RICHARD BARBIERI (JAPAN, RAIN TREE CROW, PORCUPINE TREE) RETURNS WITH NEW ALBUM ‘UNDER A SPELL’

RELEASED ON KSCOPE – 26TH FEBRUARY

The man whose illustrious career began in the late 70s with synth-pop visionaries Japan and more recently as a member of influential art-rock band Porcupine Tree follows up 2017’s Planets + Persona with new album Under A Spell.  

Richard Barbieri didn’t plan to make an album like Under A Spell, originally intending his fourth solo album to be a direct follow from its predecessor, 2017’s Planets + Persona.

That record, made in different studios across Europe and heavily incorporating live performances from a range of musicians, was adventurous and bold, showcasing Barbieri’s endlessly inventive song writing and mastery of electronic music. The follow-up would pick up where it left off, journeying further into the expansive terrain he mapped out on the previous record. And then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and everything changed. “I wrote and recorded it in my studio at home, with all this strangeness going on outside,” says Barbieri of Under A Spell. “It became something completely different: this weird, self-contained dream-state album.”

On Under A Spell, Barbieri was intent on capturing the atmospheres and moods that his disconnected brain was conjuring rather than slaving over arrangements and melodies. Songs such as ‘Flare’, ‘Serpentine’, ‘Sleep Will Find You’ and its companion piece-of-sorts ‘Darkness Will Find You’ are sharply defined despite their dream-inspired genesis. He points to the evocative opening and closing tracks, ‘Under A Spell’ and ‘Lucid’, as the keys that unlock the album. “Those two tracks have the whole meaning within them,” he says. “The first song, ‘Under A Spell’, is leading you down a path, moving into places where you’re not sure what’s going on. There are whispers in the background, spells being cast in a deserted wood. Then the final track, ‘Lucid’, is the opposite. You’re in this comforting lucid dream, but then you’re drifting further away from it, trying to come out of it. There are voices saying: ‘Wake up, wake up, come back alive…’”

Listeners will be able to make out those voices but there are no vocals, these voices, collaborators, include Marillion frontman Steve Hogarth and Swedish singer Lisen Rylander Love (who co-wrote ‘A Star Light’).

The album’s title perfectly encapsulates the haunting, evocative world Barbieri has created. Songs such as the skittering, billowing ‘Clockwork’ and ‘Sketch 6’s dub-inspired soundscape hang suspended in that strange half-world between sleep and waking – a subconscious reflection of the surreal state the planet has found itself in over recent months. “I was having a lot of bizarre, recurring dreams that were hanging around after I woke up,” says Barbieri. “They were based around this woodland pathway, which is really summed up by the album cover – this surreal, deserted, Blair Witch Project type of environment. You’re going through these woods, heading towards this light, almost like you’re leaving life. That’s where the title Under A Spell came from – it was a feeling of not being totally in control. Almost as if your dreams are pointing you in directions that sometimes you can control and sometimes you can’t.”

 As ex-founder of Japan, the new-wave pioneers and one of the most ground-breaking bands of their era, Richard Barbieri helped spark the electronic music revolution that followed, his synthesiser sound not only defined the band but influenced the likes of The Human League, Duran Duran, Gary Numan and Talk Talk. Following Japan’s split, Barbieri joined Steven Wilson to form the legendary progressive outfit Porcupine Tree, that saw him play on nine of the band’s albums, including 1999’s Stupid Dream, 2002’s In Absentia and 2007’s acclaimed Fear Of A Blank Planet. Following PT’s hiatus Barbieri has pursued a solo career, releasing albums that include 2005’s Things Buried, 2008’s Stranger Inside and 2017’s Planets + Persona, as well as his recent EP series, Variant.1-5.

 Barbieri’s willingness to constantly redefine his own musical boundaries are never more evident than on the brilliant, hypnotic Under A Spell – the latest milestone on this utterly unique journey.

