Delain / Cyhra

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Delain / Cyhra - The O2 Ritz, Manchester (UK) - 07 February 2020

I have seen Delain twice previously, being suitably impressed on both occasions. 2019's 'Hunter's Moon' release was something of a stop-gap album that featured four brand new studio recordings and ten live favourites. Fittingly, the Manchester show coincided with the UK release of the band's brand new studio album, 'Apocalypse & Chill'. Delain were obviously confident about the album, previewing no less than eight of its thirteen tracks during the nineteen song show, though I am sure that many of the die-hard fans in attendance were already familiar with the new material.

Before Delain, Cyhra had the chance to make an impact during a short but entertaining thirty minute set. Cyhra were formed by ex-In Flames guitarist Jesper Stromblad and ex-Amaranthe singer Jake E, and have so far released two studio albums, 2017's 'Letters To Myself' and 2019's 'No Halos In Hell', both to critical acclaim. Due to personal reasons Stromblad is not touring, with his role currently being taken by Marcus Sunesson. The line-up for the European tour with Delain is completed by lead guitarist Euge Valovirta and drummer Alex Landenburg. With no bass player, Cyhra are reliant on tapes to augment the rhythm section and also add extra programmed elements to complete the sound. Musically Cyhra have some similarities to Jake E's former band, which is understandable, though the two-guitar assault gives it a more Metal edge. It is difficult not to be attracted to the Cyhra musical stylings, with the likes of 'Letter To Myself', 'Man Of Eternal Rain' and 'Out Of My Life' all containing big hooks on the back of some intense riffs and hard-hitting drums. The set may have been brief, but it was clear by the audience response that the band had given the headliners something to think about.

Though the venue was not quite packed, it was obvious by the number of Delain shirts and the queue for merchandise that the Dutch Symphonic Metal outfit have a big following in the UK. Their profile might not be quite as high as fellow countrymen Within Temptation or the all-conquering Nightwish, but with every new release and tour they attract more people to their cause. Guitarist Merel Bechtold left Delain during 2019, leaving Timo Somers to handle all the guitar parts, though tapes do provide the extra guitars to fill out the sound alongside Martijn Westerholt's keyboards. Joey de Boer (drums) and Otto Schimmelpenninck van der Oije (bass) laid down a killer foundation for the epic music and fortunately the sound mix was perfect. Charlotte Wessels held centre stage and her brilliant vocals and winning personality went a long way to cementing the band's appeal. Beginning with two brand new songs, 'Building Bridges' and 'Creatures', was a very bold move that paid off, though the partisan crowd would have welcomed the songs regardless of their age or familiarity. The new material sat nicely next to the established favourites and the running order was well-balanced. Delain have hit on a winning formula in terms of song-writing and though they are classed as 'Symphonic Metal' they have a strong commercial side. Songs such as 'Suckerpunch' and 'Hurricane' may be heavy, but the melodies and hooks are so addictive. Another new song, 'Let's Dance', maintained that addictive trend and resulted in some cringe-worthy moves from some sections of the crowd, with some not knowing whether to bang their heads and throw some horns or act like it was a school disco. The value for money show continued through other new songs such as 'Masters Of Destiny', 'One Second' and 'Ghost House Heart' before Charlotte took a breather during the instrumental 'Combustion', a showcase for Somers that gave him the opportunity to solo like a demon. When the set returned to older songs that included 'Hands Of Gold', 'Don't Let Go' and 'The Gathering' we were also treated to confetti cannons and over-sized balls being passed around. It was no surprise that 'We Are The Others' was the song to bring things to a close, and though the band seemed genuinely moved by the ovation they received it was still time to leave.

Back into the cold Manchester air gave me the opportunity to look through the photos I had taken and as I am writing this review I am listening to the new 'Apocalypse...' CD and revelling in the memories of another fantastic live Delain show.

Dave Bott

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