Vuur – In This Moment We Are Free – Cities
Anneke goes heavy again – oh how promising sounded the main selling point for her new band Vuur (Dutch: fire, or passion)! Since the 90s, Anneke van Giersbergen is one of the most beautiful and most unique voices in the metal scene. Memories of great moments in her career come to mind – with The Gathering of course, but also stellar performances with Arjen Anthony Lucassen (Ayreon, The Gentle Storm) or Devin Townsend. Add to that some of The Netherland’s finest musicians – Ed Warby on drums, Jord Otto and Ferry Duijsens on guitars and Johan van Stratum on bass. All of them (except for Otto) just proved how good musicians they are in the celebrated Ayreon Universe live-shows in Tilburg/The Netherlands. So, what can go wrong?
A lot, apparently. “In This Moment We Are Free – Cities” is a concept album – with each song, Anneke wanted to transport the feelings she has developed for different cities around the world during touring. Sadly, the very similar structure of most of the songs and, let’s name it, boring compositions make it difficult to distinguish the songs, or even less get a feeling for the respective cities. Most songs feel dragged. They are around 6 to 7 minutes long, which some might consider rather short, but they wander along aimlessly in a mid tempo, with barely any surprising moments, climaxes or outbreaks, and the melodies barely ever have the potential to get stuck in the head for much longer than the beginning of the next song. This was already to be feared after the first single, ‘Days Go By – London’, was published back in June, and hardly ever changes throughout the album.
It is the moments when they leave this structure, that Vuur really show their potential and unquestionable abilities on their instruments. ‘Sail Away – Santiago’ is one of those songs. Finally, we get changes of speed, dramatic breaks (shout-out to Ed Warby, whose drumming is once again tight and spot-on on this album) and a catchy chorus.
Anneke’s voice is beautiful as ever on this album, but the compositions lack the melodies to really make it shine. Everything sounds as if the band wanted to play it safe for this first release, published through the prog label “InsideOut”. And so, while the production by the Dutch musical mastermind Joost van den Broek (Epica, Ayreon) leaves nothing to be desired in it’s clarity and power, what is missing is the emotion, the edge, the vuur. Everything is a tad too perfect.
Anneke stated before the release, “You could say Vuur’s music has the melancholy of The Gathering and certain elements from The Gentle Storm, but it’s darker with fewer folk elements. It’s still melodic and warm, but heavy.” Heavy it is, but it sounds as if Vuur tried to please everyone, and so they didn’t dare to go on full force for most of the songs. Not all is lost, and as the album nears the end, ‘Your Glorious Light Will Shine – Helsinki’ gives an idea of what “In This Moment We Are Free – Cities” could have been when leaving the saftey zone, combining pretty much all the elements the band seems to have been looking for – heaviness, strong melodies and beautiful vocals.
‘Save Me – Istanbul’, following directly after, continues on this path, and the dramatic vocal melodies with powerful guitar riffs, solos (which, again, sound a bit too perfect and pleasant) and a tightness that is missing in most of the other songs. The speed goes up! And it even has melodies that resemble the eastern flair one might have in mind when thinking of Istanbul. The perfect finish for the album. If only they would have stopped here! Sadly, ‘Reunite! – Paris’ reminds us again of the general album sound – heavy, mid-tempo riffs and trivial melodies without much creativity.
“In This Moment We Are Free – Cities” is a solid debut album, but after all the hassle and built-up anticipation since last year the outcome is slightly disappointing. If Vuur continue to develop on the strong moments though, there is much to expect from the next release – because they have all the musical skills at hand, and of course they have Anneke’s stellar voice and spirit. Despite everything, seeing Vuur live might be a whole different experience. Anneke has a wonderful presence on stage and spreads a contagious atmosphere of happiness and joy around her, so don’t miss the band’s European tour in November and December, supporting Epica.
01. My Champion – Berlin
02. Time – Rotterdam
03. The Martyr and the Saint – Beirut
04. The Fire – San Francisco
05. Freedom – Rio
06. Days Go by – London
07. Sail Away – Santiago
08. Valley of Diamonds – Mexico City
09. Your Glorious Light Will Shine – Helsinki
10. Save Me – Istanbul
11. Reunite! – Paris