Under A Spelltracklisting 1. Under A Spell [07:19]2. Clockwork [02:33]3. Flare 2 [08:51]4. A Star Light [03:50]5. Serpentine [06:22]6. Sleep Will Find You [02:51]7. Sketch 6 [06:30]8. Darkness Will Find You [04:58]9. Lucid [06:14]

Under A Spell will be released on Kscope on 26th February, on CD,  gatefold double black vinyl LP, limited edition gatefold double red vinyl LP (exclusive to the Kscope store) and digitally with pre-orders available HERE https://RichardBarbieri.lnk.to/UnderASpell

(Artist photo credit – Carl Glover)

Review – Multi Story – CBF10 – by John Wenlock-Smith

Multi Story have a long and somewhat checkered history. Hailing from South Wales, they came to prominence in the mid 1980’s when their blend of symphonic progressive rock led to them being chosen by Birmingham’s finest Magnum as a support group for their On A Storyteller’s Night tour in 1985, memorably playing a set with at the Dominion Theatre on Tottenham Court Road in London.

At that time Multi Story had released their debut album ‘East West’ that was released on Revolver / FM Records who were a Wolverhampton based label who had a run of successes with various acts including Exodus and other early thrash metal outfits. After the tour Paul Ford left the band who then decided to continue and recorded a second album for FM /Revolver called ‘Through Your Eyes’ after which the band dissolved and went their own separate ways.

Vocalist/Guitarist Paul and keyboard player Rob Wilsher had been at loggerheads with each other for many years but in 2014, some thirty years on from ‘East West’, a peace was sought (and achieved) which ultimately led to a reconvening of Multi Story activities. The band found a new home on Dave Robinson’s Festival Music label, recording and releasing the album ‘Crimson Stone’ in 2016 and commenced live work again appearing at the Winter’s End Festival in 2016 and also at HRH Prog in 2017.    

They also recorded a live in the studio set called ‘Live at Acapela’ that acted as a summation of their career thus far, taking, as it does, tracks from their first three albums in a revamped updated fashion.

That nicely brings us to this latest album ‘CBF10’ issued this October, again through Festival Music, and the first thing that strikes you is just how beautifully presented this album is. I has a very striking cover, designed by Tommy Larsen, and a loose concept that really comes to the fore towards the last half of the album, from the track Freeway Army onward.

More of that later, the album opens strongly with the epic track Signs and Traces and its fabulously twisty guitar riff and Rob’s evocative keyboards. Quite a stunning opener it is too, thundering along with several different sections to it, all of which sound glorious. Sharp Recall follows and has some great Hammond parts from Rob and some great piano lines too. This track is Paul and Rob playing everything between them and still sounding very much like a band in the process, with a great solo towards the end from Rob.

Celluloid Star is up next and it is a cautionary tale on the trappings and falsehood that “fame “offers and then often fails to deliver. This well written song is very dramatic with lots of fabulously evocative keyboard sounds, a sturdy bassline and hard hitting, subdued guitar parts running throughout. Paul’s vocals sound very clear on this song, he is in fine voice, sounding a little bit like his old touring pal Bob Catley of Magnum at times (and that is no bad thing, in my opinion).

Freeway Army introduces us to a different type of hero, the lone drifter on the outside of society. He lives differently but not in a selfish manner and wishes no harm on anyone but wants to be free to live a simple unfettered life. A free spirit who roams the roads on his motorcycle, tearing up the miles with the wind in his hair and nothing to hold him down. Last Man Standing is another fine and moody track, it talks about being the last man standing and the isolation and struggles that he faces at that time and the past he struggles to come to terms with. It is a very sad poignant piece indeed, once again with sympathetic musicianship really echoing the isolation of the lyrics. Easy Rider return us to the lone biker and his fate as he is attacked and gunned down by redneck fools who mistake his solitude for emptiness and weakness and so attack him and destroy all that he stands for, freedom…    

Firing All Six is all about bravery in standing your own ground against the odds or being outnumbered. Rebel Inside is the penultimate track and is about going in a different direction, usually taking a harder path because you are choosing to stand apart from, and not following, the crowd. This is often safer and yet less rewarding than being a free spirit and following your own dreams and desires. This track features a graceful guitar break played with passion and taste, making this a exceptionally fine song indeed. Paul Ford’s acoustic guitar and heartfelt vocals are very welcome too.

