Vuur - In This Moment We Are Free - Cities

Vuur In This Moment We Are Free - Cities cover
In This Moment We Are Free - Cities
InsideOut Music
Anneke Van Gisbergen is a woman that almost everyone that has been listening to hard/heavy music has appreciated, savored, loved even as her nightingale like tones and subtle, gentle presence has graced many albums and stages in all the years that she’s been active artistically, be it in The Gathering, with Ayreon/The Gentle Storm, Icon, collaborating with Devin Townsend or as a solo artist…
Apparently, after a few years of pop and acoustic experimentation, she now decided it was a good time to return with something more rocking, in all probability spurred by the latest stuff she did with Devin and Ayreon, no doubt. She’s got this new band Vuur comprising of some fine Dutch musicians Ed Warby (drums), Jord Otto (guitars), Ferry Duijsens (guitars) and Johan van Stratum (bass), some of them collaborators of Arjen in the past, if I am not mistaken and a new album, the mysteriously titled “In This Moment We Are Free – Cities” which must be some sort of concept, I would imagine.
Stylistically it’s a bouillabaisse of prog modes, with Anneke ably floating on top of some pretty unnecessarily heavy on occasion passages, with the guitars being especially pronounced and modern in terms of tone that I just don’t like much. I enjoy most of the vocal melodies, but sometimes parts of the songs seem to be unsettling and too antagonizing with the vocals, vying for attention and somehow not helping the end result sound balanced. It’s not always the case, but in certain songs the music tends to “drown” the vocals. In the same way that the “Gentle” version was the best one in the Gentle Storm, I wish there was a more “gentle” version of this.
“My Champion – Berlin” is quite dramatic and epic, with some impressive vocal display, but despite liking the city that has suffered division, I hate what the same division is doing to the freedom of others.
“Rotterdam” is quite harsh and much heavier, representative of the decaying port city. The chorus is particularly good, but I do tend to find this “city” concept a little hard to fathom.
“The Martyr and the Saint – Beirut” is more lyrical, more prog if you wish and has a more eastern feel, which however doesn’t overtake it. It’s rather hopeful, I guess in its tone. Makes me wonder if Anneke has visited each and every city she sings of, or not (which isn’t unlikely – as she’s been a touring musician, but some of them are a bit more exotic than others – that’s all)…
“The Fire – San Francisco” is heavy, mid-tempo and frankly not so impressive other than the chorus and some daring vocalisms that A attempts and pulls off rather nicely.
“Freedom – Rio” begins almost like a ballad, slow and soft, only to get a lot heavier and just occupy some six plus minutes swinging between those two modes. Pretty song, but a little too predictable.
“Days Go By – London” is startlingly dark, industrial and has a heavy guitar based intro, after which Anneke wails. It’s almost “doomy” and one of the most striking songs in the album.
“Sail Away – Santiago” is a bit similar, but also lightens up in places, unlike “London” which is just dark and suffocating for its entire duration.
“Valley of Diamonds – Mexico City” is also heavy on its guitar use, with the chorus and vocals, almost buried by the great focus that’s given on guitar. Here’s a prime example of where I’d like things to be a little more “separated” of where I think that the music drowns out Anneke’s efforts in the vocal department, not completely, but to a point where listening to the song is not as “gratifying”.
“Your Glorious Light Will Shine – Helsinki” is one of the better songs, as the situation I aforementioned is almost reversed, there’s a heavy riff that repeats, but Anneke is given focus and the pleasant if not a little melancholic vocal melodies “lead” the song along with the riff.
“Save Me – Istanbul” is a bit reminiscent of “Berlin”, with its daring vocal arrangements and it’s also instrumentally interesting at the same time, striking an almost perfect balance between vocals and music.
Finally, “Reunite! – Paris” is softer and more fragile, but has quite a majesty about it.
I don’t know exactly what prompted Anneke to go thematic on this album and if she intends to cover more “cities” in the future, but I find the experimentation and sudden full on return to a style she had pretty much abandoned for years (despite the DT albums being a bit of a precursor) a little difficult to appreciate as her “softer” side, not because she’s suddenly bad at what she does, but just because the style is a little too heavy handed. One could argue that The Gathering sounded a “bit” like that, but one would also have to keep in mind that they very quickly did shed most of their heaviness moving towards a very melodic style. This relative sonic throwback with Vuur could work in the future, I guess and holds promise, but fails to deliver in a grand way, as it stands.