Friday, 23 October 2015

Delain - Bristol Review

Within the symphonic metal world, Delain are probably the band that writes the most accessible songs while still managing to pack a real punch. Since releasing their debut album Lucidity in 2006, the band have continued to grow and become one of the best loved bands of the genre, especially in the UK. This is the band's second run of dates over here supporting fourth album The Human Contradiction, which shows how popular the band are over here. This show in Bristol was also the first show of the band's current European tour, which sees a slight shake-up of the setlist and the addition of Merel Bechtold (guitar) as a full time member of the band, making Delain a six-piece, although she is a familiar face to Delain concert goers recently. Bristol's Marble Factory seems to be a good up-and-coming new venue for metal in the city. I saw Amaranthe there in March, and I am coming back again next month to see Leaves' Eyes. It seems to be a good place to see live music too, with a decent sound system and a convenient location. There was an excellent turn out too, which is always a good sign. This is more likely to convince promoters to book more gigs in Bristol, which is great for the South West.

Kyshera were the first band on, and they took a little while to get going. It did not help that the sound for the first few numbers was rather off, with the guitar buried in the mix and the drums dominating everything. Despite this, I could tell from the outset that they would not really be my thing, but they did not outstay their welcome. The sound improved as the set progressed, and the songs towards the end of the set improved too. They had a good energy to them, but I did not feel the songs had that much melody. The crowd seemed to warm to them more and more as the set went on, but I am afraid that they are just not for me.

The Gentle Storm, the tour's main support, were next and they were much better. A project formed by Ayreon mastermind Arjen Anthony Lucassen and former The Gathering frontwoman Anneke van Giersbergen for a double album called The Diary released earlier this year, van Giersbergen has formed a live band to take the material on the road. It is safe to say that The Gentle Storm is not Lucassen's best project, but there are enough good song to make it memorable. van Giersbergen has a great voice too, and she is a focus of the album. She is joined by guitarists Bechtold and Ferry Duijsens (the former doing double duty with Delain), Johan van Stratum (bass guitar), Ed Warby (drums), and Marcela Bovio (vocals). These musicians form a tight unit, and their set made for an enjoyable experience. Half of the set came from The Diary, while the other half came from songs from van Giersbergen's other musical adventures. The highlights for me were The Gentle Storm original songs, especially set closer Shores of India, but the set made me realise how great van Giersbergen is. I really need to check out her former band The Gathering, as the couple of songs they played from that band's catalogue sounded great. The setlist was:

Heart of Amsterdam
Brightest Light
The Storm
Eléanor [The Gathering cover]
Witnesses [Agua de Annique cover]
Strange Machines [The Gathering cover]
Fallout [Devin Townsend Project cover]
Shores of India

Despite an impressive set from The Gentle Storm, it was Delain that we were all here to see and they pulled out all the stops. Three songs from the band's latest album got things off to a great start, with the heavy Tell Me, Mechanist being the highlight. Frontwoman Charlotte Wessels and Otto Schimmelpenninck van der Oije (bass guitar/vocals) traded vocals well throughout the song, the latter's harsh vocals mixing well with Wessels' gorgeous delivery. The set contained a mix of classic favourites and songs that had not been played live for a while. Early single Frozen was one such track, and it went down a storm with the crowd. From the distinctive opening keyboard riff from founding member Martijn Westerholt, the song captured the attention of the crowd and everyone in attendance was having a good time. Set regular April Rain went down well as usual, before another oldie Silhouette of a Dancer was wheeled out. This is one of my favourite Delain songs, so it was great to hear it live. They even debuted a brand new song called Turn Out the Lights, which seemed to go down really well. On first listen, the song sounded great, with a memorable chorus that I am sure will go down well when Delain record and release their fifth studio album. After this, the rest of the set was packed full of classics. The catchy singles Get the Devil Out of Me and The Gathering saw everyone singing along, before the epic The Tragedy of the Commons and Not Enough brought the main set to an end. There was still, of course, time for more; and a three song encore followed. Mother Machine, Stay Forever, and closer We are the Others had the whole place rocking, and ended a triumphant set well. The setlist was:

Tell Me, Mechanist
Army of Dolls
Milk and Honey
Sleepwalkers Dream
April Rain
Silhouette of a Dancer
Turn the Lights Out
Get the Devil Out of Me
The Gathering
The Tragedy of the Commons
Not Enough
Mother Machine
Stay Forever
We are the Others

Overall, Delain's set was amazing and the large crowd made their appreciation known throughout. I am sure this tour of Europe will be successful, and I look forward to hearing Delain's next album whenever it is ready. As an added bonus to the night I got van Giersbergen and van Stratum's autographs on my copy of The Diary after the show.

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