Tag Archives: Delain

2012 Albums of the Year – Part One

Yes, it’s that time of year again, when everyone who fancies themselves as a music critic lists the records that have defined their year.

The usual disclaimers apply, of course. They’re selected from the albums of 2012 that I’ve actually had the chance to hear over the course of the year. It’s also a personal list of albums that have made an impression on me rather than any attempt to declare them the “best” of the year, whatever that might mean. Which is why there are very obscure independent releases alongside heavily-promoted major-label albums.

My self-imposed rules exclude both live albums and studio restatements of past material, although Steve Hackett’s “Genesis Revisited II” and Heather Findlay’s “Songs From The Old Kitchen” deserve mention.

It was going to be a top 20, but once I’d got my list finalised someone went and released a record in the middle of December that really deserved to be on the list. So now it’s a top 21. I’ve given up trying to rank all 21 album in any kind of order, and have gone for grouping them under Good, Great, Superb and Legendary, the last being my album of the year.

So here are the ten Good albums, which form numbers 21 to 12 in the list, ordered alphabetically.

Joe BonamassaDriving Towards The Daylight

Excellent album of guitar-shredding blues-rock from one of the most exciting guitar players of his generation, with electrifying takes on blues standards from the likes of Howlin’ Wolf and Willie Dixon alongside a handful of original numbers. Yes, the ever-prolific Bonamassa can probably turn out albums like this in his sleep, but that’s just a measure of his talent.

DelainWe Are The Others

A seamless blend of in-your-face metal riffs and chart-friendly pop choruses, featuring the remarkable vocals of Charlotte Wessels, all of which makes it more of a mystery why a major label sat on this record for months before releasing it. If only daytime radio wasn’t afraid of big-sounding guitars.

EnslavedRiitiir

Symphonically-dense wall-of-sound metal which mixes moments of brutal heaviness with a surprising amount of melody. There’s plenty of death-metal growling, but there are also passages that prove how well metal riffs and Gregorian chants go together.

It BitesMap Of The Past

The 80s pop-prog veterans reformed a few years back, with the talented John Mitchell at the helm.  Although the latest album doesn’t quite top 2008′s “The Tall Ships”, it’s still an impressive work that combines emotionally-rich songwriting with all the widdly soloing you could possibly want.

Mermaid KissAnother Country

A move away from the symphonic prog-rock of their previous album “Etarlis”, with a beautiful semi-acoustic record with touches of Americana and gospel. Not many bands have Cor Anglais as a principle lead instrument.

Sankara Guided By Degrees CD ArtworkSankaraGuided By Degrees

An impressive melodic hard rock début from former members of The Bluehorses and The Reasoning. It’s a rich, multilayered record in which Gareth Jones’s excellent vocal performance proves he’s more than capable fronting his own band.

Shadow Of The Sun – Monument

Former Reasoning guitarist Dylan Thompson returns with some prog-tinged hard rock/metal with guitars that go up to Eleven. A record that’s only been out a few days and I’ve only given a handful of listens. But that’s enough convince me it belongs on this list.

Howard SinclairThe Delicious Company of Freaks

Lyric-driven semi-acoustic balladry from the Bristol-based singer-songwriter who supported Panic Room on their November tour. Some memorable songs, with one high point being the spellbinding “These Dark Hills” sung as a duet with Panic Room’s Anne-Marie Helder.

SquackettA Life Within A Day

Two of the most distinctive instrumentalists in the prog-rock world combine their talents for a polished and song-focussed album. At times this collaboration sounds like Steve Hackett with a different bassist, at times it’s Yes with different guitars and vocals. “The Tall Ships” with it’s bass groove and soaring vocal harmonies is a particular highlight.

"I fireball the gazebo"Winter in EdenEchoes of Betrayal

With a great vocalist in Vicky Johnson, the Durham-based band prove if the songwriting is good enough it’s possible to do female-fronted symphonic metal without needing the choirs, orchestras and kitchen sinks of the more extravagant European bands.

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Delain Fall Victim to Cloth-Eared Bean Counters

Some people question why I frequently describe the major labels as being run by cloth-eared bean-counters. It’s because of things like what’s just happened to Symphonic metal band Delain.

You finish your album, and then you don’t know when the release is. But you know that fans are waiting for it. We were so satisfied with the album, and also our producer was satisfied. But some executive nut-case just doesn’t get it, and decides: “Well, let’s not release it.” Other people do get it, and right now, they are talking about how and when to release it. It’s a nightmare! We don’t have control over it, and at the moment, we can only wait.

It’s an old story. Delain were signed to Roadrunner, who got taken over by Warners. Who, if their head-in-the-sand attitude towards digital licensing is anything to go by, show every sign of being the most clueless of the majors. As so often happens with this sort of takeover, Warners fired many the people who the band knew and trusted, and now they’re sitting on the record. Maybe they haven’t got anyone left who knows how to market a band the major label probably would never have signed in the first place. Blogger Ronnie Soo has even speculated that they want to re-mould the band’s singer Charlotte Wessels as a radio-friendly pop star, and ditch the band.

This sort of crap happens a lot with the majors. They give every impression they’re run by marketeers and accountants who’s most significant characteristic is that they are not passionate about music. Yes, this sort of thing has always gone on, but in the days of social media when bands can communicate directly with their fanbase, it’s harder for labels to pull this sort of dick move and get away with it.

This is why I had some serious mixed feelings when I heard that two bands I know had recently been signed. I hope and pray that the bands knew what they were doing, and scrutinised the small print of the contracts carefully, so that they and their fans never get shafted the same way.

Some bands forget that “The guy they trust” in the label when they sign might not be around for the duration of the contract, especially if the label they signed to gets eaten by a bigger one. I’d advise any band signing a record deal (and their lawyer) to work on the assumption that, however friendly the label guys seem, they *will* try to screw you, and make sure the contract is watertight. In the worst case they need the option to walk away without the label being able to hold their record hostage.

Hopefully Delain will be able to release the album, and find a label they can continue to work with. Sadly, and cynical as it may seem, if Warners are really only interested in nothing but money, it’s in their interest for Delain to split up rather than sign to another label. Less competition.

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