Delain are well and truly back. The release of their latest album, Dark Waters, has been a success. Suppose 2021 was a shocking year for Martijn Westerholt? In that case, that is now a distant memory as the return to the team of guitarist Ronald Landa and drummer Sander Zoer and the recruitment of bassist Ludovico Cioffi was a masterstroke. However, the magic sprinkled over the album by the incredible new vocalist Diana Leah elevates Dark Waters to the ‘special’ category.
Interview – Martijn Westerholt – Delain
Delain was reborn with the live debut of the new lineup in Switzerland last year. “Sometimes I can still not believe it,” Martijn told MetalTalk’s Steve Ritchie, “because there have been moments that I thought, okay, this is it. This is the end of the road for Delain. But here we are now. So much happened on a big roller coaster. We also had this tiny thing called Covid. So I’m really grateful and incredibly happy that we’re back, and I’m also not taking it for granted. It is important to count your blessings.”
To my ears, the performance of Diana Leah is special, and she is such an awesome fit for the band. “Thank you so much for your kind words,” Martijn says. “Completely, I feel like a really lucky guy. You know, you really have to work hard, but you also need to be lucky to find people at the right time. And yeah, that really happened.”
The returns of Ronald and Sander have helped too. Martijn says he has known them for years, and they have always kept in touch. “It was a very organic thing that with the rebuilding of Delain to involve them in that,” he says. “But it was actually them that told me, ‘hey, why not continue as a band’, because I did not expect them to have the space for that in their lives. Because playing in a band like Delain takes a lot of time. You really have to you have to adapt your life to that. It’s very demanding, and I love it, but I don’t want to expect that of everybody as well. But to my surprise, they wanted it very much. That was amazing, and I’m really happy to work with them again.”
The resulting Dark Waters is a great album, and the response has been fantastic. “I am beyond happy,” Martijn says. “I could not have dreamed that the response would be like this. Of course, you do your best, and you have faith because otherwise, you wouldn’t do it. But to get this response from our fans is very, very special. So I’m beyond happy.”
The first single released was The Quest And The Curse, which to me, was a perfect choice. You imagine that the release of the first single for the new lineup of a band would, hopefully, be an epic moment. “It was kind of a bit nerve-wracking,” Martijn says. “I think it was the most nerve-wracking moment of my career because that’s a little moment when you present the band to the crowd, to your fans and see if people like it. And if they also feel okay, does this have all the Delain DNA present that is needed to continue? So that was a very, very special moment, and I was relieved to see the comments and hear that people liked it.”
With a mixture of nerves and excitement, the track was chosen as it is one that highlights all members of the band and would be a good introduction to the new lineup.
Napalm Records have continued to support Martijn and the band. “They never lost faith, and that means a lot to me,” he says. “They have always supported me. I really felt supported and backed by them, and indeed, we have had a long working relationship for almost a decade now. So it’s great to be at Napalm.”
Standout tracks like Mirror Of Night highlight Diana’s harmonies, but also the way she phrases the lyrics, making it a wonderful listen. “We also have the luck that Diana also lived for years in Canada, speaking English all the time. That’s an important thing. If you have a huge accent like mine, my accent is terrible, and I’m very well aware of it, but I don’t have to sing. So that really helps.”
The quality of the lyrics stands out, too, an example being the rhyming of ‘Eternalised’ and ‘Hyperbolised’ at the start of lines in the second verse. Martijn’s American wife likes poetry and Metal and worked on the song lyrics. “Another thing I’m so incredibly lucky with is that I’m married to a native English speaker,” he says. “She is from California and she loves language and poetry. She’s a huge fan of talking as well! One of the greatest linguists ever. So we’re very lucky to have her write the lyrics and when Diana joined, they also worked together. Diana wrote some lyrics, and it’s a wonderful cooperation and a blessing that she is part of the writing process.”
With songs like The Quest And The Curse, you find references to Greek mythology, which is again Mrs Westerholt’s influence. “She loves that kind of stuff as well,” Martijn says. “Very much fantasy-driven and inspired, but also very Metal inspired. She loves Metal bands like Insomnium and Kamelot and well.”
Songs like Tainted Hearts and Invictus are more standouts in an excellent song selection, the latter including a performance from Marko Hietala (ex-Nightwish). “Marko and I go back a long time,” Martijn says, “and he has been a guest for Delain on numerous records. So he’s kind of part of the furniture, so to say. He went through a difficult time as well, so I’m also really honoured that he was willing to contribute to our record. That’s really, really special. I flew to Spain to record his vocals and yeah, that was a wonderful experience. And man, it’s always so surprising to hear the results when he’s done with singing. Always great.”
The Cold is a magnificent song. A track which contains so much emotion there is a wonderful build-up where Diana sings, ‘‘I’m awaiting the sunrise… To awaken my frozen heart for you… But the dead of the night deepens the cold.” I say to Martijn that the way she hangs out the last word, ‘cold’, is quite an emotional and goosebump moment. “So wonderful to hear that you noticed that,” he says. “It’s one of my favourite parts of that song as well. It’s also one of my favourite songs on the record. It turned out really, really cool.”
Delain has two live dates booked in the UK in April, but more will follow. “Playing in the UK is always special,” Martijn says. “Somehow, Delain got such a huge following in the UK, and it’s very important. Of course, these are only two dates, but I already want to spoil that we’re working on a dedicated UK and Ireland tour with more dates later on. But this is kind of, how do you say, the entree?”
With a new lineup and new album, you wonder how they will plan their set covering older songs. Martijn is keen to spill the beans. “We want to involve the fans a little bit in that and ask them what they would like to hear to get an idea about that. I really see a happy marriage. A good combination of new songs and songs from our catalogue. I want to play both. I also think that’s what people want to hear, the old and the new stuff, and I can’t wait.”
A band should never forget its past, and Delain fans should keep an eye on social media for the chance to feedback on their song and set suggestions.
“I want to thank the fans for keeping an open mind to this new record with the changes in the lineup,” Martijn says. “We received so much positive energy and positive messages from people. As I said earlier, it’s beyond anything we could have hoped for. So I’m really grateful for that.”