Even if you haven’t heard the name Anneke van Giersbergen, you’ve probably heard her pristine voice before. As the vocalist behind The Gathering, The Gentle Storm and a solo career, as well as a regular collaborator with progressive metal legend Devin Townsend, the Dutch singer’s pure and operatic style is well-established in today’s music community. Her newest creative outlet is the band VUUR – a progressive metal group that brings together a number of established musicians from the Netherlands. The band’s début record, In This Moment We Are Free – Cities, will be released on October 20, and shows the group setting positive messages against crunchy, dynamic songs that sometimes feel just a bit too sterile.
Around The World
A quick view of the album’s track list show that each song is based on a city throughout the world. The opening section of the album, namely “My Champion – Berlin” and “Time – Rotterdam”, are built on huge riffs and van Giersbergen’s operatic vocals. Although they are groovy tracks that showcase each band member’s talents, I felt a little let down by them initially, feeling that they fell short of the epic and ambitious potential of the group.
More progressive tracks like “The Martyr and The Saint – Beirut” display some interesting riffs, layered arrangements and dynamic song structures that seem like a better fit for van Giersbergen’s voice. She is willing to share the spotlight with her bandmates, but it is moments like the layered vocal section in “Freedom – Rio” that truly demonstrate van Giersbergen’s prowess as a singer and songwriter.
The album closes with a desperate yet optimistic finale “Reunite! – Paris”. This song concludes the album in much the way one might finish an essay: by restating the piece’s thesis and connecting it emotionally to the audience. With lyrics like ‘Will we ever stay united?‘, the central theme of the record is summarized and complemented by hopeful yet pained musical balladry.
In This Moment We Are Free
I recently had an interesting discussion about how important timelessness is in music. Even though I agree that enduring music is certainly desirable, I also believe that music should be considered in the context of the time in which it was created. This is especially relevant on VUUR’s In This Moment We Are Free – Cities, it being an album where song titles are based on cities throughout the world and lyrical themes call for salvation, unity and love. It is hard not to interpret these messages as a direct response to what seems to be an increasing disconnect in the world around us. In This Moment We Are Free – Cities appears to suggest that it is when we are there for one another and loving in our interactions that we are liberated to be the people we desire to be. Set against music that is simultaneously wary, optimistic and triumphant, this message is driven home multiple times over the course of the record.
I cannot discount how much VUUR’s message appeals to me in light of the past few years and in recent events. Further, Anneke van Giersbergen’s voice is a beautiful basis for a band, and the other members of the group are more than capable. The subtle and progressive moments on the album seem more mature and developed than the all-out riff fests and heroic solos characterizing the record’s beginning. In this way, the album is not always consistent, and can additionally feel somewhat sterile or emotionless, despite its vulnerable lyrical theme. As VUUR develop more connection as songwriters and performers in the future, I have no doubt that their music will build in emotional impact and intimacy upon an already impressive foundation.
Notable Tracks: “Freedom – Rio”; “Reunite! – Paris”
FFO: Epica, Devin Townsend Project