm The Fury. As is so often the case with support acts I knew absolutely nothing of these beforehand, but was briefed by fellow fans that their female vocalist (Caroline Westendorp) tended to do more of the ‘death metal’ style of vocal than clean singing. Their set was quite short, with a few new tracks from an upcoming album played alongside material from their first record. Of course, it was all new to me (!) but although they didn’t bring much new to the table, they gave an energetic set with the vocalist putting a lot into her performance. She reminded me a little of Arch Enemy’s Alissa White-Gluz, although she came over as a little less aggressive and ‘in your face’, and thus easier to warm to. I’d find out later I was nearer the mark than I thought during their set.

As at ‘My Masquerade’, following the support a curtain descended over the stage while they set it up for Delain. It wasn’t until about 9:30 their time when the main event began, with the curtain dropping to show only drummer Ruben Israel and keyboardist Martijn Westerholt. We could hear the rest of the band, but guitarists Timo Somers and Merel Bechtold, bassist Otto Schimmelpenninck van der Oije and singer Charlotte Wessels were still hidden behind another curtain in the centre of the stage as they opened with the new song ‘Suckerpunch’. Only when they got to the chorus did that curtain drop and the whole band were visible.

A few of their favourites followed before the first treat of the night; they’d promised guest appearances and some rarely-played tracks as they did at ‘My Masquerade’. They performed the ballad ‘Scarlet’ (a bonus track on some editions of the last album) with guest cellist Maaike Peterse and with Martijn Westerholt playing a real piano, as opposed to the electric one he usually uses on tour. They went back to harder rock with ‘April Rain’, then’ Sleepwalkers Dream’ before playing ‘The Tragedy Of The Commons’. That track was my favourite off the last album, and I’d never seen it done live before this show. They brought out Caroline Westendorp from The Charm The Fury to deliver the ‘growl’ vocals performed on record by Alissa White-Gluz, and she also provided clean backing vocal for the closing section. It worked very well, as noted earlier there’s a similarity in style between the Canadian vocalist and tonight’s opener. Much of the rest of the set was familiar, but they played the other bonus track from the last album ‘Don’t Let Go’ tonight, which is rarely performed. The new song ‘Turn The Lights Out’ (unveiled on last autumn’s tour) came next, then they brought back the cellist for ‘Silhouette Of A Dancer’. The guest for this song was George Oosthoek, who appeared on the original recorded version and has performed live on several occasions with Delain since then.

As has become commonplace at Delain shows, there was a prolonged pause so that the singer could take in the raucous cheers from the crowd. She then spoke – or tried to before being drowned out again – in both Dutch and English, as she knew many had travelled from other countries to be at this show. The main set was closed out as usual with ‘Not Enough’, then a three-song encore finishing with ‘We Are The Others’.

This was a better show than the last time I saw this band in Manchester, that night was for me blighted by a sound that was much too bass-heavy. This was better, or perhaps I was in a better spot; the bass was still a bit too dominant but it didn’t overwhelm as was the case at the Academy 2 last year. Nowadays with the band now featuring two guitarists, the leads are fairly evenly split between Timo Somers and Merel Bechtold, although the former also provides some good backing vocal on some numbers. The only slight gripe I had was the overuse of CO2 jets in the lighting rig, they were REALLY loud and the ‘PFFFFFFFFT’ when they were set off detracted from the playing in many songs.

Once again this was a triumph for the group, with another sold-out show in their homeland attracting an audience comprising fans from both home and abroad. It is likely we won’t see them again until the autumn now, hopefully their next album will be ready by then but 2016 also marks ten years since the release of debut album ‘Lucidity’. They are bound to do something to mark that anniversary, so I look forward to their return to European (preferably British!) shores soon.