Review Summary: Anneke's debut solo album is not only a success, but also the best work she has ever been a part of.
When Anneke left The Gathering I admit that I was a little bummed about it. I thought that she and the band went together so well that neither of them could match that quality without their other half. After spending a week listening to her first release since exiting the band, I’ve changed my mind and completely understand why she left. This album is better then anything The Gathering has ever done. The melodies are solid and memorable, her voice is allowed to flow and soar like it hasn’t done in years, and the music sounds inspired again.
Stylistically the music is still very similar to the direction The Gathering has been heading since How to Measure a Planet. It is mostly slow and mid-paced ballad-style songs with mellow, melodic guitar playing, complemented by piano and keyboard sounds, and with a slight focus on musical experimentation. What is different is that the guitar is the main instrument for this band and the keyboards simply serve to accentuate the music instead of playing a main role. Regardless, the melodies are instantly catchy, and they enhance Anneke’s voice extremely well. It is apparent that a great attention to detail has been paid to the melodies and riffs that serve as the vessel to deliver Anneke’s voice. Not only are the individual performances solid, but so are the songs themselves. There are enough energetic parts within a lot of the songs that the album never feels like it is droning on at one slow pace. It’s obvious that particular focus was paid to the dynamics and progression within the songs in order to assure that they flow from beginning to end.
The opening track, “Beautiful One” is the perfect song to show off the high quality of the album. It is a slow song that could almost be considered a ballad. It contains some excellent guitar melodies, especially the opening guitar melody. The keys on this song serve more to just subtly accentuate the atmosphere being created, much like they will on the majority of the songs on this album. Of course, the star here is the voice of Anneke. Her vocals come in sounding stronger then they have in years. They start out delicately and become more powerful as the song builds up to its crescendo before mellowing back out again. Her voice is also layered and subtly altered throughout parts of the song, providing counter-melodies to the main one that she is singing. The lyrics are also more personal then anything she has done in the past, serving to complete the song and convey a very strong sense of sadness.
Earlier in the review it was mentioned that Anneke has brought back a better use of dynamics for her debut album, and that is true not just within songs, but also within the album as a whole. Air has two of the most rocking songs that she has ever done since ‘Shot to Pieces” back in 2000. The first song (and better of the two) is “Witnesses” which is railing against Jehovah’s Witnesses and religious dogma in general. This song has a great driving riff that is layered over an equally great synth line, along with a percussive sound that resembles that of boots marching in unison. The sound of marching is blended seamlessly with the beats of the drummer to give the song a very rhythmic feel. The second song is “You Are Nice!” and has a main riff that could almost be called “Metal”. It starts with an actual distorted riff and Anneke’s voice before finally breaking into the main section of the song. This track isn’t as good as “Witnesses” simply because it’s not as energetic and also doesn’t have as many interesting elements to it, but it is a slightly heavy song which is something she hasn’t been a part of in almost a decade.
Anneke has defied my expectations with this release. While I expected either a second-rate The Gathering rip-off or some syrupy Pop songs, she has gone and released a top-quality album that neither sounds like a rip-off, nor is it just uninspired Pop. On this, her debut album, she has allowed her voice to flow in a way it hasn’t in a long time, and it sounds more beautiful and inspired then ever before. Her voice conveys emotion with ease, expertly complemented by her new band that has created some of the best music Anneke has ever sung over. This is music that is beautiful and delicate containing prominent guitar melodies, solid riffs and subtle keyboards, and it never feels like the album is stagnating due to a great use of dynamics that allow the songs to all flow effortlessly. Ignore what you’ve ever thought about The Gathering; because this album is better then that. It could appeal to mainstream Alternative Rock fans just as easily as it could a fan of The Gathering or even Slowdive or Sarah Mclachlan.
First of all, I disagree that this is better than anything The Gathering has done, I would put it behind three other Gathering albums. That said, I do really enjoy this album (it's on my Top 10 of 2007 list) but if you like The Gathering it is not a given that you will enjoy this. Definitely more reminiscent of "Possession" era Sarah McLachlan than of The Gathering.
I've got all The Gathering CD's from the doom metal debut to Home, and I'll have to say that I like this more then any of them... especially more then the last release. I also never said that it would be a "given" that fans of The Gathering would like this... nothing is ever so cut and dry. As for style, there are a lot of elements reminiscent of latter-day The Gathering, and also elements of other artists, including Sarah Mclachlan, whom I did mention as well.
Huge call right there.
I mean how long has this album been out for? 2 weeks? I'd give the album some time to sink in first, and then i'd make a decision. The Gathering have released consistently good music since Anneke joined them. I think they were at their best on the 'Night-time Birds' album. I thought 'Home' had it's moments but just wasn't that memorable overall. So if this new album by Anneke follows the style of their later albums, I find it hard to believe this is better than 'Night-time Birds'. Of course, this is all my opinion and i'll have to give this album a proper listen from start to finish, but I just think the hype for this album is a bit premature so far.
I enjoyed the review though, and it's good to see another Anneke fan here.
I love her work, but as a vocalist she can only be as good as the music that accompanies her... and I think this music is far better then what The Gathering has been doing.
This album loosely follows the style of their later albums, but the differences are enough to set this higher.
As for Nighttime Birds... I think Mandylion is better, but my favorite would be "How To Measure a Planet"... I think that was their most musically interesting album.
Edit: I know you said they've released great music since adding Anneke, but I'd have to say that I'm actually partial to their debut album, "Always" (which I reviewed here)... musically they've been consistent since their debut, as far as I'm concerned.This Message Edited On 11.12.07
Not a huge departure from anything that would be created by the Gathering. That being said it's still great music, but it's missing the wonderful songwriting of The Gathering. It's damn good stuff regardless so I'll take it.
Home wasn't horrible...I actually liked it quite a bit. I will admit it was probably their most uninteresting album in the Anneke era, but even their worst album in years is better than what a lot of other bands would put out.
i've heard nothing but good things about this album, so i'm really excited to check it out. when i heard anneke was leaving the gathering, i was HUGELY disappointed and worried that her solo debut couldnt hold a candle to anything the gathering has done, so its encouraging to read such a great review and supporting comments!!
and i agree willie; how to measure a planet is my favorite gathering album too!!