Fire, drive and passion…
Reviewed by Paul Quinton and released on Inside Out Records on 20 October 2017
Vuur – the name derived from a Dutch word meaning ‘fire’, ‘drive’ or ‘passion’ – were formed by singer Anneke van Giesbergen after a time of personal soul-searching about how she wanted to move on in her career, following her participation in Arjen Lucassen’s brilliant Gentle Storm project. While she’s pursuing an acoustic direction as a solo artist, she also wants to explore a more progressive metal direction as part of a band, and to do this she’s called upon several musicians she’s worked with in the past, including Gentle Storm players Ed Warby on drums, and bassist Johan van Stratum, plus former Revamp guitarist Jord Otto and another guitarist she’s worked with in the past, Ferry Duijsens. Former Stream of Passion singer and another Gentle Storm contributor Marcela Bovio was also in the original line up, but she withdrew shortly after recording began, citing unhappiness with the direction the album was taking.
There’s a loose concept behind the album, with each track influenced by Anneke’s travels to a particular city, as seen in the song titles. Interestingly the writing of the album wasn’t just a band project, contributions also came from another Gentle Storm member, Joost van der Broek, who also produced the album, as well as Mark Holcomb from Periphery, Esai Holopainen of Amorphis and Daniel Cardoso from the mighty Anathema, all of which sounds like a cast-iron guarantee of quality. Let’s not beat about the bush, she’s an absolutely superb singer, and the prospect of her doing a full on Prog metal project of her own was definitely an enticing one, but despite the promise, and the stacks of class and talent available, there are things about this album that don’t quite work. Opener ‘My Champion – Berlin’, is the longest track on the album, broodingly heavy until Anneke’s distinctive voice comes in, but there are times when you want someone to press down on the accelerator, and give it a bit of a kick, and this becomes true over a lot of the early part of the album, which, even at this stage, does begin to drag a little.
It’s not until the third track ‘The Martyr and the Saint – Beirut’, with its nicely sinuous riff, followed by the excellent ‘The Fire – San Francisco’, which brings some much needed light and shade, that the album really begins to take shape, and as it goes on, and more progressive elements kick in, the whole package improves appreciably. ‘Freedom – Rio’ begins slowly, with an acoustic part before the song builds, up to a very inventive guitar solo, while ‘Sail Away – Santiago’ has a definite epic feel, while still retaining more conventional metal elements, blended together really well, and although ‘Save Me – Istanbul’ has some fairly predictable Eastern elements, the way Anneke’s voice works around the instruments is really well done.
This is not an album that delivers its message in short doses, six of the eleven tracks are over six minutes long, and three of the others stretch past the five minute mark. And there are definitely times when you feel a bit of editing and more changes in pace would have been just what the album needed. Needless to say, it’s brilliantly sung, and technically it’s a fine piece of work, but an album with this amount of talent behind it shouldn’t really feel like it’s dragging at times, which unfortunately is the case. It’s a pity, because of my admiration for an awful lot of the music these artists have produced in the past, I really wanted to love this album, but too often the spark didn’t ignite, and I was left wanting more.
- My Champion – Berlin
- Time – Rotterdam
- The Martyr And The Saint – Beirut
- The Fire – San Francisco
- Freedom – Rio
- Days Go By – London
- Sail Away – Santiago
- Valley of Diamonds – Mexico City
- Your Glorious Light Will Shine – Helsinki
- Save Me – Istanbul
- Reunite – Paris