To be honest I struggled to articulate the things I felt you need to know about “The Diary”. So instead I decided to list what you don’t need to know about this debut from The Gentle Storm.
You don’t need to know that Arjen Anthony Lucassen, the band’s mentor and composer, is synonymous with quality conceptual Prog Rock. And the fact that the album’s haunting vocals belong to Anneke van Giersbergen? Not directly relevant. “The Diary” is astounding in that the music accurately reflects the album’s evolving moods and emotions and this gives the album a cinematic and epic feel. Consequentially I felt I partook in this journey as more than a mere listener. But, really, this is not something that should bother you too much.
A few words about the actual story: the press sheet enthuses that “The Diary” is a concept album of “love, loss, and separation told through the story of two fictional seventeenth-century lovers. A Dutch sailor embarks on a two-year voyage, leaving his wife at home in Holland. The only way for the couple to communicate and keep their love alive during the long separation is through letters. These letters form the basis for the songs on the album.”
“The Diary” on which this review was based has two versions: a lighter adagio experience called ‘Gentle’ and a heavier, somewhat allegro version dubbed ‘Storm’. It’s all solidly composed and borrows from Folk, Prog Rock (think of Jethro Tull, Yes and Renaissance), Metal and Classical music, using a vast array of string, percussion and wind instruments, besides the more contemporary electric ones. It’s fresh and vibrant, yet firmly rooted in traditional music idioms. But you don’t need to know all that.
All you do need to know is quite simply that “The Diary” is an experience that you cannot afford to be without.