The final song CBF10 is where the redneck is executed for the slaying of the rebel. He confesses and blames the voices in his head and says how sorry he is for his actions and how he thinks they had it coming, or that’s what the voices said! The song ends with the words “It came easy” as his life ends with lethal injection.

This is a very good album and is a real tribute to the vision that Paul and Rob had and have realised. It has some very strong moments and I feel that it would work very well in a live situation where the songs could be extended to maximise their potential. But, for now, this is a mighty fine album and one that I will return to again and again.

Released 26th October 2020

Order the CD from Progrock.co.uk here:

https://www.progrock.co.uk/multi-story-cbf10-digipak-c2x32609100

AIRBAG CO-FOUNDER BJØRN RIIS DEBUTS POIGNANT NEW SINGLE INSPIRED BY PANDEMIC

AIRBAG CO-FOUNDER BJØRN RIIS DEBUTS POIGNANT NEW SINGLE INSPIRED BY PANDEMIC

The COVID-19  pandemic has brought loss and suffering to millions of ordinary people world-wide, the majority of whom  have had to face the fact that their lives have been completely changed, and that for many, life will never be the same again.  Stuck inside their homes, denied the ability to see their loved ones, unable to perform the usual daily tasks,  and living in fear, many have found themselves wondering what is happening, and when will it ever end.

AIRBAG co-founder, songwriter and lead guitarist BJØRN RIIS is no different from anyone else, but he has turned this universal despair into something beautiful, creating “Desolate Place” a song that expresses what so many are feeling, not just lyrically, but also through its haunting melody.  

Here he explains how it all came about:
I can see the road from my house and the bus that drives by no longer stops like it used to. I had the guitar and this short piece that sounded like it could turn into something.  “Desolate Place” pretty much wrote itself inspired by the strange and unfamiliar times we live in. It’s like a bad dream or a road movie where you drive to the next place or town in search of something better but it’s the same wherever you go.

Together with long-time collaborator Vegard Kleftåas Sleipnes, we created this dark and almost claustrophobic atmosphere that tells a story in itself. I’ve never done a stand-alone track like this before but it felt like the right time and it’s rewarding to feel inspired in times like these. 

With music and lyrics by Bjørn Riis, who also produced the track, and with mixing and mastering by Vegard Kleftåas Sleipnes, “Desolate Place” features Bjørn on vocals, guitars, bass, keys and programming and Vegard on  keys and programming.

Photography and design for “Desolate Place” is by Bjørn, and the single is released on Karisma Records today.

Download from bandcamp here:

https://bjornriis.bandcamp.com/track/desolate-place

A much-respected guitarist within the musical community, BJØRN ‘s  interest in music started while still a teenager, when guitar-led bands were at the forefront and spearheaded the rise of the Progressive Rock movement.   It was this movement, together with Electronica and Movie Scores, that influenced the young guitarist,  leading  him to develop a style filled with soaring leads and gorgeous textures.   Bjørn has recently renewed his contract with Karisma Records,  and begun work on his fourth full-length album which will be released during 2021.

New vinyl editions of the two first BJØRN RIIS albums, “Lullabies in a Car Crash” and “Forever Comes to an End” will be re-released on March 5th 2021. Pre-order can be made here: https://www.karismarecords.no/shop/

