Album Title: In This Moment We Are Free – Cities
Label: InsideOut Music
Date of Release: 20 October 2017
Now here’s a record that I have been looking forward to for some considerable time. Vuur is the moniker given to the band created by Anneke van Giersbergen to be the outlet for her heavy side.
Over the years, I have made no secret of my admiration for the talent of van Giersbergen. Whether it is in her earlier days with the sensational The Gathering or more recently via her exploits with Devin Townsend or Arjen Lucassen, she has always had the ability to make me stop and listen. I’m pretty sure that I have referred to her voice as that of ‘an angel’ and may have even suggested that I’d listen to her if she was reading the telephone directory.
Well, I can now put that statement to the test because I have to reluctantly report that I am just a little underwhelmed by the final Vuur product.
This conclusion is all the more disappointing considering the musical talent with which she has surrounded herself. Joining Anneke in Vuur are drummer Ed Warby, bassist Johan van Stratum, and guitarists Jord Otto and Ferry Duijsens. These guys pack a collective punch, at least on paper, as they are counted amongst some of the most talented heavy metal musicians that the Netherlands has to offer. I mean, any line-up that can collectively boast working in some capacity or other with the likes of Stream of Passion, Ayreon, Gorefest, Elegy, ReVamp and Leave’s Eyes can’t be sniffed at.
Then there’s the artwork that adorns this album. I have documented many times that I can be swayed by a beautiful front cover and this is one of those prime examples. It is bold, beautiful and very clever, catching my attention the moment it was released.
I even love the idea behind the record, to name each song after a place that has had an impact upon Anneke’s life. It means that the listener is quite literally taken on a journey around the world, to hear Anneke’s musical interpretation of cities as diverse and interesting as Berlin, Beirut, Helsinki and Mexico City.
If only the music was as diverse though as the cities that are portrayed on this record. Instead, I cannot shake the belief that ‘In This Moment We Are Free – Cities’ is a little too one-dimensional and unremarkable, with very little going on to hold my attention for the long term. Indeed, I find my mind wandering far as I listen and, on occasion, I have thought twice before playing the album again in order to offer a fair review.
That being said, ‘In This Moment We Are Free – Cities’ is not completely devoid of charm and it isn’t a bad album. I want to make that clear at this juncture.
For a start, we are treated to eleven new tracks where Anneke’s serene voice is allowed to roam free. This is her musical endeavour, so it comes as no surprise to learn that you get to hear the very best that the Dutch songstress has to offer. She soars over each song with clarity, richness and passion. She has invested a great deal of effort to bring these songs to life and it does show within her personal performance. Whether it is belting out the powerful notes or reining things in to offer something more introspective and delicate, Anneke is the consummate pro. The notes linger over the music that sits beneath them, giving them the fullest opportunity to work their charm and magic.
Then there are some of the compositions that stand out just that little bit more. I’m a big fan of ‘Freedom – Rio’, thanks to more variation within the tempos and intensity. Plus it has some of the strongest melodies anywhere on the album and features a really cool lead guitar solo in the second half that has real character. I also like the opener, ‘My Champion – Berlin’, which benefits from an expressive lead guitar line as well as a demonstrably more urgent and up-tempo pace at times.
‘The Fire – San Francisco’ is another ear-catching track because it has an energy about it that I like as well as some really striking vocals that truly hit the heights at times. Plus I also enjoy the more symphonic and grandiose output of ‘Your Glorious Light Will Shine – Helsinki’.
But in spite of all the positives, I keep coming back to the Achilles heel that mars ‘In This Moment We Are Free – Cities’, thus preventing it from becoming the unmitigated success that I was sincerely hoping it would be. And that’s the lack of variety overall within this album. The overriding mid-tempo that most of the songs inhabit is a real disappointment as far as I’m concerned. It leads to the perception, in me at least, that this is an album that plods along and fails to get my pulse racing, not helped by the fact that many of the tracks are unnecessarily, overly long. A judicious edit would definitely help because at well over 60 minutes, ‘In This Moment We Are Free – Cities’ is simply too long given the content.
I also don’t think that the chosen down-tuned guitar tones help the situation; neither does the frequent guitar chug that is often all I can hear beneath Anneke’s vocals. Lastly, I have to be honest and say that, for the most part, the vast majority of the melodies are just not consistently memorable enough.
So ultimately, ‘In This Moment We Are Free – Cities’ is a frustrating listen. There is a lot to like and as far as it goes, it is a solid debut for the Vuur franchise. It allows Anneke van Giersbergen to scratch her metal itch and there will be many who will think it a triumph. Sadly, as far as I’m concerned, the negatives threaten to undermine the positives, leaving it a very inconsistent and disappointing hit and miss affair.
Score of Much Metal: 7.25
If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:
Power Quest – Sixth Dimension
Iris Divine – The Static And The Noise
Daniel Cavanagh – Monochrome
White Moth Black Butterfly – Atone
Jag Panzer – The Deviant Chord
Vulture Industries – Stranger Times
Anubis Gate – Covered In Black
Protean Collective – Collapse
Cradle Of Filth – Cryproriana – The Seductiveness of Decay
TDW & Dreamwalkers Inc. – The Antithetic Affiliation
Caligula’s Horse – In Contact
Nocturnal Rites – Phoenix
Arch Enemy – Will To Power
Threshold – Legends Of The Shires
H.E.A.T – Into The Great Unknown
Dyscarnate – With All Their Might
Subterranean Masquerade – Vagabond
Adagio – Life
Paradise Lost – Medusa
The Haunted – Strength In Numbers
Serious Black – Magic
Leprous – Malina
The Lurking Fear – Out of the Voiceless Grave
Prospekt – The Illuminated Sky
Wintersun – The Forest Seasons
Witherfall – Nocturnes And Requiems
Tuesday The Sky – Drift
Anthriel – Transcendence
Decapitated – Anticult
Cosmograf – The Hay-Man Dreams
Orden Ogan – Gunmen
Iced Earth – Incorruptible
Anathema – The Optimist
Solstafir – Berdreyminn
Dream Evil – Six
Avatarium – Hurricanes And Halos
Ayreon – The Source
Until Rain – Inure
MindMaze – Resolve
God Dethroned – The World Ablaze
Bjorn Riis – Forever Comes To An End
Voyager – Ghost Mile
Big Big Train – Grimspound
Lonely Robot – The Big Dream
Firespawn – The Reprobate
Pyramaze – Contingent
Shores Of Null – Black Drapes For Tomorrow
Asira – Efference
Hologram Earth – Black Cell Program
Damnations Day – A World Awakens
Memoriam – For The Fallen
Pallbearer – Heartless
Sleepmakeswaves – Made of Breath Only
Ghost Ship Octavius – Ghost Ship Octavius
Vangough – Warpaint
Telepathy – Tempest
Obituary – Obituary
Fen – Winter
Havok – Conformicide
Wolfheart – Tyhjyys
Svart Crown – Abreaction
Nova Collective – The Further Side
Immolation – Atonement
The Mute Gods – Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth
Ex Deo – The Immortal Wars
Pyogenesis – A Kingdom To Disappear
My Soliloquy – Engines of Gravity
Nailed To Obscurity – King Delusion
Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day