In 2016, former The Gathering singer and Devin Townsend Project contributor Anneke Van Giersbergen stated that she felt she needed to give her fans an easier focal point for her musical output, splitting her talents between mellower self titled acoustic material and VUUR (Dutch for fire/passion), a focal point for her metal persona to break out, with some not so well known prog metal luminaries to help with the music side of things.
Kicking off with all the bombast you would expect of a prog metal project, ‘My Champion – Berlin’ is a great introduction to the musical abilities of the band, starting with an off-kilter drum pattern and accompanying riff courtesy of drummer Ed Warby and guitarists Jord Otto and Ferry Duijsens before the angelic vocals of van Giersbergen break through the dark to take you on the first journey of this album.
Built around cities that Anneke has visited and the feelings that they evoke in her during her lengthy and varied career as a touring musician, the emotions vary from the heavy and dark ‘Time – Rotterdam’ to the almost joyous ‘Freedom – Rio’ that uses a lush and gentle acoustic undertone mixed with some great guitar solo work.
The effect of working with Devin Townsend crops up from time to time. Sometimes more obvious like the huge guitar tones of ‘The Martyr and The Saint – Beirut’ and the entirety of ‘Days Go By – London’, a song with enough dynamic changes it could be a B-Side from Epicloud or Transcendence.
Anneke’s voice seems to sound stronger with every release, while she also finds ways to use it to great effect, lifting and floating above songs but also staying amongst the music. Although VUUR has been built around her, the singer is not the sole focus of the album. If you are a music fan of any kind there is plenty here to be impressed by, whether it is Warby’s ability to turn a song around with his percussion or both guitarists’ riff and solo ability.
By the end of the album you get the feeling that VUUR have been reaching for something, but just when things get interesting they dial it back a notch. Whether this is because they wanted an easy listening experience for their first album or simply aren’t sure what direction to take remains to be seen. I can only I recommend you find a quiet space and take in all the majesty this creates.
1. My Champion – Berlin
2. Time – Rotterdam
3. The Martyr and The Saint – Beirut
4. The Fire – San Francisco
5. Freedom – Rio
6. Days Go By – London
7. Sail Away – Santiago
8. Valley Of Diamonds – Mexico City
9. Your Glorious Light Will Shine – Helsinki
10. Save Me – Istanbul
11. Reunite! – Paris