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Energizing and Uplifting! - 94%

andreipianoman, November 8th, 2018

Anneke Van Giersbergen is without a doubt one of the most appreciated figures in all the prog scene with over twenty years of activity in multiple projects that have built up a successful music career. Although most famous for her work in The Gathering, there is quite a number of bands that she has created or been a part of and Vuur is the latest one of them. I've known about Anneke for years but it's been only recently that I've actually heard some of her music. I actually first heard her voice on Ayreon and I'm only now getting familiar with a small portion of her extensive work.

Vuur's "In This Moment We Are Free – Cities" is a very special album, although it may not appear so at first glimpse. There's no denying that there is a lot of value in the creativity of this record. It has some very satisfying song-writing, balancing very well the progressive, the heavy, the melodic and the catchy. There's a consistent use of moody time-signatures that wake up the prog nerd in you but it is far from being focused on complexity, being still very enjoyable and easy to listen to, even when hearing it the first time. Ayreon's drummer Ed Warby does a fantastic job merging his groovy and progressive skills with more basic double kick and headbang inducing patterns, displaying a lot of ease in alternating from one to another or even doing both at the same time. Also the overall guitar and bass material works very well as a whole. The riffs are heavy, energetic and many times pretty complex but never taking the spotlight too much as they are almost always combined with lead guitar melodies to give the main tune of the songs. Pretty much every instrument is given some moments to shine but never overpowering everything else. There are also many clean guitar sections where the bass comes forward a little more and many times they may run into engaging and energizing buildups that go back into the heavy side. The guitar solos are also very well written, being enjoyable and very melodic while still bringing to the table a surprising amount of shred, sweeps, tapping and all the speedy goodies.

There's even more sense of unity and naturally cohesive music when you take the vocal parts into consideration. Apart from the fact that Anneke's voice is and absolute gem, here all her parts are very well put into the music to grab the energy from the instrumental and enhance it (see the bridge in "My Champion – Berlin" for a great example) or to give it a certain meaning and direction (beginning of "Freedom - Rio"). I actually can't tell if it's the vocal delivery or the way the vocal parts are written that makes them so powerful but I think it's actually a mix of both. And this is also where the lyrics come in. I feel like there's always a very strong connection between the lyrics and the music. The heavier songs with a slightly darker tone like "Time - Rotterdam" or "Days Go By – London" have darker and more negative lyrics focused on some sort of fears or regrets while the more melodic and engaging ones ("Your Glorious Light Will Shine – Helsinki" is the best example) have more uplifting or even enlightening lyrics.

I feel like it's really the connection between all the different elements coming together that makes this album work so well and carry out it's energy and it's message so clearly. You can hear that it was thought out as a whole from the beginning. And in the end it's not the complexity or performance that makes it stand out as much as the atmosphere it creates. It is travel themed music and although the lyrics don't actually describe that, the song titles and the different vibes bring the idea to life. There is a strong and undeniable similarity between the way the songs are written and structured but each one has its own particular touch that makes it slightly different, like travelling to a different city. Another great idea was placing the album title as a lyric in each song. That somehow brings them together and connects them into what feels like a journey. And the journey ends with "Reunite! - Paris" where the liberating energy as well as the peaceful and calming lyrics create the sense of closure. Despite the songs not being actually connected like in a concept album, this ending somehow brings them together.

To be perfectly honest, I think an album of this sort is likely to create many different opinions as it is very unpredictable what impact it may have on the listener. It's probably not one of my all time favorites but I still struggle to find faults with it and it's the kind of music that makes me happy and that I can listen to anytime. However, the one thing I can say for certain is that the idea in the artist's mind was fully achieved. And that simply means success.