We are indeed living in strange times. And with each day that passes, we hear of terrible stories from across the world. Apocalyptic could well be a word to describe 2020 so far.
Dutch symphonic metal outfit Delain has taken this theme and given it a Millennial twist and the result is their new record ‘Apocalypse and Chill’.
HRH Mag recently caught up with Delain lead vocalist Charlotte Wessels before their show at the O2 Ritz Manchester just before the first lockdown (which also happened to be the record’s release day), to get the lowdown on the band’s new album.
Today marks the release of your new album Apocalypse and Chill. I just wondered how are you feeling about the album coming out today. Are you sort of excited? Are you nervous? Are you relieved? Are you curious? How are you feeling about this?
Mostly curious, because I don’t feel that hype. I do feel a certain hype, but not the hype of the album being done. Like for a lot of people, this is the first time they get to hear the album. And for us, kind of the most peak moment is when the master comes in. Because when the mixes come in, you still have to tweak a lot. When the master comes in, usually the songs are at the point where they feel like they’re done.
And then when the artwork is ready, there’s this feeling of ah, okay, this is finished. I can imagine that that moment for us, when all the parts are kind of done is comparable to what the fans feel at this point – when they can get to listen to the album the first time. So that for us, that’s already a few months behind. So this is more like a curiosity of, okay, people have heard some first tracks, they’ve seen your artwork. Some people hated the artwork. So now this is kind of the moment where they get to see the full picture and we have to see like if they appreciate it – if they like it. It’s interesting.
The artwork itself is quite interesting actually when I was looking at, especially some of the images I’ve seen on Instagram. I haven’t seen the physical copy, in that, I haven’t had it in my hand yet, so I haven’t got to pour over the whole thing. But the first pictures that I saw were shots with each of you with reflections in your glasses and each one is a kind of a different sort of apocalyptic scene. And so, the whole theme kind of flows through the entire piece. So, I’m surprised that people have reacted in that way.
You know, we had a moon trilogy before this. So, I think people kind of expect that traditional romantic Gothic style that we’ve done so far, mixed with art nouveau because I love art nouveau. But I also feel that for us, the music is always kind of leading in what we do. And, we’re not a band that would drastically change style overnight. Before this album for the music, the lyrics, the theme that goes through it – it didn’t feel right to have kind of a romantic feel in the visual world because the theme is not romantic. So we went with what we thought fitted the album and the story and it was not what we usually do visually, but it fits the record. But some people were surprised and that was interesting to see.
You can’t please everybody.
No, that’s fine. And we kind of anticipated this because even in the band, opinions about it have been kind of mixed. When I first kind of sent over the artwork, I made a Photoshop mock-up and Martijn was like, Hmm, yeah something like this, but then kind of illustrated. Or maybe like art nouveau-ish. And we’ve been going back and forth about it even in the band. But we landed on this and so we were very interested to see how it would go over.
Tonight we’re here in Manchester. This is the second date of the UK run. And so how was last night? What was it like getting out there and playing the new stuff?
It was good. We played quite some new tracks on our previous tour already, so we only did two new songs yesterday. We are adding another two new songs on top of the new songs that we already played. So yesterday we did seven songs from Apocalypse and Chill. Tonight we’re doing eight, which is quite a lot. For me, it’s kind of like, I don’t have a routine with the new songs yet, which is a mix of exciting. Like I’m very happy performing the new songs because when the songs are that new, you kind of still really feel what you felt when you wrote it.
There is this kind of passion in it because it’s not in your automatic memory bank. That also means that it can go wrong. Like yesterday, Oh my God, it was so awkward. So, we have this song called ‘Let’s Dance’ on there. And in the chorus, I sing, ‘Let’s Dance’. And there’s an echo that goes ‘Dance’. So yesterday I told everyone, because we let people sing along to that, and I told them it’s super easy, you only have to sing two words – it’s ‘Let’s Dance’. But that’s not true, they only have to sing ‘Dance’ and ‘Let’s Dance’ doesn’t fit in the music. So everyone was like, ‘Let’s Dance’, ‘Let’s Dance’. And then I thought I can fix this.
So, after the first chorus, I was like, I’m sorry I fu**ed up – it’s just ‘Dance’. But then they thought I meant ‘Just Dance’. So then the next chorus everyone was like, ‘Let’s Dance/Just Dance’. And it was like, no, no, I’m not going to be able to fix this. So, yeah, as I said, it’s a mix of exciting to do new material that you still feel the passion and the emotions. On the other hand, there is a better chance of fu**ing up. So yeah, a routine is good and bad.
I have to say the album title itself is pertinent. Even on my drive down today I was sitting there thinking about it in my head trying to figure out what you were thinking about with the album title. We’re going through some really strange times at the minute. You can’t turn on the news without hearing some horrific story. It feels almost apocalyptic every single day [and this was before lockdown! – Ed]. But then also you kind of become a bit desensitized to that because there is so much bad stuff going on. So, I was just wondering what exactly you were thinking about when you came up with the title Apocalypse and Chill.
Usually, I wait until we have like six or seven tracks that are going to be on the album to start thinking about titles and such. And there was this big contradiction in the songs that we had at that point where half of them were like super apocalyptic or dystopian. And the other half were really like romantic, nostalgic and I felt that it kind of mirrored what is going on. if you look at media today, like open a newspaper, you think the world’s on fire and it finally truly is and open your social media and you will see these perfect, you know, everyone living their perfect lives and it becomes almost hard to believe that those two worlds are the same world. So it’s very much about that zeitgeist. And then Apocalypse and Chill like the choice of words. It’s very much a dig at Netflix and Chill and that’s also very 2019 – very much current.