Frontiers Announces Signing of Arc Of Life

NEW PROG ROCK GROUP FEATURING MEMBERS OF YES & SOUND OF CONTACT – DEBUT SINGLE & VIDEO ‘YOU MAKE IT REAL’ OUT NOW

Frontiers Music Srl is excited to announce the release of ARC OF LIFE’s self-titled debut album on February 12, 2021. Arc Of Life is a new progressive rock supergroup featuring three members of the current YES line-up, vocalist/guitarist Jon Davison, bassist/vocalist Billy Sherwood, and additional drummer Jay Schellen, one of the most interesting talents in the “new” progressive rock scene in the US, Dave Kerzner (Sound of Contact) on keyboards, and Jimmy Haun (also featured on YES albums in the past) on guitar. Fans can get their first taste of the band’s forthcoming debut with the new single and video, ‘You Make It Real’

Pre-order/save “Arc Of Life” HERE: https://orcd.co/arcoflife

The concept behind Arc of Life is, in keeping with the progressive rock philosophy, to craft creative, challenging, and ear-pleasing music that pushes boundaries. 

Billy Sherwood describes the music as, “interesting, with well-crafted songs, performed with precision and grace. All songs feature memorable melodies and lyrics that take the listener on a sonic adventure. Dynamic arrangements with peaks and valleys… it’s all there.”

The other idea behind the band is that YES would be a clear point of influence. But while YES is clearly the main point of comparison, a lot of musical similarities can be drawn to describe Arc Of Life’s grandiose and epic approach to music. 

In Jon Davison’s words, “Each YES member understands and supports when others may desire to explore and thrive along new artistic avenues. We then each find further inspiration to bring back to the YES fold.”

But all the descriptions are best left to the listeners to discern for themselves as repeat listens will reveal more layers. 

Arc Of Life is a true garden of delight for progressive rock fans and the band is looking forward to performing live. “Once the world gets over the COVID hump, Arc Of Life will be planning as much touring as we can fit in between YES and our other projects. Quite honestly, we’re all chomping at the bit to be out performing again!” concludes Jon Davison.

Tracklist:

1. Life Has A Way

2. Talking With Siri

3. You Make It Real

4. Until Further Notice

5. The Magic Of It All

6. Just In Sight

7. I Want To Know You Better

8. Locked Down

9. Therefore We Are

10. The End Game

Line-up:
Billy Sherwood – Bass and vocals

Jon Davison – Vocals

Jay Schellen – Drums

Jimmy Haun – Guitars

Dave Kerzner – Keyboards

Progradar Top Ten Albums of the Year 2020.

It’s that time again, that time when we supposed musical journalists put together a (subjective) list of our favourite albums that were released in 2020.

This list is very subjective and may have been different a few weeks ago, it is a list of ten albums that have touched me in any way in the previous 12 months and ones that I go back and listen to often.

There have been some that have been very close to my top ten, ‘Breaking Point’ by Jump, ‘Foxholesque’ by The Foxholes, ‘Brave New World’ by Built For The Future, ‘Dreaming City’ by Glass Hammer and ‘Beyond’ by Hibernal are just a few that were knocking on the door of my top ten and would definitely be included in a top twenty but just where do you stop!

So, here it is, my list of my top ten albums for 2020, they are in no particular order, apart from my number one and I’m sure most of you can guess what that is…

Pendragon – Love Over Fear

Intelligent and insightful lyrics and four musicians at the very top of their game are great ingredients to have when you create a new album, however Pendragon have added a dash of magic that is rarely seen in modern music nowadays. There is no such thing as the perfect record, musicians are always striving to concoct something better than has gone before but “Love Over Fear” is as close to perfection that you can get, the best album of the last twenty years in fact and, in my humble opinion, and that is a very rare beast indeed!

Released 14th February 2020

The Tangent – Auto-reconnaissance

The Tangent are a British progressive rock institution and every new album is eagerly awaited by the fans and, while every fan will have their own opinion, ‘Auto Reconnaissance’ is my favourite album from the band yet. Andy is on top form, his song writing is as sharp and clever as ever and he has gathered around him a group of musicians who seriously have no peers. A superb release and one which cements The Tangent’s already exalted reputation.

Released 21st August 2020

Blue Rose Code – With Healings Of The Deepest Kind

When it comes to music that salves the soul and gives joy to the heart, this album has few peers. An utter musical joy and one that everyone should listen to at least once, it has an honesty and innocence that is rare in the music industry these days.

