Composer/multi-instrumentalist Arjen Lucassen and singer extraordinaire Anneke van Giersbergen share much more than their nationality. Both are artists with a unique understanding of how Rock/Metal music should be performed, and their first ever collaboration took place during the creation of Ayreon’s third studio album “Into The Electric Castle” ; their working relationship was further solidified ten years later while working on another Ayreon album – the highly acclaimed “01011001”.

Now it is finally time for these two very gifted musicians to join forces in a full blown concept – once inspired by a seventeencentury tale of love and loss that is presented to us under the moniker The Gentle Storm.

As a result of his twenty year work with Ayeron, the picture Arjen Lucassen has built is that of a musician who thrives on creating textured, multi-layered compositions and one of the few people who can successfully bring together elements from musical genres as diverse as Jazz, Folk and Progressive Rock.

In “The Diary”, the debut (and hopefully not only) release of The Gentle Storm, Lucassen presents us with the most melodic side of his musical character – a decision that’s totally justified by the fact that all vocal performances on the album are provided by Anneke Van Giersbergen’s ethereal voice.

Far, however, from being  simplistic and straight forward, “The Diary” is an intelligent crafted album which showcases the technical and compositional depth of both its main creators – an album that will impress and enchant its audience from the word go.

“The Diary” is a very unique album in the sense that it is a two disc affair consisting of eleven compositions performed in two different/contrasting ways – a soft (gentle) version and its heavier (storm) counterpart.

Featuring an array of string and wind instruments, all of them perfectly accompanying Anneke’s divine voice, I find that the Folkier/gentle version of the album is far superior and better complements the mood that the storyline wishes to convey.

Songs like the moody opener “Endless Sea” are filled with strong emotion, thanks to the wind instrumentation, while the jazzier follow up “Heart Of Amsterdam” would have sounded far less convincing had the duo omitted the Tull-esque flute section that dominates its break.

Reminiscent of her deliveries when fronting the mighty The Gathering, Anneke’s vocal in “The Moment” and “New Horizons” are capable of reducing the most hardened of fans to tears, while the repetition of certain key themes of the album in “Epilogue: The Final Entry” is typical of every self-respecting concept album.

But what about the heavier/storm version of this incredible release? The dominance of heavy guitar riffs and bombastic drum beats in this version give these eleven compositions a darker/moodier feel – one that lovers of the more Metal side of things will most certainly appreciate.

Take, for instance, a song like “Shores Of India”; while in its ‘gentle’ version it was a folk sitar-driven up-tempo affair, here it becomes more menacing in feel. “The Greatest Love” is another composition that benefits from the inclusion of beefed-up riffs and pompous string arrangements but the one song that really stands out here is “Cape Of Storms” – a five and a half minute opus whose brilliant instrumentation could easily be the soundtrack of an epic movie.

Those of you who will opt towards purchasing the Media book version of this stunning album will get two bonus discs, each featuring the instrumental take of each version – not to be missed by you elitists/collectors out there.

I have been a fan of both Anneke’s and Arjen’s music for quite a long time, enough to realise that their latest union will deliver music of the highest possible standards.

What I soon discovered, both to my surprise and delight, is that, twenty years later, these amazingly gifted musicians are still capable of surprising and delighting us and no body of work better showcases this state of affairs than “The Diary”.

With both artists leading busy lives and even busier careers, the future of a project like The Gentle Storm certainly comes in question but even if this proves to be a one-off affair, it is still an effort that is bound to leave its mark and prove its influence on like-minded musicians in the years to come!

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