The future of the veteran Dutch symphonic metal band Delain was unclear after the lineup disbanded in early 2021, leaving only keyboardist Martijn Westerholt. After initially considering making it a project with rotating members, he decided to rebuild the lineup. He brought back drummer Sander Zoer, who had been in the band from 2006 to 2014, along with former guitarist Ronald Landa, who was previously a member from 2006 to 2009.
Rounding out the current incarnation of Delain are bassist Ludovico Cioffi (Carnality, The Modern Age Slavery) and vocalist Diana Leah. She has the biggest shoes to fill on the band's seventh album Dark Waters, replacing longtime singer and face of the band Charlotte Wessels, who departed to pursue a solo career.
The songs on Dark Waters, like 2020's Apocalpyse & Chill, merge the bombast of symphonic metal with poppy keyboards and hooks. Westerholt remains the main songwriter, so even with the turnover of members, the sound is consistent. Pop elements are front and center on opener "Hideaway Paradise" that's packed with hooks. That's contrasted by "The Quest and the Curse," a heavier and moderately paced track with harsh vocals and choirs balancing Leah's ethereal singing.
Dark Waters has several guest musicians. Paolo Ribaldini (Seraphiel, Skiltron) sings on three tracks. "Beneath" is a single for a reason, an appealing song that is given additional variety by Ribaldini's backing vocals. That's also the case on "Moth to a Flame" that opens with acapella singing before the metal kicks in with some of the record's best riffs.
Before forming Delain, Westerholt was an original member of Within Temptation. Singer Sharon den Adel guested on Delain's 2006 debut Lucidity, and in 2023 Within Temptation's Ruud Jolie lends his guitar talents to "Mirror of Night," a dynamic number that has both quiet piano sections and heavy cinematic parts.
Former Nightwish vocalist Marco Hietala has appeared on numerous Delain albums over the years, and his distinctive style helps elevate "Invictus," which is the album's centerpiece. It's a rock opera style track with a lot of atmosphere. There are choir vocals along with Leah, Ribaldini and Hietala's singing. It's symphonic and bombastic, but still manages to be catchy.
The biggest obstacle for me to overcome going into Dark Waters was the new vocalist, but I was pleasantly surprised. Wessels always did an excellent job, but Leah is a quality replacement. She sounds fairly similar to Wessels, which I'm guessing will evolve on future albums, but she has the range and tonal quality to pull off these songs effortlessly. She really shines on the bonus track, a piano version of "The Quest and the Curse."
While there are numerous memorable songs on Dark Waters, there is a bit more filler than on Apocalypse & Chill. That brings the quality down slightly, but is still recommended for those who may be skeptical of a Wessels-less Delain.