The Gentle Storm
The Diary


3.5
great

Review

by manosg STAFF
March 24th, 2015 | 30 replies


Release Date: 03/24/2015 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Welcome back Anneke, we’ve missed you.

It’s both a blessing and a curse when artists peak, in the eyes of their fans, early in their careers. Anneke van Giersbergen was fortunate and talented enough to build a strong chemistry with The Gathering some 20 years ago that offered us several incredible albums. More importantly, along with Liv Kristine, she was the reason that female fronted metal was so popular in the mid ‘90s and along with few other vocalists broke a male dominated field. She was so beloved that the news of her leaving The Gathering alienated a number of fans who never saw the band as the same again without her in the forefront. At the same time, her decision to follow a more commercial path towards alternative rock deprived us of an iconic metal vocalist.

So the news of her working with Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon) on a metal project where she would be the sole vocalist and main contributor brought enthusiasm to the hordes of her longtime fans. However, this is not her first collaboration with Lucassen as she was one of the guest vocalists on Ayreon albums Into the Electric Castle and 01011001. Nevertheless, what separates The Diary from the aforementioned albums is that on this release both artists are equal contributors; Arjen Lucassen is responsible for the music whereas Anneke has written all the lyrics.

The Diary is in essence a concept album that describes the communication between two lovers in 17th century via post through the form of a diary that the female character maintained and was found in a wooden chest long after her death. In addition, the album is a highly ambitious effort as it consists of two interpretations for each song; a gentle one and a storm version that symbolize the female and the male character of the story respectively. The gentle version recites the story with the use of instruments such as acoustic guitars, flute and piano in a folk/classical environment. On the other hand, the storm side replaces acoustic with electric guitars and heavier drums while leaning towards symphonic metal similar to bands like Ayreon, Within Temptation and Epica. In addition, although the instruments used are different, the arrangements are quite similar. For example on “Heart of Amsterdam”, the flue solo of the gentle side turns to a guitar solo on the storm side. Moreover, there’s a number of high points such as the middle eastern vibe on “Shores of India”, the catchy melody on “Heart of Amsterdam”, the epic element on “Cape of Storms” and “The Storm” or the emotional “The Moment”.

A lot has been said about Anneke’s return to prior form and specifically a performance reminiscent of albums such as Mandylion and Nighttime Birds. This is not very accurate though as she does sing on a more metallic setting than her solo work but in a manner that reminds latter albums by The Gathering with a few hints from their doom/gothic days. She doesn’t sound as melancholic/trippy as on How to Measure a Planet" or as powerful and doomy as on Mandylion. However, even though she lacks her distinctive delivery of the aforementioned albums, she’s easily more powerful than she sounded in a good 15 years now. In a nutshell, this is Anneke van Giersbergen circa 2015; a highly trained and emotional vocalist and a major reason for checking The Diary. For some reason, she had been restraining herself for so long that some people (including the author of this review) had lost hope. Her performance is that good that this album would be far less enjoyable with another singer to the point where it possibly wouldn’t warrant more than a couple of listens.

On the other hand, the combination of symphonic metal with The Diary’s subject matter results in a number of cheesy moments that might annoy those who aren’t into the genre. Moreover, since each version of every track represents one character, it would have been nice to use different lyrics so as to enhance the feeling of communication between the couple of the story. Lastly, Anneke’s performance on the metal side of the album leaves something to be desired probably because of the high expectations she has set on albums like Mandylion and Nighttime Birds.

At the end of the day, how one feels about this album is also a matter of perspective; whether you see the glass half empty or half full. The Diary by itself is a great achievement with numerous high points and emotional highlights coming from two brilliant artists. At the same time, the standard of quality we have come to expect from Anneke and Arjen is sometimes unfairly high. Personally, and unfortunately, I’m a half empty type of person and a realist but hopefully the 15 year old boy who wakes up every time he listens to Mandylion is an idealist. So I enjoy The Diary for what it is and feel optimistic by the fact that Arjen has put Anneke in the spotlight while giving her the opportunity to come out of her comfort zone since 2000.



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user ratings (34)
Chart.
3.5
great
other reviews of this album
PsychicChris (4.5)
The Gentle Storm is bombastic and conceptual as all of Arjen Lucanssen's projects tend to be but its...



