Vuur – In This Moment We Are Free – Cities (InsideOut)

Sunday, 24th September 2017
Rating: 7.5/10

Eternally beloved for those can’t-miss mid-’90s The Gathering albums (that would be Mandylion and Nighttime Birds), Dutch siren Anneke Van Giersbergen is a trailblazer. Flung into the metal scene when there was a dearth of female singers, her range and sensitivity were unparalleled at the time, propelling The Gathering to international acclaim. As the story goes, the band abandoned metal after Nighttime Birds, with Van Giersbergen eventually bolting in 2004. However, she’s remained in view, whether through her solo work, outings with Devin Townsend Project and the more recent The Gentle Storm. Vuur (Dutch for “fire”) marks her first full-fledged metallic entry in 20 years with In This Moment We Are Free – Cities.

Joined by an array of active, talented Dutch metal musicians, Vuur’s debut also features songwriting contributions from Amorphis guitarist Esa Holopainen and Anathema utility man Daniel Cordoso, lending to a sound rooted in chugging guitars and soaring Anneke choruses. A city’s name is attached to each one of the songs, emphasizing a theme of “freedom” and “urban solitude.” Nevertheless, Van Giersbergen, is, as you would expect, the primary thread here, her crisp, airy voice still holding sway after all of these years. In contrast to The Gathering’s oftentimes contemplative wanderings, Vuur is infinitely heavier, with cuts such as “My Champion – Berlin,” “Time – Rotterdam” and “Days Go By – London” holding down the oft-repeated Euro down-tuned thrust. Still, the bright chorus of “Sail Away – Santiago” and “Your Glorious Light Will Shine – Helsinki” offer a spread of melody and drama.

The nostalgic side of many may still yearn for Van Giersbergen to return to heartstring-tugging Goth metal, but Vuur proves to be a capable new outlet for the songstress. Perhaps more satisfying than The Gentle Storm, Vuur and Van Giersbergen have achieved their goal of creating a worldly album. Beyond that, total open arms for Van Giersbergen, whose voice and charm knows no bounds.

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