Anneke van Giersbergen sets her new prog metal project alight
Prog metal siren Anneke van Giersbergen has assembled the best Dutch musicians for her fiery new project
Words: Phil Weller
Naming her new band after the Dutch word for fire, for Anneke van Giersbergen, perhaps best known for her omniscient wailing on a number of Devin Townsend records and her work in The Perfect Storm, it isa word that perfectly encapsulates the searing technical power of her new project as well as her flaming hair. Through assembling a band of her homeland’s finest progressive music talent the resulting album, In This Moment We Are Free sounds fresh and confident.
Anneke has been keen to distinguish a divide between her two favourite musical worlds of late. The vocalist and guitarist has won over a legion of prog metal fans thanks to her work in The Gathering, Devin Townsend and The Perfect Storm over the years and many of those followed her into her solo folk forays.
"It's like I'm searching for contradictions," Anneke says of splitting her focus in two. "I want the heavy to be really heavy, and the soft acoustic stuff that I can do can be almost silent and inward” and so VUUR represents her fire, passion and drive; her dark metal side. Her solo outings will focus on her love for folk. So we knew what to expect from the band and they have, in truth, nailed the modern prog sound, with grating and grinding djent moments and dextrous lead playing interspersed with calm, serene passages for dynamic and textural balance.
My Champion opens with off-kilter thumping guitars before they open up space for a bold sounding lead melody, leading you into nearly eight minutes of music that traverses through peaks and troughs. Save Me basks in Eastern flavours and Freedom, penned by Periphery guitarist Mark Halcomb is a song very much born of his own musical personality with luscious cleans and guttural, attacking guitars smashing and cascading all around. But on every song, as expected, it is the beauty, power and scintillating glory to Anneke’s voice that makes this record so magical. She soars atop the mix, emotion draped in her timbre yet oozing a confidence that really does take your breath away. The riffs and the music all round is solid, they stand up to any modern prog metal band out there but Anneke is something else, something special.
It is interesting how this band was created to segregate her evil prog metal side from her angelic folk side yet lyrically she has here struck a perfect balance of the voices of both the devil and the angel on her shoulders.
Days Go By, which has a killer opening riff, is slow, dark and menacing in its verse, Anneke purring her lines with a seductive but villainous tonality. “I'll snatch you in your dreams/I'll drain your memories” she sings. But later, in a section that musically flaunts her Devin side she gushes “Days and days go by I see a sparkle in each sunrise/Years and years go by I see devotion in this turmoil”, words written with a tenderness, pocked with hope and beauty. That balance is stunning. There’s a storytelling imagery to her lyrics but they still leave the meaning open to interpretation, you can write this across your own life and draw your own conclusions and associations; all good art is interpretable and this is no different.
This isn’t just the Anekke show, the music is intelligently and diligently arranged and orchestrated, the guitars take the helm when needed, with some inspired and engaging instrumental sections cannoning across the record. No corners have been cut in that respect and, while the album is still very much focussing on the ethereal yet bombastic, too-good-to-be-human vocal abilities of their frontwoman, the attention to detail and quality of the backing – by no means just a backing – makes In This Moment We Are Free a multi-dimensional and highly convincing record that stands toe to toe with some of modern prog metal’s most highly regarded acts.
In This Moment We Are Free is out now via InsideOut Music www.vuur.band