The Gentle Storm: The Diary
Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon, Star One, Guilt Machine) & Anneke van Giersbergen (The Gathering, Devin Townsend Project) have worked with each other before, but now they have officially started up this new project called The Gentle Storm, with their debut album for InsideOut titled The Diary. This 11-song concept album tells the story of a Dutch sailor and his wife, who manage to keep in touch via love letters while he is away on a 2 year voyage at sea. The CD includes two discs, one labeled 'gentle' featuring softer, more acoustic based versions of these songs, and the other 'storm', with the arrangements beefed up, heavier, more symphonic & bombastic. Both variations are equally enchanting, as would be expected of these two mega-talented musicians.
Lucassen for his part contributes guitar, mandolin, acoustic bass, keyboards, percussion, Hammer Dulcimer, Tabla, and banjo, with Anneke on lead vocals, Ed Warby on drums, Marcela Bovio (Stream of Passion) on backing vocals, Johan Van Stratum on bass, Rob Snijders on percussion, double bassist Rob Snijders, keyboard player Joost van den Broek, Maaike Peterse on cello, violinist Ben Mathot, Delain guitarist Timo Somers, Jenneke de Jonge on French horn, Jeroen Goossens on assorted wind instruments, and Epic Rock Choir. As you can see, this project took quite the entourage to make it all happen, and the results are quite astounding.
Listening to both discs back to back, it's almost like hearing two completely different albums. The 'gentle' CD is gorgeously laid out, as the plethora of exotic & acoustic instruments lend a classical, at times folky flavor to these enchanting songs. Anneke mesmerizes on the enchanting "Shores of India", while the lush strings of "Cape of Storms' just sweeps away and captivates the listener.The singer brings to mind vintage Annie Haslam (Renaissance) on dreamy numbers such as "The Moment" and "Endless Sea", while the upbeat, engaging "The Storm", with its rolling piano melodies and soaring vocals again reminds of that legendary British art rock band. Flipping over to the 'storm' disc, these songs take on a totally different life, with beefy electric guitars, synths, and drums kicking up the bombast meter on powerhouse tracks "Heart of Amsterdam", "The Greatest Love", "Eyes of Michiel", and the wonderful, Jethro Tull inspired "New Horizons", complete with flute, intricate guitar & string passages, and addicting vocal melodies.
In a career that's been filled with highlights, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that The Diary delivers perhaps Anneke van Giersbergen's greatest vocal performance to date. She's just stunning throughout this album, there's just no other way to state it. The rest of the band also deserve plenty of credit for giving two different flavors to these incredible songs; it's quite simply a masterful job all around. Somehow, everything Mr. Lucassen touches always turns into gold, and The Gentle Storm is no exception. And, lest I forget, look at that incredible cover art...wonderful!
1 - Endless Sea [06:00]
2 - Heart of Amsterdam [06:37]
3 - The Greatest Love [04:09]
4 - Shores of India [06:40]
5 - Cape of Storms [05:29]
6 - The Moment [06:08]
7 - The Storm [05:56]
8 - Eyes of Michiel [03:57]
9 - Brightest Light [04:47]
10 - New Horizons [05:25]
11 - Epilogue: The Final Entry [02:02]
12 - Endless Sea [05:53]
13 - Heart of Amsterdam [06:38]
14 - The Greatest Love [03:57]
15 - Shores of India [06:24]
16 - Cape of Storms [05:32]
17 - The Moment [06:11]
18 - The Storm [05:59]
19 - Eyes of Michiel [04:00]
20 - Brightest Light [04:55]
21 - New Horizons [05:25]
22 - Epilogue: The Final Entry [02:04]
Added: May 1st 2015
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band Facebook Page
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|The Gentle Storm: The Diary
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2015-05-01 10:43:15
OK, I'm probably going to get lambasted for this one, for much though I've tried (and I have) I simply cannot find the same level of enthusiasm that my learned colleague Peter has above, or indeed appears to have been universally expressed online for The Gentle Storm. I'm a long time follower of Arjen Lucassen and have many releases featuring the wonderful vocal talents of his partner here, Anneke van Giersbergen and was looking forward to this release to the extent that it was long pre-ordered and my copy came with a hand signed note delving into the album's concept and thanking me for my purchase.
As outlined in Peter's review above, the concepts here (for there are two), are, in a good way, far from simple; the same set of eleven songs presented in two completely different manners – The Gentle and The Storm. The story played out, twice, is that of a tragic couple separated as one discovers new lands and the other finds herself pregnant, alone and in ill health; the lyrics taking the form of unreceived letters from one to the other, as the tale unfolds. Both ideas are explored in full, acoustic instruments and orchestra employed to reveal a poignant first disc, where the effect is more one of a stage show being unfurled to flutter in front of your eyes. Anneke is astoundingly good here and the arrangements and breadth of instrumentation utilised breathtaking. I'd go as far as to suggest this may well be the most complex undertaking Lucassen has attempted. It's an impressive and amazingly well executed endeavour and yet, on a purely personal level, much as I do towards a fair proportion of Clive Nolan's (Arena, Pendragon) recent solo work, while my admiration for what has been achieved here is boundless, my actual listening pleasure is tempered by the thought that if I wanted to listen to musical theatre, that's exactly what I'd do. Those who know me (or who check out my reviews) will attest that I'm hardly a one trick musical pony in my listening habits. However I wouldn't normally add this style to my collection and having it done (very well indeed) by musical heroes of mine hasn't really altered that notion.
Disc two on the other hand finds Arjen and Anneke in more familiar territory, the same songs hugely rearranged into, almost, an Ayreon like style. Obviously there's a more straight forward, guitar led "in" here, and more expected Arjenisms, although as we'd also expect from the ever eclectic Dutchman, this is far from a straight forward Metal album and again, while far from as expansive, or intricate, it is the arrangements which stand out as the strongest achievement. If this album had been released as a stand alone, I'd be extolling its virtues, so it is only fair to mention the bombastic choirs, subtle intonations from Anneke and strident guitar led washes of power. However, for me, when held up against what is a mighty catalogue of work, I'm not as convinced as many that TGS stacks up quite as superbly as many of the Ayreon, Star One or Guilt Machine releases, or Arjen's recent solo output. Although, to be fair, that's a bar set so high that just failing to hurdle it can still been seen as a huge success.
In many ways The Gentle Storm is the most exuberant, wide ranging, intricate release from Arjen Lucassen and I take my hat off to the man for having the vision, skill and passion to carry it off as well as he has, and Anneke is superb throughout. It just doesn't quite hit the same sweet spot for me, as, it appears, it has for most.
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