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The Gentle Storm
The Diary

Company: Inside Out
Release: 2015
Genre: Progressive
Reviewer: Greg Watson

  • Incredibly emotional, well-formed, and executed

  • This album came to me and when I opened it up and saw that there were four albums included, I was trying to figure out just what in the hell I had gotten myself in to.

    The Gentle Storm is the brainchild of composer and artist Arjen Lucassen of Ayreon and Star One. The vocals are supplied by former The Gathering vocalist, Anneke van Giersbergen. "The Diary" is a concept album based on a 17th century story about two lovers who are separated when the man leaves to go abroad for a period of time. Their only communication is letters exchanged between the two and this provides the majority of the lyrical inspiration from Anneke. The reason for the multiple discs with this release is that there are two versions of the album included. The first is the "Gentle" version which features acoustic guitars and a bevy of orchestral and world instruments. The addendum to the "Gentle" version is a purely instrumental version of the album. The second incarnation, "Storm", follows the same pattern but is more in line with the progressive rock/metal sound and features arrangements that are a bit different from the "Gentle" version.

    The album itself is an incredibly emotional, well-formed, and executed concept that makes you feel the elation of the male lover as he is exploring new worlds and relating to what he is seeing and feeling to his companion back home. You also feel the anguish that is part of the story that I won't go in to as it will ruin the story itself. But what stands out to me most about this album is just the feeling that pours out through the speakers in the musical arrangements of Lucassen and in Anneke's vocals and lyrics. The combination of the two can have you soaring to wondrous heights and then instantly have you plummetting towards your demise and heartbreak in the blink of an eye.

    Tracks like "Heart of Amsterdam", "Shores of India" and "The Storm" feature some very complex sound and musical arrangements. For instance, "Heart of Amsterdam" begins as a typical folk track with some very soft acoustic guitar before giving way to a swing tempo replete with brushes being used on the drums for some authenticity. "Shores of India" has a more exotic feel as a sitar is employed to lend to the atmosphere and ambience. With the "Storm" version, tracks such as "The Storm", "The Greatest Love" and "The Moment" take on totally different feels as the music is a bit more aggressive and the arrangements have been tweaked to lend themselves more to the heavier styling employed.

    The more I listened to the album, the more I found myself preferring the "Gentle" version. I felt that version really just grabbed you and held your heartstrings in its hands and played you like a classic Stradivarius in the hands of a master. The atmosphere, the story and the feel of the album are simply indescribable and after many, many listens I am still hearing things that I had missed on my previous listens. The production is phenomenal as it ties the arrangements, the instrumentation and the vocals all together in perfect synchronicity and clarity. I would be remiss if I did not mention van Giersbergen's vocals briefly. For those of you that aren't familiar with her former band, The Gathering, they were somewhat folky with a tinge of metal. The timbre of her voice and her delivery is something that you will have to get used to. Think of Alanis Morissette but not as whiny--a bit sing-songy and with incredible power.

    That aside, there is something for everyone to enjoy on "The Diary" and I find myself being lost again and again in the fantastic story that is told so well.

    About this Writer:
    Greg Watson // Greg Watson has been hooked on the loud and heavy sounds since the summer of 1994 when he first heard the opening notes of "Operation: Mindcrime" by Queensryche. Since then his tastes have expanded and grown like the ever evolving heavy metal tree of genres. He has been an active member of Maximum Metal off and on for 10 years. In his spare time, Greg enjoys deciding the fate of his loyal subjects in the realm of Skyrim and secretly playing air keyboard to "Separate Ways" by Journey when no one is watching. He currently resides in Roanoke, VA with his wife and his metal wannabe beagle.

    Maximum Metal Rating Legend - Click for Full Details
    5 Excellent - Buy it and say a prayer to the metal gods that you were tuned on to this masterpiece. A classic.
    4-4.5 Great - Almost perfect records but there's probably a clunker or a lacking somewhere to keep it from perfection. You won't feel bad about dropping some bones on these.
    3.5 Good - Most of the record is good, but there may be some filler. This is the OK range where you'd search for the record on sale or used.
    3 Average - Some good songs, some bad ones at about a half/half ratio. Could show skills but be dull overall. Redeeming qualities for indy bands are effort and passion. Majors that don't try or suck outright end up here.
    2-2.5 Fair - Worth a listen, but best obtained by collectors. There is much better metal out there.
    1-1.5 Bad - Major problems with music, lyrics, production, etc.
    0 Terrible or an otherwise waste of your life and time.

    Note: Reviews are graded from 0-5, anything higher or not showing is from our old style. Scores, however, do not reveal the important features. The written review that accompanies the ratings is the best source of information regarding the music on our site. Reviewing is opinionated, not a qualitative science, so scores are personal to the reviewer and could reflect anything from being technically brilliant to gloriously cheesy fun.

    Demos and independent releases get some slack since the bands are often spent broke supporting themselves and trying to improve. Major releases usually have big financial backing, so they may be judged by a heavier hand. All scores can be eventually adjusted up or down by comparison of subsequent releases by the same band. We attempt to keep biases out of reviews and be advocates of the consumer without the undo influence of any band, label, management, promoter, etc.

    The best way to determine how much you may like certain music is to listen to it yourself.

    All reviews for The Gentle Storm:
    The DiaryThe Gentle Storm
    Greg Watson5/9/2015

    All interviews for The Gentle Storm:

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