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The Gentle Storm - "The Diary" (CD)

The Gentle Storm - "The Diary" CD cover image

"The Diary" track listing:

CD 1: Gentle

1. Endless Sea (Gentle Version)
2. Heart of Amsterdam (Gentle Version)
3. The Greatest Love (Gentle Version)
4. Shores of India (Gentle Version)
5. Cape of Storms (Gentle Version)
6. The Moment (Gentle Version)
7. The Storm (Gentle Version)
8. Eyes of Michiel (Gentle Version)
9. Brightest Light (Gentle Version)
10. New Horizons (Gentle Version)
11. Epilogue: The Final Entry (Gentle Version)

CD 2: Storm

1. Endless Sea (Storm Version)
2. Heart of Amsterdam (Storm Version)
3. The Greatest Love (Storm Version)
4. Shores of India (Storm Version)
5. Cape of Storms (Storm Version)
6. The Moment (Storm Version)
7. The Storm (Storm Version)
8. Eyes of Michiel (Storm Version)
9. Brightest Light (Storm Version)
10. New Horizons (Storm Version)
11. Epilogue: The Final Entry (Storm Version)

Reviewed by on March 19, 2015

"Luccassen’s uncanny knack for ridiculously catchy progressive music fills the album with the mood and melody required to tell the story, with the help of an endless stream of musical instruments."

Stepping out from the shadows of his sleepy hideaway in Hilversum, the great Arjen Anthony Lucassen has emerged with a new band to add to his plethora of projects – all of which are strikingly good – only adding to his mystique and allure as one of progressive metal/rock’s most influential artists. With The Gentle Storm, Lucassen returns less than two years since resurrecting Ayreon for the brilliant “The Theory of Everything” album. In keeping with past achievements, Arjen has teamed up with Anneke van Geirsbergen, who worked on Ayreon’s “Into the Electric Castle” (1998), “Temple of the Cat” (2000) and the masterpiece “01011001”(2008). The result is The Gentle Storm, a deep, often light hearted folksy album (depending on which side you are listening to) set in the 17th century. What it further proves is that Lucassen has the Midas touch for epic progressive jewels to go along with a heart of gold.

Van Geirsbergen was responsible for the lyrical concept – a love story of two fictional characters set in the world of Dutch merchant trade. A sailor begins a long two year voyage on the tall ship Merchant, separated from his wife, and the correspondence between the two forms the basis of all the songs. With the help of maritime historian Perry Moree, the world sculpted around the characters is historically accurate. Luccassen’s uncanny knack for ridiculously catchy progressive music fills the album with the mood and melody required to tell the story, with the help of an endless stream of musical instruments. For “The Diary” he calls upon some familiar names: Johan van Stratum (Stream of Passion) on bass, Joost van den Broek (Star One, After Forever) on piano, Marcela Bovio (Stream of Passion) on backing vocals, and Timo Somers (Delain, Vengenace) on guitar (solo in “Heart of Amsterdam”).

Rather than give in to the double CD with instrumental karaoke versions of the tracks under the guise of “bonus material,” Arjen crafted two versions of the album: the soft “gentle” version and the bombastic “storm” version. It is almost as if the man was attuned to the needs and moods of the listener. The idea wins, because there are moody Mondays where “The Storm” in its full glory is more appropriate than its gentle companion more suited for a stress free Saturday morning.

When it comes to crafting a progressive symphony, Lucassen is the go-to guy in this day an age. The musical lines, the emotion, the stunning beauty of the melodies are all unfurled for “The Diary.” Anneke’s vocals seem to be a polarizing point for many listeners – some find true beauty while others hear just a slightly annoying drone. For this author, Anneke is one of the most unique and gifted vocalists in the world today. It is precisely in what some deem “oddities” where I find rich beauty: a smooth, haunting vocal style with an Irish style trill. For a love story of separation and sadness, van Geirsbergen is the perfect voice in conveying anguish and heartbreak (check out “Epilogue – The Final Entry,” “The Moment” and “The Greatest Love”). She also displays her power in songs like “Brightest Light.”

In comparing the two versions of the album on face value, the “storm” side is vastly superior from a “heaviness” perspective. It comes equipped with full orchestration and choirs, stunning percussion via Ed Warby, Arjen and Rov Snijeders, and Arjen’s hair-raising solos (check out 4:14 of “Endless Storm”). “Cape of Storms” has a subtle machine gun riff that fills the void of its “gentle” doppelganger. However, there are instances where the “gentle” version presents more emotional depth, like on “Shores of India,” where the use of Native American panpipes right at the start is exceedingly better than the keyboards of its “storm” counterpart. Its hard to predict which side will resonate with the prog heads better, each having its own distinct sound and display of emotion.

“The Diary” should please both fans of Arjen’s array of projects, those who love progressive rock/metal masterpieces, and just fans of great music. Few things are automatic wins, but an Arjen composed album is a synch. With Anneke van Geirsbergen to ride the melodies with haunting beauty, The Gentle Storm is one of Lucassen’s most enjoyable projects to date. It is a stunning achievement when you consider the fact that one primary vocalist has overcome the typical parade of guest vocalists from all your favorite acts. The Gentle Storm has more of a “band feel” than Ayreon – another reason why “The Diary” should be in your list of must buys.

Highs: Wonderfully crafted progressive rock/metal in two unique versions. Anneke's haunting melodies shine.

Lows: For fans of straight up metal, this isn't for you.

Bottom line: The Diary is both "gentle" and "stormy," with two unique versions that give the listener a totally new album experience.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)