Tales From Six Feet Under Vol. II

rating icon 8.5 / 10

Track listing:

01. Venus Rising
02. Human To Ruin
03. The Phantom Touch
04. Against All Odds
05. A Million Lives
06. The Final Roadtrip
07. Good Dog
08. Toxic
09. I Forget
10. Utopia

Two albums in it is more than apparent that Charlotte Wessels was always destined to be a solo artist. As frontwoman with DELAIN she presided over some of the classiest tunes to emerge from the symphonic metal scene over the last decade, but as she demonstrated with startling panache on 2020's "Tales From Six Feet Under", Wessels's liberation from the standardized band format and DELAIN's gently restrictive trademark sound has enabled her songwriting and overall creativity to blossom and bloom in a way that, you may suspect, she didn't even anticipate herself. Conceived and captured in her home studio (hence the title),  "Tales From Six Feet Under Vol. II" goes even further than its predecessor in highlighting Wessels's evolution into a truly remarkable singer/songwriter.

Wildly diverse, almost overburdened with ingenuity and blessed with several melodies that will haunt you to the grave, these ten songs really shouldn't hang together as well as they do. The glue, of course, is Wessels's voice, which has never been more versatile or striking than it is here, but also her audacity, as she skims and drifts gracefully across all manner of inventive backdrops.

The opening "Venus Rising" encapsulates Wessels's approach: a beautifully paced and structured pop song, with multiple changes of rhythm and a grin-inducing nod to knuckleheaded EDM woven deftly in, it would be a giant hit in a sane universe, but here it feels quietly subversive and fiendishly tricky to pin down. As if to alert listeners that repetition or complacency are not on the agenda, "Human To Ruin" is a sumptuous mini-symphony, underpinned by clattering kicks, but rich with gothic melodrama and carried home by a Wessels vocal so gorgeous it defies logic. Likewise, "The Phantom Touch" goes all in. It's an ornate and theatrical affair, marrying several sublime vocal melodies with large doses of guitar-driven grandeur and a spellbinding, achingly elegant arrangement.

The quieter moments on "Tales… Vol. II" hit hardest of all. "Against All Odds" is an exquisite folk-rock reverie, buoyant on giant waves of dreamy reverb; "I Forget" is awash with airy acoustic guitars, as a KATE BUSH-like avalanche of tribal drums and syrupy synths are wrapped up with another stunning Wessels vocal. The closing "Utopia" pitches her voice, superbly harmonized, into a bubbling lake of sequenced bleeps and post-rock ambience. For those craving the dark bite of DELAIN's finest moments, "Toxic"'s bold blend of jittery pop lurching tech-metal and throbbing bass is as close to perfection as it gets, while "Good Dog" crams several progressive conceits into a dynamic but furious four minutes.

It's always exciting when a great artist hits their stride. "Tales From Six Feet Under Vol. II" is full of great songs, classy arrangements and moments of startling inspiration, but the sense that Charlotte Wessels is only just getting warmed up is unmistakable too.

Author: Dom Lawson
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