Released July 17th 2020

Jon Gomm – The Faintest Idea

When most people look at an acoustic guitar, they see exactly that – a wooden box with strings. As one of the pioneers of the modern fingerstyle sound, however, Jon Gomm has a rare gift for turning one instrument into what feels like an entire orchestra, with this new album he has found new emotional depths in immense melodic pop landscapes.

Released 16th October 2020.

Lunatic Soul – Through Shaded Woods

On album number seven Mariusz Duda, the multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and mastermind behind Lunatic Soul is extending his musical explorations to include dark Scandinavian and Slavic folk referencing bands like Heilung or Wardruna. Following the heavily electronic sound of previous albums Fractured and Under the Fragmented SkyThrough Shaded Woods is completely devoid of electronics and is the first album in Duda’s discography, on which he plays all instruments.

Duda appears to have put the personal darkness that inspired his previous albums behind him, as more optimistic elements shine through in his new music. The album becoming musically “brighter” as it progresses – from the atmospheric introduction of “Navvie” through to the title track, which leads the listener to a melodious, trance like “Oblivion”, echoing the style of Dead Can Dance

Released 13th November

Airbag – A Day At The Beach

Airbag have returned with a complex release, musically and emotionally. A serious album and one that is seriously impressive, combining ethereal soundscapes with their signature guitar driven progressive rock. They have created a mature, powerful sound that inspires on many levels, delivering one of the most sophisticated releases of the year.

Released June 19th 2020

Dyble/Longdon – Between A Breath And A Breath

This is an album that you must listen to or you miss it at your peril. I cannot recommend this highly enough, I think it is one of my albums of the year. Indeed the beautiful music and the grace that the album offers make this worthy of a place in any albums of the year listing. Yes, it is that good, truly remarkable in fact!

(Words by John Wenlock-Smith)

Released 25th September 2020

Fish – Weltschmerz

The legendary Scottish singer’s last studio release is one of his finest and his best since ’13th Star’ (in my opinion). Grandiose in scale and delivery, the music has a maturity and melodrama missing in most of what you will hear nowadays. Fish’s songwriting abilities are as strong as they have ever been and the unique dulcet tones of his Scot’s brogue herald some of his mightiest compositions yet. A highlight of a very stellar career.

Released 25th September 2020

Silent Skies – Satellites

In this year where we have all been touched by the horrific effects of the pandemic, Vikram and Tom have given us something quite magical, an ultimately uplifting collection of beautiful songs that leave a lasting touch on our hearts and souls. ‘Satellites’ gives a feeling of hope and calm reflection that we can take into 2021 and will leave you with a smile on your face and love in your heart.

This release has jumped straight into my top 5 of the year, in fact, I love it that much I have just bought the vinyl…

Released 11th December 2020

So, here it is, my number one album of 2020 and I’m sure it will come as no surprise…

Abel Ganz – The Life Of The Honey Bee And Other Moments Of Clarity

How to sum up my feelings? I have a very close connection with Abel Ganz but that has not made any difference to how I have reviewed this album. Put simply, it is not just the best album I have heard this year, it is one of the best albums I have ever heard in my 52 years. More than just a collection of songs or even stories, it is part of the band member’s very souls and when they put all of that into making a record, you are going to get something very special indeed.

Released 6th July 2020

First Karisma Records Release of 2021 Announced – Meer – Playing House

The Norwegian 8-piece alternative progressive pop orchestra MEER is welcoming you with a massive sound, fabulous melodies, awesome harmonies and quite a few surprises.

MEER started out as a duo in Hamar, Norway in 2008, and since then the duo has expanded considerably to become what it is today – an eight-piece eclectic collective whose music is a mix of orchestral pop, classical music and progressive rock.
With their grandiose string arrangements and polyphonic vocals, MEER’s sound is far from minimalistic and flows in seemingly constant motion.

