Album review: ANNEKE VAN GIERSBERGEN – Symphonized


Inside Out [Release date 16.11.18]

In the summer of 1992 a good friend came to mine for a visit carrying with him “Always…”, the debut release of an atmospheric Death Metal outfit named The Gathering. My attraction to the work of this Dutch band was almost instantaneous but it was three years later when Anneke Van Giersbergen, a sweet young maiden with an angelic voice, joined the fold that my devotion towards them was well and truly solidified.

The story following the release of the majestic “Mandylion” is pretty well documented; a string of top quality releases saw the light of day before Anneke decided to quit and invest in a solo career which found her indulging in musical styles as diverse as Pop, Prog and Classical.

Winner of various important and well-respected awards over the years, it was not at all surprising to find Van Giersbergen attracting the attention of a musical organization as prestigious as the Residentie Orkest The Hague and have them willing to invest their precious time in a musical collaboration.

The biggest task of all would be to decide which of the artists’ stylistically diverse material would best fit such a unique musical collaboration and as the eleven compositions that put together “Symphonized” clearly suggest, the decision was the result of a well-thought of and pretty balanced process.

What attracted me to Anneke as a live artist from the off were her sweet demeanor and the positive energy which she puts in her performances and these were the very things I was reminded of when listening to the cleverly-crafted string-infused version of the Pop anthem “Feel Alive” which opens the album.

Lacking the drum beat of the original version but with an extra added dimension provided by a truly epic orchestral arrangement, “Amity” is one of the highlights of the record and the same applies to the pompous heart-stopper “Your Glorious Light Will Shine – Helsinki”.

Quite close to the original version but featuring a beautiful Cello part, “Two Souls” is a great cover to indulge in while Anneke’s performance during Purcell’s epic “When I Am Laid In Earth” is comparable in quality to that of the well-known soprano Elin Manahan Thomas.

Lacking its original sci-fi intro but having been provided with a fitting atmospheric replacement, “Travel” features one of the strongest vocals performances of the album while “Zo Lief” in what one would describe as ‘safe waters’.

I am one of these people who really enjoyed Anneke’s Pop gem “Drive” so the inclusion of “You Will Never Change” in the set can only be described as a great idea, as is the guitar-less “Freedom – Rio” whose strength lies no longer in the urgency and directness of the said six string instrument but in the power emanating from a mass of expertly composed and well-coordinated string instrumentation.

The last two compositions on offer are no less impressive than the ones which preceded, with “Forgotten” being another bombastic Gathering epic benefiting from the support of a full-blown orchestra and “Shores Of India” an oriental magnum-opus that will without a doubt acquire the status of a ‘classic’ in the years to come.

Closely observing the evolution of Anneke Van Giersbergen’s career over the years has been as rewarding as watching a young caterpillar transforming itself into an elegant butterfly – one whose beauty and grace are further manifested every time she flips her wings.

Not having a DVD/Blu-Ray document of the said performance can only be described as a baffling on the part of Inside Out, however, that should not deter anyone from investing in “Symphonized” because, as far as live albums go, it is up there with the very best!  *****

Review by Ioannis (John) Stefanis

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