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DELAIN almost didn’t resurface. A few years ago, the band was rocked by the news that all of its members, bar founding keyboardist and main songwriter Martijn Westerholt, would leave the band under seemingly acrimonious circumstances. Fast forward to now, though, and DELAIN have battled their way back from the depths, re-emerging with brand new album Dark Waters and a (mostly) new lineup; naturally, we had to sit down with Martijn himself to ask – what happened, and what does the future hold now for DELAIN as a band or studio project?
“It was the sad conclusion that we couldn’t work things out,” Martijn explains; “the three other guys wanted to tour without me, and that just isn’t possible.” His decision was to offer to help them form their own company, or even take the existing one, so they could still tour as DELAIN, but it wasn’t to be. At that point, the four other members of the band, including vocalist Charlotte Wessels, left the band dissatisfied. “I didn’t know how to continue,” he admits. “I announced DELAIN would continue [as a studio project], but afterwards it turned out we continued in a totally different way!”
He’s far from bitter, and he clearly sees no bad blood between him and the former members. In fact, two of them have since rejoined after Martijn kept in touch, at a point when they were ready to come back and continue together as a band – something he says he’d wanted from the start, but just didn’t know if he’d be able to do it, especially with so many pairs of big shoes to fill. The return of original guitarist Ronald Landa and original drummer Sander Zoer gave Martijn the confidence he’d been looking for – as well as ensuring Guus Eikens, his long-term writing partner, was happy to continue too.
“That was, for me, a big condition – there had to be enough DELAIN DNA present to justify continuing with the name,” Martijn explains when quizzed about rebuilding the band. “If it doesn’t sound like DELAIN, why should it carry the DELAIN name? Plus, we wanted the same production team, mixing engineer, orchestral arranger and engineer; those are all factors that are really important to DELAIN,” he reasons. All that was left was to find a bass player – and a new singer. Nothing major, then. “We found him online,” Martijn recalls, “he actually comes from a death metal background! He’s a frontman and a guitarist, so he’s not even a bass player. But we asked him, and he was happy to play bass for us.”
Finding a new voice, especially one filling the oversized shoes of former vocalist Charlotte Wessels, was a tall order indeed, and Martijn remembers that in fact, it was something of an accident that they found their new voice, Diana Leah. “It’s a funny story,” he chuckles. “I asked around our friends in bands like NIGHTWISH, WITHIN TEMPTATION, and I looked on YouTube channels for people doing covers of bands. I found Diana on one of those channels – not a big channel, but I was really impressed, and I thought I should contact her sometime.” Eventually he did – but only after, on one of his incredibly rare forays onto social media, he found a comment from her on Instagram that he reflects she hadn’t even been entirely serious about.
“She said, if you ever need a singer let me know,” so Martijn decided to do the only thing he could – he sent her some really difficult older material, with vocal ranges all over the place. “I got it back within a day, and it knocked me off my chair!” He hasn’t yet told her he deliberately picked the most difficult songs, but “she wasn’t intimidated at all”; and so began the new era of DELAIN, built very much on the ashes of the old. As Martijn is quick to stress, it’s one that he doesn’t want fans to see as radically different from the old.
He’s not even sure if there’s a particular difference he can point to with how they approached new album Dark Waters; in fact, he simply wrote the way he always has done. “I can’t write analytically, it has to come from the heart. But if it sounds beautiful, that’s how it develops,” he says with a smile. Thematically, “it’s very symbolic,” though it doesn’t address the last few years at all.
“Music is meant to entertain, I want to entertain people,” Martijn points out, but the title itself is “very symbolic, and where DELAIN has dwelled. It almost drowned, almost didn’t come back to the surface. You see that in the video for Beneath, where the woman doesn’t drown but resurfaces. That’s what Dark Waters is to me.” Lyrically, it deals entirely in fantasy and allegory, giving an escapism for their fans that Martijn is keen for their music to be. After all, he says, “I just want to play live, meet our fans and experience music together.”
While we speak, he always stresses the importance of the DELAIN sound and DNA, something he was so careful to preserve, to ensure fans would understand; this is a typical DELAIN album, in the best way. It’s one that is reliable, because fans will see that really, although almost everything changed, Martijn and DELAIN found their way back to the surface, and weren’t swept away with the current or drowned.
Dark Waters is out now via Napalm Records.
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