Today’s line-up comprises Johanne Kippersund on vocals, Knut Kippersund on vocals, Eivind Strømstad on guitar, Åsa Ree on violin, Ingvild Nordstoga Eide on viola, Ole Gjøstøl on piano, Morten Strypet on bass and Mats Lillehaug on drums. 


If you like your progressive rock symphonic, orchestral, melodic, catchy and with lots of energetic spurs, you should enjoy “Playing House” with MEER.

Review – Silent Skies – Satellites

The music of Silent Skies, the collaborative project between Tom S. Englund, vocalist of Swedish progressive group Evergrey, and virtuoso classical pianist Vikram Shankar, feels at once lushly cinematic, warmly intimate, darkly melancholic and incandescently beautiful. It’s making is a story of a deep musical kinship between two seemingly divergent talents.

The pair first crossed paths when the Swedish singer saw American Oberlin film score graduate Shankar’s engrossingly sensitive piano interpretation of Evergrey’s Distance on YouTube: “I heard an instant musicality coming from him” Englund says: “he can take one chord and add one melody note and immediately you understand he has this deep musical knowledge.” He sensed in Shankar a kindred musical spirit who could help him channel new forms of musical expression. A series of email exchanges between the pair gave birth to ideas of a sonic landscape rooted in cinematic score music – what they both came to see as ‘films for the inner eye’.

As they began playing together it quickly became apparent that they shared profound musical common ground. Evergrey’s music had been a founding influence on the pianist after all: “They had a huge impact on the way my playing developed.” Shankar says: “Their musical and emotional language remains a critical component to the way I write and play music. Tom’s singing in particular has been very influential – my favourite way to play melodically is to emulate and channel the emotional impact of the human voice, and his has an impact unlike any other.”

The collaboration between Vikram and Tom actually seemed to come out of nowhere for me. I was aware of Vikram’s incredible talent from his amazing instrumental project Lux Terminus and, being a long term prog metal fan, was well aware of Tom Englund’s fantastic vocal talents from Evergrey and Redemption (Vikram actually played keyboards on the band’s last album). I wouldn’t have put them together on a project as lush and magical as Silent Skies but they work perfectly, complementing each other’s talents.

The album is grandiose and full of melodramatic music that would grace many Oscar winning films as a score and yet is overflowing with emotion, graceful in places and heartfelt in others. Tom Englund has a wonderfully emotive and touching vocal delivery that shows he is no one trick pony, his charismatic singing on this album is some of the best you will hear all year and in direct contrast to the bombast of the new Evergrey album recently announced and Vikram’s tender playing is absolutely note perfect, throughly deserving of the word ‘virtuoso’ and who doesn’t love the sound of a proper grand piano, it’s both nostalgic and thought provoking at the same time.

Listening to the album takes you to a place of ethereal calm, the wistful songs are touching and moving, elaborately theatrical tracks like Horizons and Endless pairing hauntingly classical music with a melodic sensibility. The stand out tracks on this release for me are Us and Solitude, both full of an intense melancholic grace that you can feel in the tender rawness of Tom’s vocal and the stunningly sublime, exquisite and yet simple piano playing that feels like an extension of Vikram’s own soul.

The cover of Eurythmics’ 1983 hit Here Comes The Rain Again fits perfectly with the rest of the music and, being a child of the 1980’s, fills me with huge feeling of nostalgia and a wry grin on my face and the celestial instrumental 1999 closes out the album in style.

In this year where we have all been touched by the horrific effects of the pandemic, Vikram and Tom have given us something quite magical, an ultimately uplifting collection of beautiful songs that leave a lasting touch on our hearts and souls. ‘Satellites’ gives a feeling of hope and calm reflection that we can take into 2021 and will leave you with a smile on your face and love in your heart.

