REVIEW: ANNEKE VAN GIERSBERGEN – “The Darkest Skies Are the Brightest”
Some say the heart has a talent for mending itself. Anneke van Giersbergen offers a different perspective. The award-winning Dutch artist’s new solo album ‘The Darkest Skies Are the Brightest’ contains a core narrative suggesting nothing truly remedies itself without our own intervention. Twenty-three albums into her eclectic career, this highly anticipated release marks a first for the vocalist. No stranger to performing acoustically, ‘The Darkest Skies Are the Brightest’ will serve as the first fully acoustic album for van Giersbergen. Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised. Predominantly known for her work and notable collaborations within the rock and metal community, van Giersbergen has also made a pop and classical albums with positive results. And ‘The Darkest Skies Are the Brightest’ captures some of her most accomplished work to date.
Within these eleven confessional tracks, Anneke assembles a remarkable scrapbook documenting an intense couple of years in her life. Once festering reflections now feel exorcised, as the album’s leading single suggests. “Hurricane” centers itself around an acoustic guitar accompanied by organic stomp-clap percussions illuminating the way for all that follows. Folk tingled harmonies, forlorn trumpet solos, and a fiery vocal performance all work together to make “Hurricane” an effective introductory offering. ‘The End’ proves to be a moving ballad with none of the plaintive storytelling its title suggests. The listener walks with Anneke through a bittersweet memory conversing around promises of eternal love that seem to last for only a short while. A cathartic standout that takes a few spins to get to the root of, as the vocal performance is so full of life it’s hard to imagine there ever being even an ounce of heartache at its core.
“I Saw A Car”, easily the most jovial, complex, and strangest song on this record leaves you wondering if Anneke saw a car, liked the car, and/or was hell-bent on owning this car that she was sure would take her far. You might be tempted to think the song was written on a slow studio day, or perhaps she lost a bet. But neither is true. This song, driven by an incessant guitar riff, is an attempt at a titular metaphor following a frustrated, entitled protagonist who wants all they desire to be simply given to them. A reminder that nothing comes easy. A sentiment better realized in “Losing You”. Far from being a maudlin breakup song, in “Losing You”, with its instrumentally sensitive execution, we find Anneke pleading for reasons, finding comfort in the foliage of springtime, and an acceptance of letting go of that which is not in her control as the song comes to its somber finish.
‘The Darkest Skies Are the Brightest’ is an intimate and much-welcomed insight into the world of one. What starts out as a melancholic journey finishes in celebration, with uplifting tracks like “Survive” and “Love You Like I Love You’. From beginning to end, Anneke doesn’t hold back on her heartache in her search for understanding. The solace she finds lies in her moments of resolve. While this acoustic endeavor marks a milestone in her career, the vivid storytelling that lies at the heart of this album is what makes it truly engaging. ‘The Darkest Skies Are the Brightest’ offers a fearless and refreshing exploration of the human condition, being an exceptional installment in an already exceptional career.