Anneke Van Giersbergen – The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest

The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest Cover Art

Anneke Van Giersbergen – The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest
Inside Out Music
Release Date: 26/02/2021
Running Time: 41:51
Review by Dark Juan

Alright, me old muck spreaders? It is I, your Northern overlord, Dark Juan, here once again to regale you with tales of derring-do and heroism on the field of battle. Not about me, you understand. If there were ever a time I was required to serve in the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom I’d head straight for the RAF’s recruitment office. You see, the RAF are sensible. Unlike the Army, the RAF sends the officers out to fight their war while all the lower ranks stay home and drink cocktails and occasionally tinker with something expensive and probably explosive. Let’s be honest, you wouldn’t want old One-Tooth Joe from the Black Bull pub on the corner operating a computer based killing machine worth £100million at supersonic speeds on the frontier of a hostile state. That’s what Wing Commander the Right Honourable Algernon Charles St. John Cholmondeley- Featherstonehaugh is for. One-Tooth Joe can be better employed putting oil in the trucks at the base where the good WingCo will be landing after dropping a thousand pounds of laser-guided explosive death on some miscreants somewhere in the Middle East…

None of which has anything at all to do with what I am supposed to be doing, which is listening to the latest record from the absolutely wonderful Anneke Van Giersbergen. Yes, the estimable and superb vocalist of The Gathering, VUUR, The Devin Townsend Project and many other records has returned with a selection of new music. A warning – if you are expecting the face of Anneke that is the metal queen version, you are going to be gravely disappointed with this album as this is a record that proves the versatility and uniqueness of Anneke Van Giersbergen as an artist in her own right, untrammelled and unconstrained by genre or style. Indeed, the actual music on this record is incredibly sparse, most of the time just some simple percussion, some strings and an acoustic guitar, and the clear and bell like tones of Anneke’s unique voice, sometimes multitracked into some sublime harmonies.

The album is based around the fact that there was a period in Anneke’s life and marriage that involved profound upheaval and heartbreak and this album is her catharsis. To that end, the lyrical content is woundingly personal and honest when discussing feelings and the sense of loss and suffering that she had been experiencing at that time, and the internal discussions she was having with herself. The title itself suggests that in order to get to the sunlit uplands of life you have to go through the black times to appreciate the light. Which, to be fair, during these current times of pestilence and lockdown rules, is a timely reminder that suffering now will bring reward in the future and that you must remain focused on attaining normality again.

Musically, the album reminds me in many places of Kate Bush and Cyndi Lauper – not because of the voice (because Anneke is quite unlike any vocalist ever) but because of the sheer disinterest in fitting in with any standard or genre. ‘Hurricane’ is the most Bush like of the songs on here, with choppy, unpredictable harmonies and vocals and a strange sounding acoustic riff. It is musically intrepid even with the simple instrumentation and multitracked harmonies and cheerfully stomps all over any notion of fitting in. Talking of stomping, ‘Survive’ does just that, percussion building into an almost war dance while Anneke builds from a soft, lilting vocal into a powerful contralto shout and drive for the survival of her relationship. This is the theme of the whole record – Raw emotion and agonising honesty over music which is just a vehicle for what Anneke wants to say to her husband. It is not a record that was ever planned to be released, in my opinion, but it is a public affirmation of love and a desire to make everything right again and to never stop fighting for her marriage. In that regard, it is one of the heaviest records of all time because of the naked heartbreak and pain on display, but it is by no means a heavy metal record. Not even a little bit.

If anything, it is the aural equivalent of Kintsugi – The Japanese art of repairing broken things with precious metals, because the value and the beauty of the repaired thing and the continued love and appreciation of it only increases. This album is musical Kintsugi and that is its sole purpose. Taking that as a basis for my critique, then, Anneke Van Giersbergen has repaired her relationship and shot it through with veins of silver and gold and made something stronger than ever before and musically has welded those precious metals into the open wounds of suffering she was displaying and sealed them closed with profundity and honesty and gold and silver and made herself transcendental. Therefore, this record is a colossal success on that front.

But, because I am a hard headed and black hearted bastard, I have to remember that I write for a heavy metal website and this ranks among the least musically heavy records I have ever heard. However, one of my scoring criteria is that the music has to be interesting, and Anneke van Giersbergen delivers interest in spades. The lyrical content couldn’t be any heavier if it tried (I’m not talking about dragons and fucking demons and succubi here, I’m talking about the themes of loneliness and suffering and love dying and there being desolation all around you – that shit is heavy as FUCK and if you disagree you’re frankly wrong, mate) and although the music is gentle and sweet, it still holds you in some form of rapture. The sheer beauty and versatility of Van Giersbergen’s voice is amply displayed and flits from soft, almost inarticulate (the kind of sounds an upset child might use to comfort themselves) crooning through to full powered, vibrato fuelled rebellion, and her delivery is never less than utterly flawless. This is not a record to listen to. This is a record to feel, and frankly Dark Juan is fucking disgusted with himself for actually having been affected by this album and discovering that he hasn’t actually purged all human emotion from his twisted black soul. Although that could be because I have adored Anneke Van Giersbergen’s voice since The Gathering released ”Mandylion” in 1995.