This release has jumped straight into my top 5 of the year, in fact, I love it that much I have just bought the vinyl…

Released 11th December 2020

Order from EMP in the UK here:

https://www.emp.co.uk/search?q=Silent+Skies

IAMTHEMORNING SHARE VIDEO FOR ‘VENI VENI EMMANUEL’

NEW EP ‘COUNTING THE GHOSTS’ OUT NOW

Iamthemorning have shared the new video for ‘Veni Veni Emmanuel’ taken from their new EP ‘Counting The Ghosts’ which is released today. Marjana from the band comments,

‘Veni Veni Emmanuel is a 12 century hymn sung in latin – the English translation exists and is somewhat more popular but I thought the Latin version will be more in line with our general style. It was arranged for 5 voices by Gleb and the arrangement is inspired by the works of Benjamin Britten. It’s kind of a timeline of music where each verse is associated with a specific time. It starts as a monody then proceeds to medieval style, then to classical european harmony and ends in 20th century.

I wish we could make a video that would do this beautiful song and arrangement justice but i guess right now in the times of pandemic when everyone’s in lockdown all is left is to “Arrange whatever pieces come your way”, which I did.’

Self released by the band to raise money to record their new album and consisting of 4 tracks, ‘Counting The Ghosts’ features 2 new original songs,’Cradle Song’ and ‘Counting The Ghosts’.

The other tracks on the EP see Iamthemorning adding their own twist to two traditional festive songs, ‘Veni Veni Emmanuel’ and the more modern piece ‘I Wonder As I Wander’.

Order the EP  – https://iamthemorningband.bandcamp.com

Nad Sylvan – launches new single & video for “You’ve Got To Find A Way”

Straight from his hygge home in Sweden Nad Sylvan is happy to be announcing the release of his brand-new single “You’ve Got To Find A Way”, sending  some hope and love out into this pandemic-ridden world to warm our hearts all over the globe.

After concluding the Vampirate’s trilogy, Nad now changes course on his upcoming fourth album by converting the poems of WB Yeats into music. The new album, entitled “Spiritus Mundi”, is due for release in early April 2021. “You’ve Got To Find A Way” will be a bonus track on the new album. The track functions as some kind of link between the trilogy and the new work. It’s a standalone track, not related to Yeats”s poems, but it very much showcases the new musical direction Nad has chosen to take. 

Nad comments: 

“A pandemic love song; sprung from strumming my guitar for about a year, always returning to this tune. During this time, I had met that someone while being on the road right when the pandemic hit and I abruptly had to go home. I usually don´t write on guitar, which makes this song all the more special to me.”

Anneke van Giersbergen – unveils music video of first new track “My Promise”

Pre-order for “The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest” album now open!

Lyrically, and musically, the award-winning Dutch artist lays her soul bare with the most evocative record of her career – captivating song-stories told with acoustic guitars, strings, horns, percussion, and Anneke’s hypnotic vocal harmonies

Anneke van Giersbergen recently announced the release of her new solo album ‘The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest’. Today she is happy to reveal “My Promise” as the album’s first single. The track premieres alongside an accompanying music video. Anneke comments: “I wrote ‘My Promise’ when I imagined what life after divorce would really entail. The lyrics deal with a determination to fight for love. The song starts off with an acoustic Arabo-Spanish Gypsy vibe and gradually builds towards a euphoric ending. Ruud Peeters wrote a hauntingly melancholic string arrangement.”

Anneke continues: “We shot the video in Radio Royaal, one of my favourite restaurants in my hometown Eindhoven and it shows a few defining moments in a relationship, represented by different couples.”

Additionally, ‘The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest’ is available for pre-order starting today. The album will be available as eco-friendly CD Digipak (plastic-free), as 180g Gatefold LP (incl. the album on CD) & as digital album. It will be released on February 26th, 2021.

Click here to pre-order the album: 

https://annekevangiersbergen.lnk.to/TheDarkestSkiesAreTheBrightest

Tracklisting:

01. Agape
02. Hurricane
03. My Promise
04. I Saw A Car
05. The Soul Knows
06. The End
07. Keep It Simple
08. Lo And Behold
09. Losing You
10. Survive
11. Love You Like I Love You

The album’s title, ‘The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest’, refers to the idea that, when facing personal challenges, we are forced to find answers to life’s biggest questions. But, at this point in her near-three-decade-long music career, this solo album – and, crucially, the heartbreak that inspired it – was not something Anneke van Giersbergen ever anticipated writing.

