Anneke van Giersbergen
The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest



by Robert Davis CONTRIBUTOR (306 Reviews)
March 7th, 2021 | 10 replies

Release Date: 02/26/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Keep it simple.

After lending her voice to albums by Ayreon, Amorphis and Devin Townsend in more recent times, it's pretty understandable that Anneke van Giersbergen's solo material is pretty tame (in a good way) by comparison. When you consider how bombastic and in-your-face the musicianship of albums like Addicted and The Electric Castle are in relation to Anneke's sweetly sung vocal delivery, it's probably a nice breather for the Dutch singer/songwriter to be writing simpler music and keeping it that way throughout latest solo effort The Darkest Skies are the Brightest.

The best thing to be said about The Darkest Skies... is that it's a pretty pleasant experience. If you want to find a soothing album to relax to, lie down and take in the spring weather, then it's a gentle enough record. Most of the album revolves around delicate acoustic musicianship, Anneke's calm vocal work and a generally uplifting experience. Opener "Agape" is as slow and serene as things get, Anneke harmonizing with those beautiful backing violins and essentially singing you to a cosy little slumber. It builds into this classical focus as the violins are given more room to breathe, but essentially it does the job of settling you into the album immediately. "Hurricane" notably has a more sinister tone, with the heavier acoustic work becoming more prominent and Anneke's vocals taking on a deeper drawl, but it still ends up being as accessible as its predecessor. The vocal work is a little more versatile with those almost unexpected ululations throughout, but things hold back just enough to ensure the song doesn't go a full 180, instead settled by an interesting trumpet placement. The same can be said for most of the album actually, in that the musicianship and vocal arrangements are the simplest they can be. There's even a song called "Keep it Simple", a title which unintentionally reflects the songwriting direction in The Darkest Skies....

Whilst there's nothing bad about this latest solo effort from van Giersbergen, it does hit a bit of an inspired slump in its mid-section. Whereas the album's first three songs demonstrated hints of Anneke exploring different musical styles, "I saw a car" through to "Keep it simple" really drag. It's mainly due to the forgettable nature of these four songs that the album becomes a bit too monotone for its own good, and even Anneke sounds deflated as a result. "The soul knows" and "The End" really hold back a lot more than they needed to, and eventually it becomes so watered down that you'll be wondering which song is which, so similar do they sound to each other. At least "Keep it simple" attempts to bring some form of substance, those almost tribal-like drum rhythms echoing a bit of World Music influence before Anneke's voice soars and cuts through the acoustic haze. That said, the song still dwindles when it should shine, and it's ultimately left to "Lo and Behold" to bring back the inspired sound the album began with. Whilst this song is still fully acoustic and doesn't spread its wings very far, Anneke's vocal work is doubled up to incorporate a multi-faceted experience and offers one of the most exciting choruses of the album.

The Darkest Skies are the Brightest is a pleasant album at best, and a pedestrian album at worst. What you make of that is really up to you, but considering this is the first Anneke van Giersbergen solo album in 8 years-not to mention after a lot of guest spots for some of metal's most renowned artists-it seems as if keeping it simple is the order of the day. Like I say, this isn't a bad thing at all, but try not to expect too much from it and you'll find The Darkest skies... a nice 40-minute experience.

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user ratings (27)

Comments:Add a Comment 
Contributing Reviewer
March 7th 2021


Album Rating: 3.0

c/c welcome as always.

Digging: Veilburner - Lurkers In The Capsule of Skull

March 7th 2021


Album Rating: 3.5

Oh nice! Liked this one quite a bit, lovely review too.

Staff Reviewer
March 7th 2021


Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Nice one, Rob. This is pretty tame for me, and is saved by Anneke's voice.

Digging: Iron Maiden - Senjutsu

Staff Reviewer
March 8th 2021


Album Rating: 3.2

Unfortunately, yeah, this is no the Gathering. Great review Linguist!

Digging: Earth and Fire - Song of the Marching Children

March 8th 2021


Album Rating: 3.0

I actually liked I saw a Car. It has that pop/country sound.

March 19th 2021


I checked Drive today and it rules.

Digging: Avast - Mother Culture

July 29th 2021


Album Rating: 2.5

Not a terrible album, but it lacks a spark. There are some nice enjoyable moments here and there, yet to me it doesn't reach the level of the previous works. What's puzzling me the most is that Anneke's voice has convoluted in terms of interpretation, and that's a thing I noticed in all her latest efforts. All songs are sung in the same way, and despite her voice is always crystal clear, it has lost some of the little nuances she had some time ago. That said, this one to me sounds like a routine album filled with simple songs (not a bad thing per se) with a few highlights. I can't see much longevity in this.

Staff Reviewer
July 29th 2021


Album Rating: 3.2

I don't think this style suits her, she should go back to metal.

Or to The Gathering, even better.

July 30th 2021


the Drive album rules so idk about that

July 30th 2021


still haven't heard

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