I’m extremely conflicted. This album is a work of emotional subtlety and exemplary songwriting prowess and musicianship and deserves a huge score because it is a tumultuous rollercoaster of emotion and pain and redemption, but it is not a heavy metal record. Fuck it, I’ve decided…

The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System awards Anneke Van Giersbergen 9/10 for a record that doesn’t just tug on the heartstrings, it rips them out and beats you to death with the wet ends. Moving, affecting and utterly captivating, this record is worth the expense simply for the cathartic effect it provides when you want heavy emotion but not heavy sounds. However, I have deducted a mark because it isn’t a heavy metal record and I write for This should not be taken as a demerit, it’s just that Anneke’s album ain’t a metal one although it is heavy as fuck.

Agape (Lyric Video)

01. Agape
02. Hurricane
03. My Promise
04. I Saw A Car
05. The Soul Knows
06. The End
07. Keep It Simple
08. Lo And Behold
09. Losing You
10. Survive
11. Love You Like I Love You


Anneke Van Giersbergen Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of ‘Dark Juan’ and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Luke Appleton Snake Eyes Acoustic Tour 2019 w/Edd Case – G21 At The Saddle Rock Bar, Chester – 27/09/2019

00 Luke Appleton Poster

Luke Appleton
Snake Eyes Acoustic Tour 2019
w/Edd Case
G21 At The Saddle Rock Bar, Chester
Review and Pictures by Beth Jones

After not being to any live music for about six weeks, Rick and I were starting to get cabin fever, and were very glad to be getting out to one of our new favourite local venues, The G21 at The Saddle Rock Bar, Chester. This intimate venue is quirky and basic, but has an awesome feel about it and we were glad to be getting to see not only our favourite local acoustic legend, Edd Case, but also a stalwart of the scene, Luke Appleton, who is nearing the end of his 2019 ‘Snake Eyes’ acoustic tour. Here, he would be joined by the equally hard working and talented Becky Baldwin to add an extra depth to his acoustic set. But more importantly than all this, it was Ian ‘Beany’ North’s birthday, and we were intrigued to see how much he could drink!

We arrived to find everyone in high spirits, which instantly gave us that warm feeling of home that we had missed out on over the last few weeks. The stage was set, the drinks chilled, and the lighting delicately poised to make it possible to take pictures! First up to serenade us was Edd Case.

Edd Case
I have said it before and I will say it again, if you haven’t heard of Edd Case, and you are from round these parts, have you been living under a rock?! Edd is a multi-faceted individual, who has the perfect mix of comedy, seriousness, personality and humility. Having stared death in the face just over a year ago, he has bounced back and used this experience to give him extra passion. He plays a range of covers and original tracks, putting his own spin on everything. Here he played some crowd pleasers, and also introduced a couple of new original tracks, one of which, ‘The Underdog’, is now my second favourite of his original tracks, the first being ‘Letters Back Home’, which he played again in this set, and which brought the room to a hush – it is such an emotive song that the whole place, including me, had a communal lump in our throat and you could have heard a pin drop – THAT is how to gauge a special song. We love Edd. Simple as!

01 Edd Case

Luke Appleton
Our main event of the evening was the metal world’s answer to a Dynamo, Luke Appleton, with a special guest appearance from Becky Baldwin. These two musicians have got to be the hardest working pair on the scene at the moment. Down time is something that doesn’t exist in their world, which does two things. Firstly, and most importantly, it makes them fabulously tight and consummately professional – here they took us through 70 minutes of ‘Acoustic Metal’, which was fast paced, impeccably played, and planned to the nth degree, including the links between songs. The set list was comprised of Luke’s original acoustic material from his “Snake Eyes” album and more, along with tracks from Iced Earth and Absolva, both with which Luke is an integral part of. There is no denying that both Luke and Becky are insatiable musicians who ooze talent and always put on a great show, whether they are playing to ten people or ten thousand people – this performance, musically, being no exception.

