To start, some context: it’s rare when an album from within the amorphous power/gothic/symphonic/what-have-you metal category manages to keep my attention these days. I barely noticed Delain‘s first two full-lengths, Lucidity and April Rain. Tied to (or tied down) via their previous connection with sub-genre staple Within Temptation, and frequently featuring guest appearances from such a familiar face (voice) as Marco Hietala from Nightwish, the band’s work was always pleasant enough but seemingly lacking anything that might make me remember them. It’s taken some time, but with the release of their third album, We Are The Others, the Dutch act have crafted a catchy album that both solidifies their musical identity and shows that they can stand with and apart from their genre brethren.
Part of the appeal of We Are The Others is vocalist Charlotte Wessels (ex-Empyrium) staying in the spotlight. It’s significant that there’s only one guest performance found here, an underused and pretty forgettable contribution from Fear Factory’s Burton C. Bell (on “Where is the Blood,” arguably the only dud track on the album). Another strong aspect of the album is the solid musical backing Wessels receives from keyboardist Martijn Westerholt (ex-Within Temptation) and the rest of the band. Catchy riffs and memorable melodies make up the bulk of the songs, and I frequently find myself humming them under my breath. However, what truly makes We Are The Others stand out is the fact that it features some of the most earnest thematic content I’ve heard on a metal album in quite some time. When asked questions about the thinking behind We Are The Other‘s concept, Wessels has been very open about how many of the themes are not only based on ideas she’s picked up as a student of gender studies, but also her general dissatisfaction with how people view the “others” in their lives.
The album’s themes are perhaps best exemplified by the title track, a radio-friendly anthem that encourages listeners to acknowledge that “normal” is a fiction, and that everyone is in some way or another an outcast in the contexts in their lives (whether among society in general, friends and family, or even in relation to ex-lovers). Dedicating a song to British murder victim Sophie Lancaster a few years after her death seems strange at first, but it quickly becomes obvious that the event is a base from which Delain can express a sentiment that plays out in many forms and with regard to many contexts. It’s society’s lack of open communication, violent prejudices, and enforced alienation that are the Delain’s primary targets, and We Are The Others more barbed messages are made all the more palatable by the strong music that supports them. It’s often the case that the catchiest tunes offer the most overtly critical lyrics (see “Generation Me,” “Babylon,” and “Are You Done With Me” as primary examples). Many of the subjects covered here are social issue fish in a barrel, but the sheer lack of ironic detachment and cynicism that Delain demonstrate on We Are The Others’ is a reminder that metal remains one of the best genres for such displays of sincerity.