Few bands can pull of what the Gathering can. Few bands can continously reinvent themselves, experiment heavily...and yet somehow keep their core sound intact. Album after album your left wondering what's going to come next? What drastic changes are they going to make now?
They have evolved over the years, evolved into something that has been kept quiet to most of the world somehow. Such beautiful music created by sheer music geniuses..and the one voice that holds it altogether. That voice is none other than the always unique Anneke Van Giersbergen. She joined the band two albums after their introduction to the world, and from that first note she bellowed on "Strange Machines", she put the band on the map.
The Gathering began basically as a doom metal band in the early 90's...putting out their first two albums "Always", and "Almost a Dance" with to different male vocalists. Neither of them truly excelled, and while the music was undeniably good it couldn't compare to what was to come. Anneke Van Giersbergen was later found, and she appeared on the band's third album "Mandylion". This album kept to many of the doom metal roots, but her soaring voice added a whole new dimension to the music. The heavy guitars, beautiful keyboards, and her breathtaking voice created an atmosphere that was indescribable. Later, "Nighttime Birds" was released, again a doom-ish album. A fantastic album it was...but the last one of the era.
A new Gathering era began with this album, "How to Measure a Planet". A complete departure from everything created before by them. This album led into "If_then_else", the more rock oriented album, and then onto "Souvenirs", which is most frequently described as Trip-Rock.
This is the Gathering at their most experimental. Ditch the heavy doom metal guitars and add odd keyboards, clean guitar, and lots of melody. Slow and beautiful. Trippy and elegant. Epic and progressive. A league of its own. Right from the beginning it is easy to tell this album is going to be something special. It starts with the track "Frail (You Might as Well Be Me). A very slow, beautiful track. A simple guitar part on top of keyboards and a simple drum beat...and then in comes the swooning vocals of Anneke. A calm, soothing song...and a great way to start the album. And from here, it stays that way for the most part...not really picking up in heaviness at all until the 5th track.."Liberty Bell". It does seem somewhat out of place on this album, but that doesn't mean it's not good. A good, upbeat, song...and probably the heaviest on the album.
The beauty in this album is remarkable. I love to listen to it while staring at the stars or driving down a scenic road late at night..because it adds depth to the world around me. The slow pace of it makes it a great album to fall asleep to, or just get lost in thought too. It's a good departure from reality. And in it all, there are some parts that will take your breath away.
"Travel" is this albums, and the band in general's, masterpiece. An epic song that sends chills down my spine. And the ending... as Anneke sings in her magestic voice "I wish you knew, your music was to stay forever, and I hope...". You will not find a more spine-tingling beauty in a song. WHen I first heard it I was completely blown away. The world around me stopped and all I could focus on was that music engulfing my ears. No matter how many times I hear it to this day it still has the same effect. Bands can only hope the create something that amazing. A good closer to the first disc.
The second disc is for the less trippy, more straigh-forward and heavier rock songs. It starts out with a good instrumental in "South American Ghost Ride" which leads into "Illuminating"...a fantastic rock song with a verse and chorus..and the chorus being very loud and showcasing the power of Anneke's voice. Then there is "Locked Away", another great song.
The true highlight of the second disc comes with one of the heavier tracks on the album, "Probably Built in the 50's". A very rockin' song, and another nice break from the trippy/experimental songs. The album then closes out with the 30 minute title track. It's hard to really call this a song. It's more of a half hour experiment, with various sounds thrown together to make a song... It's not bad, but it is hard to listen to the entire track without getting a bit bored. Probably the weakest point of the album.
Overall, this could very well be the Gathering's masterpiece, though they have yet to put something out that I have been dissappointed with. This will stand the test of time, and hardly anyone will even have the pleasure of hearing it, it's a shame.
Stand Out Tracks:
Frail (You Might as Well Be Me)
Great Ocean Road
Red is a Slow Colour
Probably Built in the Fifties
Experimental, Atmospheric, Beautiful, Progressive, Epic...Amazing
The Title Track