For me, the second thing that their non-stop pace does is make them tired, and I’m not talking just physically tired, that goes without saying, but more of an emotional and creative weariness. Whilst this performance was undoubtedly a brilliant musical performance technically, for me something was missing. They looked shattered, and their eyes told a different story to their smiles. I love and admire both these musicians immensely, but this performance left me feeling an odd kind of melancholy which I didn’t like. Maybe I’m just being far too sensitive, but I would really encourage them to seriously consider taking some time off, so they can refresh their passion for music, as it would be an absolute travesty to see talent like theirs burn out.

02 Luke Appleton and Becky Baldwin

All that being said, it was a great night of music, and what a way for Beany to celebrate his birthday – that is class – having THE Luke Appleton play your birthday! The only question left is – Beany, how can you top that next year?! Thanks again to Fozzy and Beany for their hard work putting on these shows, and also to Edd Case, Luke Appleton and Becky Baldwin for bringing us the music.




Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

All photos courtesy of Beth Jones and PhotograBee Images



SuidAkrA – Cimbric Yarns

cimbric yarns cover

SuidAkrA – Cimbric Yarns
AFM Records
Release Date: 16/11/2018
Running Time: 39:00
Review by Lotty Whittingham

After years of delving into the rock and metal music sphere, you think you have seen it all and nothing else could possibly surprise you. Wait until you hear SuidAkrA’s latest release and then tell us if things still seem predictable. “Cimbric Yarns” can mean two things dependent on the listener. For those who have been fans of the band for a long time, it’s a remarkable chance to see a more delicate and ambient side. For new listeners, it’s a great to get to know their sound before experiencing their heavier material.

“Cimbric Yarns” is the thirteenth studio album after twenty-four years of producing high quality bombastic tunes. It’s an acoustic masterpiece that takes the listener into a mystical land before time. It’s a continuation of the “Realms Of Odoric” saga and according to vocalist Arkadius Antonik, “Cimbric Yarns” takes the audience back to where it all began before “Realms Of Odoric”.

You feel the beautiful ambience only a few seconds in. The opening instrumental ‘Echtra’ ensures this with mystical guitar riffs and fantasy style melodies on the flute. This, along with the stunning ‘Serpentine Origins’ ensures you don’t want to leave this fantasy.

‘Serpentine Origins’ is the first full track of the album. It gives the listener a taste of the stunning authenticity of the band’s delicate side. The remarkable chorus will be swimming around the head for days after the first listen.

Throughout the album you are treated to portfolio of acoustic magic. Each track has its own story but it’s the beauty and passion that binds all the songs together well. The examples given are just a few of the spellbinding songs that we can experience on the album.

The acoustic guitar riffs at the beginning of ‘A Day And Forever’ entice the listener to find out more. What comes next are the beautiful vocals that provide the icing on the cake. The melody is a simple one yet provides an impact with the delicate yet powerful components. The chorus will be sung back to them from fans across venues and along to the record.

The single ‘Snakehenge’ is an atmospheric masterpiece that consists of brilliant vocal harmonies, excellent guitar work and fantastic orchestral elements. Judging from the lyric video for the song, it’s one that could easily cause headbanging at a live show, p particularly along to the folk sounding guitar riffs. As weird as that sounds, it could happen.

Judging from the intro of ‘Birth And Despair’, it’s more than safe to say that this is appropriately named. It provides a more sombre tone to the album yet keeps the impact that the rest of the songs contain. The vocal harmonies, beautiful guitar work and wonderful flute melody are highlights of the track.

It ends on a haunting note with the track ‘Caoine Cruác’. The best album endings confirm it’s the end of the record but you’re left wanting more at the same time. This closing track does that perfectly. It has a brilliant mix of pirate, western and folkness that mark the end of the record. The bouncy rhythm mid-way has you thinking of walking off into the sunset and the epic sounding fantasy melodies leave you wanting more!

‘Cimbric Yarns’ is an acoustic portfolio that has the mighty power to transport anyone away from reality. One of the best things about the record is that it will appeal to all music lovers alike, not just metal fans!

It’s not often you come across an album that you listen to and appreciate in every detail. “Cimbric Yarns” easily achieves this feat with its beautiful music.

01. Echtra
02. Serpentine Origins
03. Ode To Arma
04. A Day And Forever
05. Black Dawn
06. At Nine Light Night
07. Snakehenge
08. Birth And Despair
09. Assault On Urlár
10. Caoine Cruác


Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Lotty Whittingham and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

RockWich 2018 – ‘Unplugged’, Lostock Club, 25th August 2018

01 RockWich 2018 Unplugged

RockWich 2018 – ‘Unplugged’
Saturday 25th August 2018
Lostock Club, Northwich
Review By Beth Jones

It seemed hard to believe it had been a year since we were last descending on the Lostock Club, in the heart of the industrial end of Cheshire for RockWich 2017, but here we were; and following a host of great line up announcements, we were excited. The Saturday ‘Unplugged’ night was promising to be a great, but slightly more mellow lead in to the main event on the Sunday!

