The masterful wizard Arjen Lucassen is back with a whole new magical project. The songwriter instrumentalist has been at the helm of so many incredible projects. Star One, Ayreon, Guilt Machine, Stream of Passion, Ambeon are some of the amazing projects he has been a part of and formed. This Prog Metal God never ceases to discover new musicians and harness their full potential. Artists like Floor Jansen, Simone Simons, Russell Allen, Ed Warby, Damian Wilson, Tobias Sammet, and Robert Westerholt have all been magnified by the amazing producer and writer that Arjen is. He has once again created another project with one of the best vocalists and musicians ever, Anneke Van Giersbergen.
Anneke is possibly one of the greatest vocalists in modern times. Her ability to emotionally connect with a single line in a song is visionary. Her vocal control and overall technical ability is absolutely unparalleled. Anneke began in a Gothic 90’s Rock band, The Gathering, where she first began mesmerising music fans. Her smooth vocal delivery and brilliant lyrics lead to a lot of attention for The Gathering. Other artists from around the world wanted to work with her, which lead to Arjen featuring her on two Ayreon albums. Most notably, Anneke has been featured on several Devin Townsend Project albums that are some of the best albums of all time. Her collaborations is how I discovered her and became utterly infatuated with how she carries a melody. Arjen Lucassen no doubt shares the same infatuation, as he brought Anneke on for an amazing project.
The Gentle Storm, a project utilizing more of the world’s best musicians and shining a light on the beautiful Dutch Golden Age, is unlike anything I have ever heard. The Gentle Storm encompasses a blooming culture of the Dutch in the 1700s, a topic very rarely illustrated in music. So far, the album combines many of my favorite things in a two disc album. The way the album is presented is also very unique The concept is an age old love story told with amazing historic themes. The story is told throughout both discs as well as the amazing cover art by Alexandra V. The unique aspect of the two disc album is that both discs have the same songs, just different sides. Disc 1 is the Gentle Side of the album, where all the songs are done acoustically. Disc 2 is a completely different electric take on all the ballads, turning them into something Metal. It is a truly unique and brilliant new approach to doing a new album, showing unparalleled musicianship.
“The Diary” begins with the “gentle version” of Endless Sea, a haunting and moving track, ebbing with pure emotion from Anneke and all the instrumentation behind her. The deep concert drums add an intense sound to this track. The Heart of Amsterdam is very heartfelt and lovely with a beautiful melody atop an absolutely fantastic violin part done by Ben Mathot and cello from Maaike Peterse. This song is very traditional sounding with beautiful Jazz tones. This song beautifully encompasses the greatness of Amsterdam, back then and now. The Greatest Love is even more beautiful and traditional, to a point of mesmerization of the ears. Shores of India is bridging two incredible cultures and creating a track that sounds older than the history books themselves. The way Anneke fits into the style of the song and perfectly executes a complicated melody is absolutely spectacular. Cape of Storms is more of a dramatic track on the album with heavier percussion and flowing strings underneath a captivating melody. The Moment is an absolutely enchanting ballad, full of emotion and poetic lyrics. Another impressive track on the gentle side is The Storm that solidifies the story so perfectly and effortlessly. Also, New Horizons is an absolutely incredible track as it is intense with emotion and features great rhythmic percussion. All the vocals and instrumentation definitely sound effortless in this album, because the talent level is extremely high on this album. To sum up the Gentle Version of “The Diary”, it is a heartfelt classical disc with immense musicianship and absolutely brilliant writing. It comes in like a gentle tide, but “The Diary” leaves like a storm for the ages.
The Storm version of “The Diary” is completely different than the Gentle Version, giving two completely different takes on a great story. Personally me being a Metalhead, I prefer the Storm version of the album, because it is heavier. The guitar solos and the more grandeur sound of Disc 2 is absolutely incredible. The guitar work on Endless Sea and Heart of Amsterdam as well as other tracks is so unique and excellently executed, you can definitely tell it’s Arjen. I absolutely love that the guest soloist on Heart of Amsterdam is Timo Somers of Delain. His dueling solo with Ben Mathot is ridiculously good and addictive and adds flair. Shores of India sounds much darker on this disc, which I love. It breaks up the mood of the album and makes it interesting. Ed Warby’s drumming on this track is absolutely spot on as well as Anneke’s soaring vocals throughout. The best part of a two disc album or a two sided is that each disc has its strengths. Some tracks fit better with the Gentle side like The Moment and The Greatest Love. Some tracks like Endless Sea, Heart of Amsterdam, and The Storm fit a little nicer on The Storm side.
The strength and brilliance of the album is that both sides have their standout tracks, even though both discs contain the same tracks. It is not that either disc has a weak track, but that the styles can appeal to tastes in different ways. “The Diary” is brilliant in that it’s an album for anyone with truly sophisticated taste in Progressive music and Metal, and if you’re a huge fan of Anneke and Arjen. In the subject material and musical composition, I have never heard an album quite like this one. The use of World instruments and modern instruments definitely adds aspects that I love. There’s not an aspect that I can’t appreciate or am not captivated by with “The Diary”, and that is vastly rare in music these days.
Album Rating 10/10