I’m going to try to write this review without being critical of Delain. No guarantees, but I’ll give it a shot. Charlotte Wessels, recently divorced from symphonic metal powerhouse Delain, has risen from that situation with aplomb and her own solo album. The record is called Tales from Six Feet Under, and it releases on September 17th through Napalm Records.
Yes, Charlotte is the former singer of Delain. She was a “guest” on the project’s debut, and was a big part of the band’s success since then. Even before parting ways, she was keen on writing some of her own music (which I suspect was rejected by the powers-that-be at Delain), and she did so through Patreon with substantial support. She performs or programmed all instruments on the record, and also invited in Alissa White-Gluz of Arch Enemy for a guest spot.
For an album that is almost 100% Charlotte, there is a surprising level of diversity. One might expect this album to lean towards symphonic metal, and a couple tracks indeed do. But the album also gives us pop, electronic, rock, and industrial sounds to savor. There is a certain level of Gothic zest sprinkled throughout, and so the music, no matter the genre, comes off as dark and maybe even slightly macabre, like a carnival of enchantments.
I’ll be honest: I wasn’t sold on my first listen. The opening track “Superhuman” is particularly repetitive, though I like how quirky and stylish it is. The next two songs, “Afkicken” and “Masterpiece”, are good tracks, but not the kind that reach out and grab you by the shirt. “Afkicken” is a little distracting since it is a Dutch word meaning “getting clean”, as in from drug addiction, but it sounds like Charlotte is saying “ass kicking” the entire time, so the song can sound like shallow radio rock lyrically until you get your mind oriented. “Masterpiece” is unapologetic pop music with a catchy chorus and loads of auto tune, which I suspect won’t land super well with Charlotte’s established fan base. Again, this is basically just first impressions for me. As the album progresses from the first three tracks, I found more familiar sounds; and, with repeated listens, I have come to appreciate the entire record.
I have nothing but praise for the last seven songs on this album. Starting with the haunting and even epic “Victor”, the album picks up a pace that I love. “New Mythology” is another pop-centered tune, and the chorus is fantastic, and I love Charlotte’s vocal fireworks near the end. “Source of the Flame” brings in the guitars for a slow burning, terrific tune with a great instrumental in the second half. “Cry Little Sister” might be my favorite song overall, as I love the chorus, the subtle metal edges, and Charlotte’s vocal performance. I feel like that song really hits the sweet spot for her voice.
The last three songs are all great, too. “Lizzie” is a duet with Alissa, and it flourishes and flutters with grandiose vocal performances. “FSU” is probably the most straightforward rock/metal track on the album, and it has a satisfying gait to it. Lastly, “Soft Revolution” is one of the best tracks overall, and could end up being my favorite with time. I love this studio version with the subtle keyboard melody paired with the gigantic chorus that weaves and emotes with complexity and passion. It certainly feels like it has layers to it. This is the song I find myself humming to myself most often.
I guess what I’m saying is that Charlotte Wessels’ debut solo effort is a solid success. It might not hit you upon first listen, but I guarantee you will find it more and more endearing as you give it time. With each listen, I hear more and more things I missed, and I find myself liking the parts that I might not normally appreciate. This is an album made for Charlotte herself, and she is sharing it with us, and I am happy to see her landing on her feet after Delain. With the experience and skill that she brings to the table, I expect more great music from her in whatever endeavor she chooses from here.
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