In 2018, Anneke began working on new material for her metal band, VUUR. Although their debut album, ‘In This Moment We Are Free – Cities’, was met with a mixed reception, fans were warming up to their heavy, progressive sound. Therefore, a rapid follow-up album would surely establish Anneke’s return to fronting a metal band. However, behind the scenes, these were troubled times.

Anneke shares, ”My belief in VUUR saw me spend all my savings on recording VUUR’s debut album and taking the band on the road. After completing our first touring cycle, I realized that more VUUR would mean yet more, huge financial risks.”

To make matters worse, in 2018, her long-lasting marriage, which had always been wonderful, unexpectedly saw a storm approaching.
Anneke adds, “I instantly knew I needed to write music about fixing my life. This creative endeavour would be far too personal for a VUUR album. And it would also require solitude.”

With just her acoustic guitar and basic recording gear, Anneke retreated to a small house near the woods, just outside her hometown of Eindhoven. She let go of the pressures of what VUUR’s future might be, and fell into the meditative process of writing a solo album. In 2019, work continued on the new songs. In 2020, Anneke asked her friend and producer, Gijs Coolen, to help finish the album.

Throughout the completion of the album, Anneke’s fragile, acoustic song-stories were fused together with an alchemy of panoramic strings, horns, and percussion. The resulting 11-track record has all the intimacy of Anneke serenading an audience of one, combined with surprising departures into swampier, foot-stomping grooves.

The Japanese art of kintsugi has inspired Anneke to use a repaired heart as the album’s symbol. Kintsugi teaches that bringing together the pieces of a broken object – with the use of a precious metal – adds value and uniqueness to it. And, instead of giving up on their marriage, Anneke and her husband decided to take the time to mend their bond. They now cherish the repaired heartbreak as something profoundly valuable. 

Their journey through this personal storm, and the album that Anneke created in the eye of it, proves that the darkest skies truly are the brightest. 

The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest’ is Anneke’s 23rd career album. It proves, once again, that the award-winning Dutch artist defies being pigeonholed by any genre. 

After thirteen years as the front woman for melancholic metallers, The Gathering, she struck out on her own in 2007. Since then, her creativity has known no bounds. Anneke quickly solidified a successful solo career (initially under the moniker Agua de Annique), and has recorded and performed with Canadian metal genius Devin Townsend multiple times. She has also lent her serene yet powerful voice to the likes of: Anathema, Icelandic folk group Árstíðir, Within Temptation, Ayreon mastermind Arjen Lucassen, Amorphis, and prog legend John Wetton.

2012’s ‘Everything is Changing’ was something of a milestone in Anneke’s solo career. The album, which was the first to be released under her own name, received two Edison Award nominations – Holland’s most prestigious music prize – in the categories ‘Best Female Artist’ and ‘Best Album’.

In 2015, Anneke van Giersbergen and Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon) released their collaborative album ‘The Diary’ under the name The Gentle Storm.

In October 2017, Anneke’s progressive metal outfit VUUR released their much-anticipated debut album. ‘In This Moment We Are Free – Cities’ entered the Dutch Album Top 100 at number 2, Anneke’s highest-ever chart position.

Forever the unpredictable artist, in late 2018, Anneke released ‘Symphonized’, an 11-track live orchestral album. It was recorded at two career-spanning concerts alongside Residentie Orkest The Hague, and features rearrangements of songs from her entire back catalogue.

2019 saw Dutch music copyright organisation Buma Cultuur honor Anneke with the Buma ROCKS! Export Award. This is their award for the Most Successful Dutch Artist Abroad in Heavy Music.

In 2021, the release of her new solo album ‘The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest’ will see Anneke surprise her fans all over again.