Anneke van Giersbergen is a name synonymous with the Dutch metal scene, having started her career as the front-woman for the legendary band The Gathering. Since then, van Giersbergen has compiled an impressive catalog of work both as a solo artist, as well as working with projects led by fellow Dutch artist Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon, The Gentle Storm, Star One) and Devin Townsend Project. Now van Giersbergen has unleashed her latest effort, the band VUUR (which is Dutch for “fire”). VUUR came about as a natural progression of The Gentle Storm, as a way for van Giersbergen to unleash the heavier side of her musical identity. The band is made up of van Giersbergen’s Gentle Storm band Ed Warby on drums, bassist Johan van Stratum, guitarist Ferry Duijsens, and guitarist Jord Otto ( MaYan, ReVamp), Where The Gentle Storm was a poppier, jazz prog album with progressive elements, VUUR is a metal band through and through with heavy down-tuned guitar riffs, progressive intricate drum work courtesy of Ed Warby. VUUR’s debut album In This Moment We Are Free is definitely the singer’s heaviest recording since the debut album Nighttime Birds from The Gathering back in 1997.
Now for metal purists, when I use the term “heavy”, it does not mean that Anneke is channeling her inner Abbath or Chuck Shuldiner, VUUR is simply a vehicle for Anneke to relase music with a heavier edged guitar and drums. In This Moment We Are Free- Cities is a loose concept album with each song on the album being inspired by a city that van Giersbergen has previously visited. The first single My Champion – Berlin begins with Warby’s pounding drums and a heavy guitar riff. Guitarists Otto and Duijsens dueling guitar solos are melodic and follow the songs structure, while van Giersbergen’s ethereal vocals leave the listener spellbound.
Producer Joost van den Broek does a masterful job of balancing the heaviness of the guitars, the low bottom end of the bass and drums, and the magnificent vocals of van Giersbergen. Time –Rotterdam continues the heavy guitar riffs and the rhythm section of Warby and van Stratum have the bottom end on lock down. Anneke’s voice is angelic amongst the maelstrom of heavy guitar, bass, and drums accompanying around her. The Martyr And The Saint – Beirut is a progressive metal song that focuses on the main vocal melody while still maintaining the heaviness of the guitars. The song begins slowly but builds to a faster pace halfway through the song. Anneke’s vocals are transcendent and magnificent, filled with fire and passion.
The criticism from some people would be that a lot of the songs on the album are slow to mid-tempo and may frustrate those who want their metal to move like a runaway locomotive. However, fans of Anneke’s previous work will not have this issue as each song takes the listener on an aural journey with van Giersbergen’s knack of storytelling through her melodic and sweet vocal tones.
For those who are looking for something with a faster pace, look no further than Valley of Diamonds – Mexico. Warby’s feet get a workout with some fantastic double-bass drums. The pulsing bass of van Stratum along with the strains of clean guitars introduce the song as the guitars build with intensity along with van Giersbergen’s vocals.
Your Glorious Light Will Shine – Helsinki has a grand symphonic intro and a haunting vocal melody especially during the uplifting chorus which features some fantastic guitar work from the tandem of Duijsens and Otto. Save Me – Istanbul has a Middle-Eastern theme to the music with a faster pace and a fantastic chorus filled with double bass drums and Anneke’s soaring vocal work with an added layer of harmony vocals for great effect. The Middle-Eastern themed guitar work ends the song in perfect fashion.
The albums final song, Reunite –Paris is the type of song that Anneke fans are accustomed to, slower in pacing, her incredible voice taking center stage with a power and grace that few of her contemporaries can match. Musically, the song has incredible similarities to her friend and collaborator Devin Townsend’s work with the Devin Townsend Project. In fact, Devin himself would have fit in perfectly here with a guest vocal appearance but Anneke’s lone vocals are so mesmerizing here, she leaves the listener transfixed with her incredible lilting tones.
The final analysis of VUUR’s debut album is that it is a not a perfect album, but a perfect amalgamation of the best aspects of Anneke van Giersbergen’s work with The Gentle Storm, The Gathering, and Devin Townsend. Add VUUR to van Giersbergen’s already impressive resume and contributions to the world of heavy music so if you are already a fan of van Giersbergen, do yourself a favor and pick this up! I am already looking forward to VUUR’s U.S. live debut at ProgPower USA XIX in Atlanta, Georgia in 2018.