Sound — 8
Delain has kicked it up a notch since "Interlude," and "We Are the Others." As a whole, "The Human Contradiction" is much heavier than past attempts but doesn't forget its roots.
As usual, Charlotte Wessels delivers an emotional, melodic, gothic performance, at times even haunting. Her voice has never struck me as outstanding, but she fits very well with the music and her vocal performance has been produced quite well. She is a testament to strong female vocals in metal. Otto van der Oije and Timo Somers again provide backing vocals, but for once, they do not get in the way.
Delain has always incorporated some orchestral elements, which are again present here, but I was pleasantly surprised to find some very well-placed electronic elements as well. The other tricks of the gothic trade are represented as well. The piano and "music box" patterns are in all the right places and really add to the dynamic of the album. As I mentioned before, this album is a lot heavier than past works, especially concerning the guitars. With the absence of a rhythm guitarist, all guitar responsibilities have fallen to Somers, and he certainly delivers. Riff-wise, the album starts out very strong. I don't normally find myself head-banging to Delain, but for most of the album, the guitar parts are perfectly timed and have a wonderful distorted tone.
Delain's drumwork, still done by longtime band member Sander Zoer, has never been especially noteworthy. It serves it's percussive purpose, but other than being balanced nicely in the mix, doesn't stand out at any point. I found myself mostly focusing on the guitars and vocals, unconsciously registering drums but not consciously paying a great deal of attention to them, which is more than I can say for the bass guitar.
Bass duties fall to van der Oije, who I am sure is quite capable, it's a shame the bass is so poorly represented. When you can hear it, it appears to have a pretty solid groove, but again, within the mix, it has little effect.
Overall, "The Human Contradiction" took me by surprise. It is very well produced, and the band seamlessly incorporates a variety of elements that make this album quite unique, not only to the gothic scene but also to metal and hard rock as a whole. My only real gripe with the album as a whole is its flow. It's not bad by any means, but the album starts off with the best and most recognizable tracks, such as "Here Come the Vultures," "Your Body Is a Battleground" and "Stardust," but loses momentum in the middle. The final few tracks don't do much to alleviate this, as I feel the ballad "Scarlet" is woefully misplaced and while the final song "Don't Let Go" doesn't provide the closure necessary for an outro.
Lyrics — 7
In previous works, Delain's lyrical content has always been about social tolerance, acceptance of others, and attempts to promote understanding of emotional and social issues. The same is true here, but this time around, they've taken a much darker, much more intense approach.
Past songs had the tendency to come off as "poppy" in nature, and while it can be argued that some of that element is still present in "The Human Contradiction," it's harder to find. Again, the motifs are the same but the delivery is different. This time around, issues such as mental distress and disease, not living up to expectations, and flawed perception of personal image are presented through the eyes (and words) of something akin to an abusive figure. Not exactly a novel approach, (then again, neither are the lyrical themes) but interesting nonetheless.
In "The Human Contradiction," the lyrics know where they need to be. Everything fits well with the music and is delivered in what may be Charlotte Wessel's best work with Delain to date.
Overall Impression — 9
Fans of gothic metal should not pass up on "The Human Contradiction." It is some of Delain's best work and unique tracks like "Here Come the Vultures" and "Stardust" are definitely worth even a cursory listen, they might even tempt you to keep listening.
Overall I enjoyed the album for the most part. It has its highs and lows like any other but still stands out in its own fashion. I'd recommend it, (and Delain as a whole) to any gothic metal fan, or any metal fan that is new to the gothic scene.