Tuesday, November 14, 2017

VUUR - In This Moment We Are Free - Cities (2017)

Ever since leaving The Gathering in 2007, vocalist Anneke Van Giersbergen has been hard at work, showing off the different styles that she can perform. She has done a good job of displaying herself to the world, being a part of The Gentle Storm, Lights Off, her own solo project of course, and also appear in various albums of the effervescent Devin Townsend Project. But with her new band, the entirely Dutch ensemble VUUR (Dutch for fire), she has a goal to really solidify and narrow down her musical directions when it comes to metal.

With "In This Moment We Are Free - Cities", Anneke has created a progressive metal record that does have a lot of similarities with The Gentle Storm, but instead of recapturing the spirit of the 17th century, VUUR is firmly planted in present day, while still having the delicate emotions that "The Diary" presented. It is some of the heaviest stuff that we have heard from Anneke, but that is not really saying much, this album is still fairly soft, focusing more on beautiful melodies than crushing riffs.

Each of the 11 tracks in this record is inspired by a city that has left Anneke with some kind of impact during all the years she has been on the road, and while it is a neat idea, I do not really see much of a point with it, because I do not think the songs represent their cities particularly well. There is no song in here that you can easily connect with its city, like what does "Sail Away" have to do with Santiago, or how much of Rio De Janeiro is in "Freedom"? Maybe there is a deeper meaning to the songs that I am missing, but it does not come out strong either way.

Actually, the entire album was kind of underwhelming at first. The songs where nice and all, but through the first few spins, it did feel a little sluggish and not dynamic enough to grab my attention. It was about as grey as the cover. But just like the cover, there was something shiny that was waiting to burst out into the darkness, and yes, this album did grow eventually and became more and more interesting for each new listen. It is still not a super original album, but it kept my interest.

The first couple tracks are pretty meh, nothing ear catching. It is by the third track, "The Martyr And The Saint - Beirut", things are starting to get interesting, with some nifty riffing and clean melodies that fits Anneke's voice like a glove. The songs keeps on coming, all in different shapes, from haunting opera and beautiful ballads, to quick hitters and oriental influences. It is a solid mix of songs that together make a very solid record, but while most of the focus is obviously on Anneke, I would like to lift up guitarists Ferry Duijsens and Jord Otto for delivering some great guitar work all throughout the album, taking it one step higher.

In the end, VUUR might have something interesting going for it, but it is clear that it might take an album or two for this band to really get going. This debut record is nice and has several neat ideas, but it is an underwhelming record. It does not jump out at you, making a statement that it is here to entertain. No, it instead quietly and politely informs you that it is available now. Fans of Anneke will definitely enjoy this record, but as said, their true "vuur" might not show up until the next release.

Songs worthy of recognition: Days Go By - London, The Martyr And The Saint - Beirut, Sail Away - Santiago

Rating: 7/10 Valleys of Diamonds in Mexico City


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