Beyond the Boys’ Club: Charlotte Wessels of Delain

"Should we use the term 'female-fronted metal' or no? The answer is no!"

Delain Charlotte Wessels Beyond the Boys Club
Delain, photo by Tim Tronckoe

Beyond the Boys’ Club is a monthly column from journalist and radio host Anne Erickson, focusing on women in the heavy music genres, as they offer their perspectives on the music industry and discuss their personal experiences. This month’s piece features an interview with Charlotte Wessels of Delain.

Dutch symphonic metal band Delain blasted on the scene in 2006 with their debut album, Lucidity, featuring a stunning blend of power metal and gothic rock. The band was formed by former Within Temptation keyboardist Martijn Westerholt and powerhouse vocalist Charlotte Wessels, and have continued to rise in the metal scene ever since.

Delain’s sixth studio album, Apocalypse & Chill, arrives on February 7th via Napalm Records, featuring some new sounds for the band, including a heavy electronic influence.

Wessels spoke with Heavy Consequence for the latest “Beyond the Boys’ Club” column, discussing the new album, musicians who inspired her, how she’s had to stand up for herself as a woman in music, and more. Read the full interview below.

On the meaning behind the band’s new album, Apocalypse & Chill

The album itself is about a zeitgeist. It’s about the feeling of looking at the news and seeing the world on fire, and then, looking on your socials and seeing everyone’s seemingly perfect life and wondering, how is this the same world? The term “Netflix and chill” has become so big, too. I feel like people’s online lives are becoming more important than their real lives, and that’s expressed in the title, too.

On why she thinks Apocalypse & Chill will surprise fans

There are several elements that we have never done before. Very apparent from the beginning is that [guitarist] Timo [Somers] is singing in the first song. He only did backing on tracks before this, and he’s a very prominent part. The first half of album is very heavy in electronic sounds, and usually we lean more to the symphonic side. That symphonic side is at the end of the album, and there’s plenty of that, but I can imagine there are fans holding their breath the first half of the album. Another way this album is different is that we worked with a real choir for the first time. I’m excited for the fans to hear this new music.

On her favorite song off Apocalypse & Chill

“Legions of the Lost” is one I love. There’s a lot in this track that is big and heavy, and I think fans that love our symphonic sound will love that. But, my favorite changes on a daily basis. I have no idea which songs will be more popular with the fans, so I’m really curious to find that out when the album comes out.

On what she hopes fans take away from the album

Sometimes you have the feeling when writing something that you know people are going to relate to it. This album is diverse, and we have different listeners, and they’ll take away different things. For example, I’m very fond of the ballad on there, “Ghost House Heart”, but I know more than one metal fan who skips right past any ballad on any album. I’m personally always very happy when people can relate to the lyrics. On this album, there is as much the “apocalyptic” side as the “chill” side. I’m honestly just wondering what they’ll make of it. I’m excited to hear what they think.

On how has the metal world has changed since she first started out, when it comes to women in metal

It’s still a hot debate. Should we use the term “female-fronted metal” or no? The answer is no! I think this is a topic where things change gradually. There are so many of us, and I think the number of women in the metal world will organically continue to grow. People sometimes forget that it was a very short time ago when women weren’t even getting an education or music education. They ask, “Why weren’t any of these great classical pieces written by women?” Because they didn’t have an education! This is something that has changed. Women have the freedom to choose what to do. Women can now choose to have a career in music and metal. It’s a very important step in all of this to stop treating women in metal like unicorns. Also, when people are too impressed by a women being able to make music, I think that’s not a good sign. I think people need to treat women in music as musicians, first and foremost.

On whether women are embraced more in hard rock and metal today

I’ve always felt like I was embraced, but… how do I say this? I also would embrace puppies in heavy metal, but I’m not sure if I would trust them to write very impressive riffs. In that way, I always felt embraced, but sometimes you feel embraced without being taken seriously. I’ve always felt very welcomed, but sometimes you feel like I’m not being welcomed for the right reasons.

On having to stand up for herself as a woman in the heavy metal world

There have been some very annoying instances where even my band members didn’t know what was going on. I’ve had managers ask me to take clothes off for photos. I was told that if I wasn’t comfortable with my body being Photoshopped, I would have a problem. There was one year, in particular, where most of my energy went to what I didn’t want to do in music instead of what I did want to do in music. So, I was quite angry. There’s a lot of power in just saying no. You might scare off some people that don’t want to work with you anymore, but let’s be honest — you don’t want to work with them anyway.

On the women who have inspired her in music

I’ve always loved Kate Bush. I think she’s an all-around fantastic performer and songwriter. Also, Joni Mitchell. And, I always loved Within Temptation, which I know is funny because I’m in a band with Martijn. When Mother Earth was released, I was 13 or 14, and went to all the concerts I could go to. I loved that band.

On the advice she would give to other women looking to get into music

Just go for it. What I did in my teens is that I would do everything with music, all styles. I was in two choirs, three bands — I would just do all of the things, because you can learn from all of these things. You never know what will get the ball rolling. Also, it’s so good to get that real crowd experience in.

Our thanks to Charlotte Wessels for taking the time to speak with us. Preorder Delain’s Apocalypse & Chill album via Napalm Records at various outlets.