Comments:Add a Comment 
manosg
Staff Reviewer
March 24th 2015


11269 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This is a bit longer than my usual reviews so I hope you enjoy it.



Full album: https://play.spotify.com/artist/4iWFRvqSQC8tHd0BHCudiE



A must-listen for Anneke fans.

Digging: Winterstorm - A Coming Storm

DrJohn
March 24th 2015


1041 Comments


Interesting remarks & info. Pos

manosg
Staff Reviewer
March 24th 2015


11269 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks doc!

AtomicWaste
Moderator
March 24th 2015


2777 Comments


Interested to hear this mostly for Arjen. Anneke has gotten boring post-Addicted!, sadly. Though, to be fair, most of what Arjen's done since the last Star One record has been kinda meh.

"Gentle" and "Storm" versions of songs sounds like it was bound to end poorly with such replication.

manosg
Staff Reviewer
March 24th 2015


11269 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This is pretty standard symphonic metal tbh but as a big fan of Anneke I still enjoy it. The thing with this album is that some listeners will enjoy one version more and maybe disregard the other. It's like internal competition.

Sabrutin
March 24th 2015


5733 Comments


Deserved a pos. I'm not a big fan of female fronted symphonic metal though, even though I enjoy some Within Temptation and Epica once in a while. I think I'll just listen to the latest Epica album which I still haven't heard.

Digging: An Autumn For Crippled Children - The Light of September

deslad
March 24th 2015


621 Comments


I love Anneke's voice and I've also listened to “Heart of Amsterdam” from this album and it is quite good imo.

Also, very detailed review manos, pos from me. I'll definitely check this out soon.

Digging: Bill Withers - Bill Withers' Greatest Hits

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
March 25th 2015


7989 Comments


Excellent review, pos.

I have got to check this out.

Digging: Kevin Hufnagel - Messages To The Past

manosg
Staff Reviewer
March 25th 2015


11269 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks guys. This is worth a listen just for Anneke's performance.

linguist2011
Contributing Reviewer
March 25th 2015


2557 Comments


Great review manosg, pretty enjoyable read. From what I've heard of this album ("Shores of India" most recently, which I quite admired), I'm fairly impressed. I'm more used to van Giersbergen's work than Lucassen's, but it seems like they make a perfect musical couple.

Digging: Slow Crush - Aurora

danielcardoso
March 25th 2015


11759 Comments


Great one, man. Pos'd from me and congrats on the feature.

manosg
Staff Reviewer
March 25th 2015


11269 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks guys.



Same here Robert. I'm only familiar with Lucassen's work from Ayreon which I've only checked a couple of times. He's done a great job in putting Anneke at the forefront and letting her shine on this album.

RustCohle
March 25th 2015


224 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

Hmm,



love almost everything Anneke ever did but hate almost everything Lucassen ever did, guess I need to give it a listen and decide...

Digging: Entropia (PL) - Vacuum

RustCohle
March 25th 2015


224 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

Meh...sadly the great vocals cannot save this cheesy crapfest

danielito19
March 26th 2015


12058 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

what is the point of having two versions of each track

why can't they just make an artistic decision on the intensity of each track instead of making it twice as long with the exact same stuff, just "stormy" or "gentle"

KILL
March 26th 2015


81232 Comments


i wana kiss anneke on the axe wound, that said i aint checkin this shite

menawati
March 28th 2015


16587 Comments


nice review mano - i tried this but couldn't stomach it

manosg
Staff Reviewer
March 29th 2015


11269 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks mena. I can definitely understand why someone would find hard to stomach a symphonic metal that deals with a love story. Personally, if it wasn't for Anneke I wouldn't give it more than one listen. But her performance might be the best since How to Measure a Planet? so it kinda makes up for the cheesiness.

manosg
Staff Reviewer
April 18th 2015


11269 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Pretty awesome live version of "The Storm". The music really breathes when played live and Anneke is incredible. Definitely check it.



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qpseRKIYuE&feature=youtu.be

deslad
April 21st 2015


621 Comments


Agreed man; I have yet to listen to the full album yet, but Anneke's performance is amazing on this one.



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