Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Album Review: Vuur - In This Moment We Are Free

Certain voices are special, and people will follow wherever the singer goes. Anneke Van Giersbergen is one of those singers, someone who has sang with and for myriad bands over the years, and nearly every time she is a highlight of the proceedings. For the worlds of rock and metal, there really isn't anyone else that sounds like her, with a purity of tone that separates her from the crowded field of women fronting bands. The downside to her is that, at least in my eyes, she hasn't made a lot of music that stands up to the quality of her talent. Whether it isn't my style, or something otherwise hard to pinpoint, there isn't much in her career that I can go back to often.

Vuur is her promising new band that sees Anneke in her most metallic element. She trades in the melancholy of the Gathering, the grandeur of Ayreon, and the heft of Devin Townsend, for a sound that is deep and heavy modern metal. The contrast between the low tunings and Anneke's soaring voice is about as stark as you can get, which certainly does give Vuur something unique to hang their hat on.

You get a good sense of what Vuur is about from the opening "My Champion". The initial riffs are heavy as all get-out, with pounding drums and a foreboding atmosphere. When the chorus comes, the chords open up, and Anneke is able to soar over the top of the music with her power and clarity. She's singing a melody that many of the bands with classical singers would write, but Anneke's tone isn't as traditional, which makes it all the more appealing.

Vuur reminds me very much of a band called Stork, who started out as an instrumental prog metal band before adding a female vocalist to try to balance out the intense heaviness of their music. Vuur's tones are similar, but work as an example of how the same sound can take on such different forms in different hands. Stork never really came together, but Vuur does.

The one thing about Vuur, however, is that their music is not what we would call sprightly. It doesn't need to be, but starting with the more restrained tempos, when the band slows down even further, it can get to be a bit much. "Time" is one of those tracks, which veers a bit too close to doom to work with Anneke's voice. That's a minority of the album. Vuur spends most of the time sitting in a comfortable pace, where Anneke has enough room to weave her voice over the riffs to create something engaging. Songs like "The Martyr And The Saint" and "The Fire" build up to powerful crescendos.

I will say this, however; "In This Moment We Are Free" might be a tough album to get through all at once. It's fairly lengthy, and the pacing of the songs doesn't help it to feel any shorter. The quality is there, but it is a lot to take in.

That being the case, I want to make it clear that Vuur's debut album is indeed plenty good. It's a strong showcase for Anneke, and it has some fantastic moments of dramatic metal. If you've ever likes Anneke's voice, it's certainly something to hear.

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