When people think of bands evolving and almost entirely changing their sound throughout the span of their careers, a few obvious ones come to mind. Radiohead went from watered down and boring Pablo Honey to the masterpiece that is OK Computer to the trippiness and uniqueness of Hail to the Thief. That's just one example. Change is almost irrelevant in music, as fans who see one of their favorite bands release a great album expect to see the band release almost the exact same album over and over again, because why mess with a great formula"
Well, The Gathering is probably the band that has changed the most of any band in history that I can think of. In all honesty, they have undergone so many changes to their sound that hearing a few records spanning over their career you would think they were all albums from entirely different bands. They started their days as a doom metal band with cheesy keyboards, slow doom riffs, and male growling vocals with female vocals as well. They dropped the growls and found the perfect vocalist in Anneke Van Giersbergen in 1995, with the ensuing release of the beautiful doom-ish metal record dubbed "Mandylion". The follow up to that was the atmospheric, sometimes brutal, and undeniable masterpiece that was "Nighttime Birds". Then all of the sudden they decided to go towards a completely out there, trippy, atmospheric, progressive, mellow sound with the double disc mammoth of an album "How To Measure A Planet"" After that came the more straightforward, complete departure from the previous, rock album "If_then_else" which they pulled off marvelously. After that "Souvenirs" mixed the trippiness of HTMAP and the rock sound of If_Then_Else to create yet another unique sound all to their own. Now, a B-Sides and Semi-Acoustic live album later comes the latest release from the now seasoned musical veterans from Holland. It is called "Home".
The Gathering are simply my favorite band hands down, just for what they have done musically over the past 15 years roughly, and it's a shame their fanbase is still so small and their music so underappreciated by so many. They are the cream of the music crop. The latest release from them comes and with it I held the high hopes of yet another completely surprising and breathtaking album. What I got wasn't quite what I expected. Is it a great album" Of course, for any other band releasing this it would be dubbed brilliant...but for the Gathering it is a very slight dissappointment.
There is some change to their overall sound. This album has competely dropped any sense of heaviness whatsoever. You will not hear one song on this album with even the hint of their metal past, none whatsoever. In fact, even the guitar itself is used rather sparingly, although present on nearly every song it is not a primary instrument. The bass and the atmospherics are what stick out here. Intricate sounds and layering are the main focus here. Some songs, such as Alone, remind me of a Kid A era Radiohead with all the effects and the beat. Anneke's soaring and unique vocal style are used beautifully here as usual and standout.
This album also presents a much darker sound than I have ever heard from the band before. The downbeat, dark sounds swirl into the listener's head and are very trance-inducing. Now picture this with an undeniable catchiness as well, a lot of these songs are singable and stick in the head. Catchy trip-rock is the best way the describe a vast majority of this album.
There are also quite a few outstanding tracks on here. The opening three are all incredible and are filled with beauty and atmosphere. Anneke's vocals are absolutely amazing. Undoubtedly she remains the greatest female frontwoman out there today and yet she is still so underrated. "Forgotten" is probably the best example of this on the entire album. A piano ballad, something the Gathering does not do very often but when they do it's incredible. I will even go out on a limb and say the subtle quietness and simplicity of this song and the sheer emotion makes this one of the best songs this band has created to date. Even the "Forgotten Reprise", which is a slightly different version of the song is exceptionally good. And the beautiful title track "Home" left me in tears just at how wonderfully well put together it is.
Overall, this album is hypnotizing, beautiful, dark, ambient, serene, and to an extent...somewhat boring. It's an album definately worth checking out, but may bore some people, especially the metal fanbase the band gathered in the first place...most of which either abandoned them with the release of HTMAP or evolved their musical tastes along with them. The Gathering likes to experiment, and this is a perfect example of that. The main complaint is that it's probably the least progression I've seen between any two albums than the band has had in awhile. The gap between Souvenirs and Home isn't that big, and that's a bit surprising. But there is still some evolving, and there is only so much a band can do to their sound before they settle down. Perhaps the Gathering has found the sound they want to stick with, and if this is it I can surely live with that because it is still undoubtedly better than most music out there today. Revel in the beauty that is The Gathering, bands like this don't come around very often.