On a wintry December Saturday in London, a solid co-headliner roster of European progressive metal rocked Tufnell Park’s venue The Dome. Established Swedish melodeath proggers Scar Symmetry played alongside newly launched project VUUR – fronted by one of the metal’s most beloved frontwomen Anneke Van Giersbergen, who first rose to popularity in progressive/doom favourites The Gathering and her plethora of collaborations with diverse artists like Devin Townsend and Arjen Lucassen’s metal opera project Ayreon. More than simply an extension of her productive solo career, VUUR (‘fire’ in Dutch) is a full-blooded band that carries her heavier musical ambitions.
Scar Symmetry came out first and delivered a solid set of their rapid-fire brand of metal. The melodic cleans of Lars Palmqvist engaged in a furious duet with Robert Karlsson’s deep growls, supported by the backing vocals of the rest of the band. The Swedes showered us with reliably headbanging riffs from their six albums, whilst displaying an admirable level of technical skill – guitarist Per Nilsson’s solos in songs like ‘Frequency Shifter’ proved an absolute highlight. There were more than a few dedicated fans in the audience who shouted along to every word, but after an hour the Swedes had to leave the stage despite calls for an encore – alas, the curfew waits for no man, and it was soon time for VUUR to take the stage.
VUUR opened with the heavy breakdown of ‘Time – Rotterdam’ off their recently released debut album, Anneke’s operatic voice soaring over the down-tuned guitars, followed by the driving rhythm of ‘Sail Away – Santiago’. She is backed by a capable band of fellow Dutchmen, most notably Ed Warby of Ayreon and Gorefest on the drums, who played with enviable tightness and visible enjoyment. Anneke was her usual energetic and smiling self, happily receiving the audience’s positivity and returning it herself in heaps. She gushed with sincere joy at the positive reception of the audience which, while not quite filling up the venue, made up for it in noise and applause.
The rhythmic, almost djent-inspired guitars of VUUR’s songs are a new environment in which to hear the singer’s voice, but the contrast works for the most part with Anneke’s emotive voice carrying the melodies. Still, the highlight of the night was ‘The Martyr and The Saint Beirut’, whose anthemic guitars serve as a more familiar springboard for Anneke’s vocals.
VUUR’s original songs, albeit new, were already known to many in the audience who sang along. Given her rich discography and the youth of this new project, however, it was inevitable that we would see a few songs from her history. We were treated to renditions of songs from The Gentle Storm and The Devin Townsend Project, as well as an encore in ‘Strange Machines’ from her time at The Gathering. The latter closed an evening of solid metal performances in one of London’s best smaller venues, which gave us plenty to be excited about the future outputs of these two bands.
Setlist – Scar Symmetry
The Shape of Things to Come
3. Chaosweaver / Mind Machine
4. Pitch Black Progress
5. Rise of the Reptilian Regime
7. Frequency Shifter
8. Cryonic Harvest
10. The Iconoclast / The Anomaly
11. The Illusionist