Singer Charlotte Wessels doesn’t want to “underestimate” the Dutch metal act’s followers by telling them what to think.
Throughout their career, Dutch rockers Delain have espoused a melodic, larger-than-life sound meant to inspire and empower their fans, even when tackling somber subject matter. Their sixth album, Apocalypse & Chill (Feb. 7, Napalm Records), is no exception — although given the topsy-turvy state of the world, there is an underlying tension and shades of darkness that imbue the album with a greater weightiness lyrically and musically.
“There’s more heaviness, but there’s also more softness,” offers composer-keyboardist-producer Martijn Westerholt. “I think that’s the good trade from this album. It’s very diverse and very intense.”
Apocalypse & Chill’s title was inspired by the contrast between the album’s love songs and those on the set that feel apocalyptic and dystopian. “It’s kind of a mirror to the world these days: all the ‘perfection’ on social media married with the world being on fire,” says composer-lyricist-singer Charlotte Wessels. “It’s very much about the zeitgeist. I thought the wordplay on ‘Netflix and chill’ conveyed life] today.”
Even though romantic sentiments and fantasy imagery have permeated much of Delain’s work, the symphonic metal quintet — which also includes guitarist Timo Somers, bassist Otto Schimmelpenninck van der Oije and drummer Joey de Boer — has explored many other themes. “Generation Me” from 2012’s We Are the Others tackled social media narcissism, while that album's title track was written about the brutal 2007 murder of British girl Sophie Lancaster and her boyfriend. (They were targeted because of their goth attire.) And the overarching theme on Delain’s last full-length album, 2016’s Moonbathers, was death itself. (So far, the band’s catalog has earned 28.7 million on-demand streams, according to Nielsen Music/MRC Data, and has appeared on such Billboard charts as Heatseekers Albums, where both Moonbathers and 2019’s Hunter’s Moon peaked at No. 5.)
Apocalypse & Chill is a bit different, but not out of character. While the video for lead single “Burning Bridges” reflects the agitated state of the world, it comes across as more socially conscious than overtly political.
“We’ve never really tried to do that,” asserts Wessels. “You write about the things that go on in your head, and you write about emotion. If you look at the world today, it’s hard to not write about it. But you don’t want to underestimate your listeners by telling them what to think. Usually, if a situation works itself into a song, then people listen to that. Sometimes that’s enough because in the end, people can do the math for themselves and can make their own decisions about ethics and morals and complicated topics of ecology and social issues.”
Watch the video for “Burning Bridges” below:
Meanwhile, the singer says that track “Let’s Dance” is about “a doomsday rave,” and remarks, “I hope we’re not there yet. Hopefully, it will make you think.” Another like-minded song is “Legions of the Lost,” which preaches about economic inequality and political deception without pointing fingers or naming names.
The video for “Burning Bridges” was shot amid the mountains of the Snowdonia National Park in Wales by U.K.-based company Video Ink, which created the 2019 clip for “Masters of Destiny” in Iceland. Delain has been very pleased with its Video Ink collaborations, which also have yielded the recent live performance/lyric video for “One Second” and the brand-new “Ghost House Heart.”
The concept for “Burning Bridges” came from the lyrical theme, “talking about the protagonist who’s going from place to place, trying to escape negative energies,” says Wessels. “But they keep sticking to him. So at one point, the question is: Are these negative energies actually in your environment, or are you the one who’s causing them? Or do you need to resolve a conflict with yourself?… The guys from Video Ink took it to a whole new level with our little boy who is so unfortunate to be the protagonist in this story and causing mayhem wherever he goes.”
The video for “Ghost House Heart” is unusual in that it is the first time since the 2007 single “See Me in Shadow” from its 2006 debut, Lucidity, that Delain has released a ballad as a single and video. The group shot the new clip on rainy Friday the 13th in a dark, cold and allegedly haunted house in the heart of Liverpool, England. Westerholt loved the vibe of the location and the day. The video only features him and Wessels in the house intercut with moody shots of churning clouds and water.
Wessels says that “Ghost House Heart” developed out of a piano jam session with Westerholt, and it invokes many ideas in her mind’s eye — desolation, dystopia, ice, snow and homesickness. “A key lyric for me is, ‘I live in the shadow of your love,’ so it’s reliving something that’s already been and knowing that you can’t return,” explains the singer. “It’s a small video, but it’s very much about the atmosphere and the emotions that the song conveys.”
One Apocalypse & Chill song that touches upon a very real-world issue is “Chemical Redemption,” which is Wessels’ mea culpa for her words in “Your Body Is a Battleground” from 2016’s The Human Contradiction. She was angered by seeing a lot of people who had received “the wrong medication or overmedication,” she recalls. “The lyrics in that one were very angry toward medicine in general and that pharmaceutical] industry having too much power and valuing] money over health. It was angry but not nuanced.”
Like any other performer, Wessels is used to being trolled by armchair critics, but this was the first time people commented negatively about her lyrics where she really took notice. A number of fans who relied on various types of medication on a daily basis were unhappy with how she had broached the topic.
“I felt really, really bad about it,” concedes Wessels. “I wrote most of them back personally: ‘I’m so sorry. It came from a place of anger, and I’m going to learn from this as a songwriter.’ I think I made peace with most of them. Ironically, I myself am depending on certain medication right now, and I thought it was good to do a follow-up song]. All the nuance that I didn’t put into that track back then is put into this one, so this is the redemption song from my perspective. There are two sides to every story, and even in a medium where certain fiction and making things bigger is allowed, it’s still good to be nuanced when it’s about people’s personal lives and, in this case, people’s bodies.”