I’ve been a fan of symphonic metal for quite some time now. Arguably, it's been since I first heard Evanescence back in 2003 when I picked up the Dare Devil soundtrack, which featured both “Bring Me to Life” and “My Immortal.” So, imagine my surprise to find out that this incredibly infectious genre has been around for years already in Europe, in the form of bands like Lacuna Coil and Within Temptation.
Fast forward another decade, and I discovered Delain, a Dutch outfit featuring mastermind songwriter/keyboardist Martijn Westerholt and the angelic vocals of Charlotte Wessels. The very first time I heard “April Rain” I was hooked. Fortunately, both this band and the genre as a whole have really grown here in North America over the last several years, which has provided ample opportunities to see bands such as Delain live, as they’ve been a touring juggernaut, seemingly on an endless cycle of tour, record, tour again.
This tour in particular, is billed as a co-headliner with Delain closing out the night, preceded by Amorphis, with special guest Anneke van Giersbergen opening the evening with a solo acoustic set. Having not seen 2/3 of the lineup before, I was eager to get into the show and see what was in store. As it turns out, all the hype around this “stacked” lineup was spot on. So, if you’re already going and just reading this for the hype, get there early!
The Sept. 26 show opened up with Anneke van Giersbergen taking the stage with her acoustic guitar for a brief set. She opened up with a Devin Townsend Project cover of “Ih-Ah!” before diving into some more well-known tunes including Dolly Parton’s “Jolene,” Audioslave’s “Like a Stone,” Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here and Iron Maiden’s “Wasted Years.” This was a surprisingly beautiful and low-key set, one that I could have easily listened to for twice as long. Van Giersbergen is no rookie in this scene, with roots dating back to the ’90s with bands such as The Gathering and The Gentle Storm.
Next up was an hour-long set from Amorphis. They opened their set up with “The Bee,” the lead track from their 2018 album Queen of Time. While I’m not typically a huge fan of a harsh vocal style, Amorphis balances it out with an infectious rhythm and a significant portion of clean vocals as well. They followed up with “The Golden Elk,” another standout track from the same album.
As they proceeded through their set, they included additional favorites and new songs, including “Wrong Direction,” “Black Winter Day” and highlighted the set with guest vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen for “Amongst Stars” (she also appears on Queen of Time as the guest vocalist on this song.)
For a band I really hadn’t heard anything from before, this set really caught my attention. In the time since this show, I’ve listened to their latest album probably half a dozen times and I’ll definitely be sure to follow Amorphis for any future shows that might come through the area.
Finally, after an exceptional buildup, it was time for Delain to take the stage. They opened their set with a brand-new track, “Burning Bridges,” which was set to be available the following day on all digital services. If this is any indication of the new direction Delain is taking, then fans are in for some serious growth, while still remaining faithful to the sound that’s helped them build their growing global fanbase.
They followed up with “Suckerpunch,” an outstanding fist-pumper from 2016’s Moonbathers album and Lunar Prelude EP. Next, it was back to their breakout hit “April Rain” from 2009’s album of the same title.
This show marked my ninth Delain show, and the sixth of 6 shows they’ve played in Toronto, dating back to 2013. It seems every time they come back around, they’ve taken measures to try and grow their production and bring more to the stage. This tour was probably the biggest step up in the last several years, featuring multiple backdrops, beautiful microphone stands and well-utilized smoke machines.
Beyond the actual production though, the band itself continues to develop. Led by Martijn Westerholt on keyboards, Delain continues to create songs that are each more of an experience than just a simple tune. This is true in numerous tracks, including several performed on tour including “Stardust,” Don’t Let Go” and “April Rain.”
Standout guitarist Timo Somers seems completely underrated in the metal world (though not among fans of this band). He’s constantly busy with various projects and will be increasingly fun to follow as he continues to progress. For reference, check out his cover of Linkin Park’s “One More Light” in tribute to Chester Bennington.
Vocalist Charlotte Wessels has one of the most unique voices in metal, and it’s what initially drew me into this band 10 years ago. Her dedication to the craft continues to produce stunning results album after album, this time, in the form of a small dose of harsh vocals during “Burning Bridges” (see video above).
Bassist Otto Schimmelpenninck van der Oije (yes, it’s a mouthful, but his stage presence is even bigger) has been holding down the low end with Delain for years. Get to a show and watch this guy play.
Delain closed out their set with their anthem “We Are the Others” from 2012’s We Are the Others album, followed by “The Gathering” from their 2006 debut, Lucidity.
This tour was the absolute complete package to me. If you’re tired of seeing the same old thing live and looking for something to really catch you off guard and hit you in a new way, I would highly recommend checking out any of the bands on this lineup. The current tour runs through late October, so be sure to check them out if they’re coming through town in the next few weeks.
Delain appears poised to release their upcoming album early next year, so I’d suspect another tour with North America within the following year. You’ll definitely want to keep this band on your radar!
Anneke can Giersbergen