I know that in the past literature has always been something that’s influenced you as an artist, and as a writer. But would you say more recently the events around the world and the things that you’ve been seeing were more on your mind when you were writing this record as opposed to taking sort of fictional influences?
Definitely. I never really went with fiction randomly. I would be thinking about a certain topic a lot and then I would read a book that had a really interesting angle to that. And then I thought, oh, maybe I can have an interesting angle on, well, you know, like that art influencing art, influencing art, influencing art. But this time it was less books – it was more dreams. I had a certain medication that made me dream very vividly. For example, ‘Creatures’ that’s like one-on-one or the lyrics to it at least is like very one-on-one, like very, this kind of dystopian dream. So yeah, less literature this time and more Nightmarish even. I’m sorry.
So, what would you say was the starting point for this record musically?
We always work quite organically. What it looks like usually is Martijn, Guus and myself. We sit down the three of us. Martijn is the producer. So, he will usually be the one that goes like, oh, there we are again with this record. But we always have an approach where we kind of go with whatever inspiration brings. He says, in front of every record, okay, let’s go bigger, louder, faster, harder, you know because that’s still always an ambition. But in the end, even if we say, okay, we’re going to go for the fastest metal track, and then it ends up being a ballad – we’ll go with a ballad. That’s fine. There’s no sense in forcing an idea to be something that it’s not.
So, there wasn’t a certain idea, like we’re going to take a certain direction or are we going to go with a certain theme or topic. But we did have the ambition of – I think that ‘Moonbathers’ was quite diverse and we enjoyed that. And, we were very much interested in taking that another step in the symphonic elements and bring that forward even more. We brought in like real choirs, there is a lot more eighties and nineties synth electronics, EDM stuff going on. So I think it was very much about pushing boundaries without losing our own identity. And, I said about the three of us, but actually, Timo has been contributing a lot on this record as he did on previous records in the arranging department. But also, two of the songs are like very much his brainchild – children, babies – you get my drift. Yeah, we go where the ideas take us.
‘Ghost House Heart’ is the first ballad you have released since 2007. Was it intentional to do a ballad for this record or did it just kind of come together?
We had quite some singles for this one. I think that one of the things that is distinctive about this record is how diverse it is. And the songs on this record that we had already put out were ‘Masters of Destiny’ which is very symphonic, a very large, a very elaborate composition. ‘Burning Bridges’ also quite symphonic, very up-tempo, loud in your face, much happening. Then we have ‘One Second’, very poppy, very catchy, more of that short structure.
And then we were like if we want to show people the diversity on the album, then it makes sense to show the other side as well, which is the ballad because we already did like the very symphonic, we already did the very electronic, catchy poppy thing. So we felt like if we have to take another sign that kind of represents us and the kind of contrast that we can do then this is a good choice. Plus the last ballad that we released was in 2007 so, you know, it’s been a while. I don’t want to do like a ballad every year, but once every 12 years.
Do you enjoy that kind of change of pace? And also, are you including that in the live set?
We do actually, we’re playing it tonight, but we have a cellist with us. We enjoy it. I do notice that we tend to play the ballads when we’ve just released them. But then for example, if we have like a year after the release and we’re still touring, we often kick it out because we just want to rock.
I know that video was recorded pretty much just down the road from here in Liverpool. I think it was at Woolton hall.
Yeah, it was at Woolton hall. It was Friday 13th and we heard that it was haunted. And at one point I kind of wandered off one more time. Martijn was recording and I came to the top floor and like there was a rope hanging above. So let’s go back. What could go wrong? This is how white girls die in movies. Yeah, let’s not.
Do you have a favourite track on the new record and if so, which song and why?
I think either ‘To Live is to Die’ because of the tambourine – I love me some tambourine and it fits well with the song as well. Or ‘Creatures’. Yeah, I like how that one turned out as well. But I’m still kind of in that phase where I have a different favourite every day. Plus, I don’t listen to it a lot. So I’m also kind of proud of ‘Masters of Destiny’ because I think that that’s vocally one of the most challenging. I don’t think I could sing that song 10 years ago. I think I wouldn’t have been able to technically. So I’m proud of that one. If you put that next to a song from ‘Lucidity’, it shows that I’ve done things in the last ten years.
This release also marks the first album since Merel left the band as well. So, I just wondered did that add or take away anything with the dynamic of the band. Did you have to rethink anything?
Not really, I think that one of the things, one of the reasons that Merel left was that she hadn’t managed yet to contribute to the creative process in a way that was satisfactory for her. Because we’ve been like we just mentioned kind of our writing team, we’ve been doing that for 15 years and we always welcome people to contribute to it, but it doesn’t go overnight. She contributed one song, which was on ‘Hunters Moon’ which was ‘Art Kills’, which is a killer. But aside from that, the writing team has always been the same. And so the way that we write or produce our music doesn’t change with her departure. And for live, we’ve spent most of our history as a five-piece, so we’re more used to that than being with the six of us.
We did have like a few years ago before Merel joined, we still had kind of trouble getting that big wall of sound with just the one guitar. But there’s been some technological advancements that made it possible for us to create the effect of having two guitarists on stage. So, it’s not to say that her departure didn’t affect the band because we’re buddies, you know. So, I think that for me is the biggest change. We still see each other, we still hang out and it doesn’t have an effect on the way we write or perform in Delain. So I think this is the best thing for everyone. She can do her thing. We can still do our thing.
So, it’s not like Timo has got his work cut out now?
He does. He’s a very virtuoso guitarist. We’re very, very lucky to have him and he’s got two people’s jobs now.
Apocalypse and Chill by Delain is out now via Napalm Records.