The Lostock club is a real throwback venue; a proper nod to the good old days of the 80’s and early 90’s, complete with a decibel meter to the side of the stage, which spent the weekend in an apoplectic state! Nothing says ‘Old Skool’ more than a working men’s club on an industrial estate, and it makes the perfect venue for this event, who love to show us that old-skool is still very, very cool!

The line up on the Saturday night offered familiar names in the shape of The Senton Bombs and Cadence Noir, and new names to us, Baxter and The Howling Tides.

First up were Baxter, a seasoned local duo who specialise in ‘acoustic tunes and daft banter’, and just like Ronseal, they do exactly what they say on the tin. They took us though a vast selection of 80’s and 90’s covers, performed accomplishedly and loved by all. It was a great way to kick off the event as they were fun, light-hearted and didn’t take themselves too seriously. Their talent and experience showed clearly in their relaxed and commanding performance, which warmed the audience up on what was turning out the be the first wet and chilly day mother nature had subjected us to in a good few months!

02 RockWich Unplugged Baxter

Next up were Uttoxeter based band, The Howling Tides, a fairly new name to the scene, having only been formed in 2014. I am clearly getting old, as my first thought was ‘aww bless, they’re so young’, but that quickly turned from awww to awe when they started playing. Even in this acoustic setting, they grabbed our attention instantly, with their accomplished and extremely well-rehearsed performance which had all the hallmarks of a band serious about their future. They are essentially Classic Heavy Rock and Blues, but this setting really brought out their softer side! Their song writing skills are exciting and their arrangements intelligent. Lead singer Rob Baynes has a very appealing gravelly tone to his voice, which works perfectly with this style. It is also worth mentioning here that this was only their second acoustic gig ever! Hats off to them! We were impressed enough to buy their EP straight after their set, and really want to catch them in a full-on gig soon.

03 RockWich Unplugged The Howling Tides

The Senton Bombs had been billed as headliners for the unplugged night but, at the last minute, the lead guitarist became otherwise engaged, so after a quick swap of instruments, followed by a quick, and probably stressful rework of some songs, they decided to swap the headline spot with Cadence Noir and come on next with a shortened, but no less impressive version of their set. Lead vocalist and bass player Joey Class took on rhythm guitar duties, which he pulled off without a hitch. Kudos to them for doing this – it can’t have been easy, and it shows a very commendable level of professionalism. We saw these guys last year on the main day and loved them, and they have a very dedicated fan base who were also slightly tipsy by this point, so audience participation ensued, which only enhanced the great atmosphere that was building around the room. There sound was still full, even without bass guitar, and they had a very ‘cool as a cucumber’ feel, even though they were out of their comfort zone. For those of you who haven’t yet seen these guys, they are hard rockers full of energy and always give a great live performance – well worth checking out.

04 RockWich Unplugged The Senton Bombs

Closing the night were Bloodstock M2TM North Wales 2018 winners, Cadence Noir, freshly back from their performance on the Bloodstock New Blood stage a couple of weeks previously, and raring to go! We properly love these guys, because they are totally in a genre of their own. Billing themselves as ‘Gothic Folk and Roll’ they take elements from so many genres and meld them all together in some weird alchemy that somehow works. Their image is folk pirate with a hint of bondage, and their music follows suit! They have a highly accomplished string section, in the shape of Emma Bennett on Violin and Tom Smith who switches between conventional electric bass, and Double bass, which gives them a real depth and a natural acoustic feel, strong rhythms provided by Dave on percussion and Nick on guitar (who wasn’t with them for this performance) and front man Adrien Perrie brings in the rock, with a gritty powerful voice, a commanding stage presence, and a glint in his eye that Jack Sparrow would be proud of! Their songs are full of quirky humour and Adrien’s banter and confidence makes their performances mesmerising. This is a band that seriously know how to make a performance fun to watch. The Idol Dead vocalist Polly Phluid even joined them onstage for a track and it worked a treat! Everyone was merry by this point! It was a great way to end the night, and to set people up for the full day to follow.

05 RockWich Unplugged Cadence Noir

We had a top night, and headed home, thanking our lucky stars that we lived close enough not to need to camp in the rain. With ‘The Howling Tides’ EP cranked up on the car stereo we started looking forward to a Sunday full of ROCK!


Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Richard Tilley, Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of all parties. Failure to do adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

All photos courtesy of Beth Jones and PhotograBee Images