Anneke Van Giersbergen
The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest
Inside Out Music
Limited CD Digipak (eco-friendly) | LP | DL
Out 26th February 2021
The supremely talented Anneke Van Giersbergen, from the world of metal, has, with The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest, produced an exceptional album full of musical and emotional depth. It is undoubtedly a career highlight, full of musical contrasts and compelling personal storytelling. An album that also feels full of optimism, born from challenging circumstances, that will be a comforting musical companion for our times.
This reviewer was lucky enough to see Anneke give a magical solo performance at the Glasgow Audio venue in 2016, where she held her audience spellbound with a wide-ranging set that spanned her solo work, as well her time as vocalist with The Gathering, and work with metal genius Devin Townsend. Her new album casts a similar musical spell.
On a break from her progressive metal outfit VUUR, Anneke’s new album was recorded with just her acoustic guitar in a small house near the woods, just outside her hometown of Eindhoven. Strings, horns, percussion, and captivating vocal harmonies have been added, to create a wide musical canvas that sets free her fabulous voice.
Opening track Agape is awash with beautiful shimmering string arrangements, and a heartfelt optimistic vocal, that instantly charms the listener. The chorus refrain of the darkest skies are the brightest seems to articulate perfectly the album’s message of hope born from the most difficult of circumstances.
Hurricane in complete contrast has a very striking southern gothic atmosphere, with horns and electric guitar providing searing counterpoints to the eerie pounding rhythm, accompanied by vocal harmonies that conjure up a picture of fierce stormy weather. The lyrics “Running like a freight train. Courageous all the way. For me to wait would be insane” convey a very human sense of being compelled forward towards a resolution, even when it feels as if there is a mountain to climb. You can watch the atmospheric video for Hurricane here
The End shows Anneke’s voice at its most expressive and dreamy. Combining, in the most thrilling way, musical sounds and tones that resonate with both the blues and classical music. The shoegaze instrumental soundscapes that envelope her voice on this track are in complete sympathy, and take the song to a whole new level. It will be evident by now that this album and Anneke’s songs and voice draw from a wide and expansive musical palette, which means this suite of songs will reveal new nuances and intricacies on each play.
Survive, towards the end of the album, with its flamenco-style guitar and driving vocal, seems to be a treatise on the enduring power of love and mutual engagement to change the world around us, and in particular the fragile future of the planet in the light of climate change. Interestingly, one can also imagine this being played live as a full volume metal anthem. For a song to be capable of different musical interpretations in this way speaks to a breathtaking quality of songwriting that few songwriters can pull off. Anneke clearly can, and this makes her songwriting very special in the world of metal.
The closing song Love You Like I Love You, took this reviewer back to Carole King’s Tapestry album and the song A Natural Woman. Anneke’s song is of that calibre of songwriting and authenticity of personal expression, and there can be no higher praise than that. Quite simply, this is a thoroughly excellent album, which I for one can’t wait to see performed live in concert, when live performances are able to resume. If you are not familiar with the music of Anneke Van Giersbergen, this is a highly recommended starting point.
Words by Gareth Allen. You can find Gareth’s author profile here.