Anneke van Giersbergen – The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest (Album Review)

Looking to surprise her fans once again, Anneke van Giersbergen is set to deliver The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest on Friday, February 26, 2021, via Inside Out Music.

In today’s entertainment world, having a career that has delivered 23 albums in under three decades is not a feat that many can claim on their resumes. From making melancholic Metal with The Gathering and, most recently, Prog Metal with VUUR, to offering her magnificent vocal talents to the music of Devin Townsend, Anathema, Within Temptation, Amorphis, and many more, the multi-instrumentalist and divine soprano has built herself a strong, multi-faceted solo career on albums such as 2012’s Everything Is Changing and 2018’s orchestral Symphonized.

Of course, the unpredictable nature of her work has been another plus point in the vocalist’s career and there’s no reason to stop now, right? Celebrating a gloriously minimalistic sound that is, at the same time, lush with instrumentation, the Dutch siren presents the 11-song The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest. It’s a title that is very telling of the collection, one that was born of a meditative journey inspired by the potential dissolution of van Giersbergen’s marriage. Wearing her heart on her sleeve, the singer-songwriter offers up her most intimate performance to date as she fights to mend old wounds, stave off heartbreak, and repair her relationship. Friend and Producer Gijs Coolen guides this Angel of Music through her private hurricane, one that—spoiler alert!—has a happy ending.

The first thing that listeners should know is that The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest defies genre. Falling somewhere in the amorphous territory of Indie Folk, Folk Pop, or Indie Pop, while it is heavy on acoustic guitars, it is still able to deliver some serious stomp. These percussive moments pop up in tracks such as “I Saw A Car,” where the beat anchors a superb jam session complemented by van Giersbergen’s nightingale vocals. Then there’s “Keep It Simple,” a concept that could easily be the motto for the record. Here, percussion and cello provide a low end that builds to a spectacular choral moment.

Tracks such as these set the stage for their brothers and sisters, songs like the funky “Lo And Behold” and hip-shaker “Survive.” Not to be overlooked, single/video “My Promise” uses layers, including violin, to deliver an enchanting experience that van Giersbergen has self-described as a “Arabo-Spanish Gypsy vibe” that “gradually builds towards a euphoric ending.” It pairs well with its predecessor, “Hurricane,” which uses acoustics and trumpet to craft an appropriately stormy atmosphere.

But there are also entrancingly sweet moments. Take album opener “Agape,” where it’s not at all difficult to imagine van Giersbergen twirling around a vibrant garden in springtime as she croons. As the opener, it paves the path for future offerings like “The Soul Knows” and the bittersweet “The End.” But before she can reach the climax of the album, van Giersbergen does take a lovely moment to reflect on her fairytale amid the elegant harp-work of “Losing You.” Then, for its grand conclusion, her intimate tale culminates in “Love You Like I Love You,” a touching ode to adoring someone with your entire being.

You would be hard-pressed to find fault with a record that sees its creator peeling back the flesh on her own intimate experiences, doing so while crossing genres fluidly and delivering her poetry with the voice of an angel. On The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest, van Giersbergen’s sonic minimalism and soul-wrenching honesty are captivating. Her willingness to be vulnerable before her listener, to tell a deeply moving story that is her own reality, is worthy of great respect. In a day and age where artists are singing about wet cats and old roads, van Giersbergen offers her heart for her art. We find that exceptionally inspiring, and so Cryptic Rock gives The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest 4.5 of 5 stars.

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