This was always going to be an interesting evening, with Delain having undergone numerous band changes since the last occasion that they graced our shores.
Islington Academy – 22 April 2023
Words: Adrian Stonley
Photography: Robert Sutton
Back in 2021, Singer Charlotte Wessels, guitarist Timo Somers, bassist Otto Schimmelpenninck van der Oije and drummer Joey de Boer all departed the band, leaving only founder keyboard player Martin Westerholt left to carry the baton.
Following these departures, a number of ex-members returned to the band, including Sander Zoer on drums, Ronald Landa, who was the band’s original guitarist up until the April Rain album, as well as newcomers Ludovico Cioffi on bass and lead vocalist, Diana Leah.
So not only do we have a ‘new band’, we also have a new album in Dark Waters to take into account. But firstly, let’s deal with the big question which was ‘how does Diana Leah on vocals compare with long time vocalist and fan favourite Charlotte Wessels?’
From my perspective the best thing to do is try not to compare, although I appreciate it is easier said than done. Diana does her own thing. She is not trying to replicate Charlotte, and as fans, we need to recognise that Diana is a strong vocalist in her own right and is more than capable of taking on the old songs and making them her own. As time passes, she will become more comfortable with the songs. With regards to the new material, this is already hers to own, and she clearly carries over the vocal and song strength from the album into the live setting.
So, to the show itself. This was only the second of two UK dates being played as part of the European tour and, unsurprisingly, was sold out. The Academy is not the largest of venues and was rammed full from doors opening, with many also wanting to see the support act, Xandria. More on that elsewhere.
From the opening number The Cold from the latest album, Dark Waters, the band showed their intent and, by playing a new number, allowed Diana to find her feet instantly. Unlike support band Xandria, Delain did not play it safe with their set pulled from across their entire backlog.
It would have been easy to concentrate on the new album, and though six songs were played from this, the balance of the set was very much the greatest hits, full of crowd-pleasers. It was clear that the audience was more than prepared to give the band a chance, and the reaction to the new lineup was very positive.
The band still retain their traditional Symphonic Metal sound, and the new material fits in well. This, however, was a show where the band were clearly looking towards the future and not leaving their past behind them. Perhaps by bringing back previous band members into the fold, it was a clear intention that this was still Delain as opposed to a new band carrying the name.
That said, there were clear differences in the live approach. Halfway through the set, we were treated to an acoustic interlude with Cordell, the Cranberries’ song being given a gentle airing, which in itself broke up the bombastic onslaught of the more traditional material.
Following on from that, Paolo Ribaldini, from Skiltron, joined the band on stage as an additional vocalist for four songs, Beneath and Queen Of Shadow from the latest album as well as Your Body Is A Battleground and favourite from the first album, Lucidity, The Gathering. With these songs being dueted with Diana, it produced a changed feel to the set, which worked well.
The encores were unsurprisingly well received, with old favourites Mother Machine and Control The Storm (the one set change from Manchester) being greeted with excessive arm waving and loud audience participation, being reciprocated by Diana on stage, who had not stopped working the audience throughout the show.
The concert ended with the anthemic and classic We Are The Others, the song about the attack on and death of Sophie Lancaster, with the entire audience singing along the lines “We are the others, We are the cast outs, We’re the outsiders, But you can’t hide us,” clearly relating to the ethos and emotion behind the song. This, in itself, is a calling out to those who feel alone, torn and mistreated with the rallying call of “you are not alone.”
This is a song that is a perfect set closer, bringing positivity out of a terrible dark moment and a reminder that, as rock fans, we are all one family.
So early days as a new(ish) lineup, but certainly a lot of positivity to take from this and clearly an audience who are still very much in love with the band.