From the brutal to the sludgy to the experimental to the symphonic, we raise our horns in welcome and warning to the coming week: we are here to ROCK.
Anneke van Giersbergen has done so much with so many different styles that her vital influence on metal might, temporarily, slip the mind. Before bands like Evanescence and Nightwish found huge international success, van Giersbergen & The Gathering had already invented and matured that style of symphonic, doom-y progressive metal and moved on to incorporating experimental ambient and trip-hop influences—truly progressing progressive metal for the first time in years. That same spirit of progress carried van Giersbergen out of The Gathering into a solo career that has encompassed alternative rock, singer-songwriter, folk, and classical styles, plus collaborations across the metal spectrum.
But sometimes, moving forward means going back. In 2017, following her incredible work with Arjen Lucassen in The Gentle Storm, van Giersbergen and her touring band emerged as a new entity: VUUR. The music was heavier than anything she had done in 20 years, but now with the benefit of 20 years’ maturation as a writer and vocalist. On In This Moment We Are Free—Cities, VUUR play loud, they riff, they solo, they vamp, they rock, and Anneke van Giersbergen takes the opportunity provided by this powerhouse band to set a new jewel in her metal goddess crown.
The album’s second track, “Time—Rotterdam,” encapsulates the progression embedded in this return to van Giersbergen’s “old” metal roots. The song is heavy, yes, but playful. During the verses, the guitar riff skips up and around toward van Giersbergen’s vocal melody; the bridge veers toward singer-songwriter balladry that culminates in an angular guitar solo, itself culminating in a sideways interpretation of the recurring vocal melody; throughout, there are frequent time signature changes while the band alternately provide counterpoint then dovetail toward the vocal line. In all, it’s a gorgeous Celtic knot of a song that establishes the album’s theme: whatever the regrets & unfortunate twistings of time, in this moment, we are free.