Arjen Lucassen‘s work has always impressed and inspired me. The Ayreon projects are consistently good and the Star One album “Victims of the Modern Age” along with his solo release “Lost in the New Real” stand out as two of my favourites. I believe that The Diary however, is his best project to date.
The Gentle Storm at its heart is Anneke van Giersbergen and Arjen, and together they’ve composed one of the most beautifully crafted and thoroughly detailed works I’ve heard. The Diary is a 17th Century love story based in Amsterdam that carries the listener on a journey of wonder, excitement, undying love, and tragedy. (Wiki entry here. *Spoilers*)
One of the unique aspects of this album is that it’s made up of two versions of the same 11 songs. The “Gentle” disc consists of the acoustic arrangements whereas the tracks on the “Storm” disc are the heavier, metal versions. Both collections were performed separately and arranged in a way that is never tired or redundant. The performances by all of the contributing musicians were brilliantly directed and the overall production and presentation is perfect.
If you’re a fan of an eclectic mix of traditional instruments and heavy guitars as I am, this flawless album should not be missed.