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The Gathering

Experimental/Post Metal

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5 stars Wow, yeah, what do we need to say about The Gathering? Again they released a masterpiece. Yes, The Gathering are returning with a bang this time. After the triprock-album 'Souvenirs' from 2003, the band chose for a darker sound. Although this record is not such a big surprise as 'Souvenirs' was, it's mainly as good as it. Anneke's vocals are excellent again, and some songs are reminding of the 'If_Then_Else' sound a little. As always, the songs are not catchy and too accessible. In many ways, 'Home' is a challenge to listen to. 'Alone', 'Waking Hour' 'A Noise Severe' and the title track are the epics of the album, as 'Fatigue' and 'The Quiet One' are more "fillers" or better intermissions between the tracks. A a whole, 'Home' can be considered as a one-hour trip through a psychedelic, dark world with many sounds, beats and great vocals, with at the end, a soft 7-minute rest-piece called 'Forgotten (reprise)' As every Gathering-album, this is a recommedation of the higher sort. What an amazing band!
Report this review (#71427)
Posted Wednesday, March 8, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album again expands on the evolving sounds of the Gathering.This time the sparse electronic sounds found on Souvenirs is replaced with a sound much more intimate although retaining a slight gothicness.This sound perhaps goes back to How to measure a planet? & Nighttime Birds with the Metal guitar pieces almost completely stripped out though or lower in the mix.There also no Siren like vocals that featured heavily on Mandylion & popped up intimitantly on subsequent albums.This is a bit of a pity as this always sent a shiver down my spine when she 'went for it' although her vocals are again A1.Apart from that this is an exellent album perhaps suited to more mature ears with nice textures throughout with a very tight and well rounded sound,perhaps too many mid tempo songs though.Overall I think I prefer this album to Souvenirs but not up to the standard of How to measure a planet? but perhaps more consistant than If_then_else.In fact the album is still growing on me after not being totally sure about it at first.My favourite tracks - Alone,Walking Hour.
Report this review (#79782)
Posted Tuesday, May 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
1 stars I just will tell you what kind of stuff you can find in this CD: Semi-Atmospheric POP

Itīs an album where we can see the more changes on the music of The gatherig, unfortunately, the changes are not running into a masterpice, in fact, they run into commercial stuff. The production is great, all the 13 tracks are catchy and for easily listening.

Itīs a good album but itīs not the best of The gathering. If you are not a TG fan, maybe you should try with the album "Nighttime birds", their best album, becuse you can get a little disappointed at the time of listening this album.

"Home" is not bad at all, but the old sound of The Gathering used to be better than nowdays is.

Report this review (#80075)
Posted Thursday, June 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars Home is the latest studio offering from the Gathering, and only their second such in the past six years.

It seems the band may be at a bit of a crossroad, with their popularity at home apparently at an all-time high, but their productivity seemingly waning. Whenever a band starts putting out a lot of live and compilation discs, or videos, and not so much new material, you have to start to wonder if the spark is still there. This is especially true I think for a band like the Gathering, who seems to have a fairly entrenched fan base, but one that doesn’t appear to be growing all that much. Being from the States this is not a band I hear much about. They’ve only traveled here to play twice in their fifteen year-plus history as far as I know, and only for a handful of shows in very small venues.

Anyway, in the years since Anneke Van Giersbergen joined the band they have moved steadily away from a kind of postured thinking-man’s goth metal, and more toward a thinking-woman’s pastoral, melodic sound. The lyrics here are for the most part slightly abstract in a contemporary poetry kind of way, all written by Ms. Van Giersbergen, and mostly having to do with airy and idyllic reflections on life and meaning, or are about personal relationships. I can’t help but make comparisons to so many of the female-led bands of the 80s and 90s who charted similar courses – the Motels, Cranberries, and Concrete Blonde are a few that come to mind. And speaking of the Cranberries, a comparison of Ms. Van Giersbergen’s vocals style to that of Dolores O’Riordan is inevitable, so I might as well be the one to do it. Despite one being Dutch and the other Irish, both have a degree of nasally lilt to their voices, an understated way of inflection that helps to control the flow of the melodies in their music to keep them from becoming simple pop songs. And both clearly have a dominating presence in their respective bands that cannot be ignored. Not to mention both their voices exhibit about the same timbre and pitch (and both are quite pleasant to look at, a comment which I suppose is chauvinist, but is a true statement nonetheless).

And speaking of the references to 80s and 90s bands, the overall sound on this album strikes me as being a bit dated as well. I don’t mean that in a bad way at all; in fact, the reason I mention it is that the songs here do seem to have been subjected to a fair amount of thoughtful arrangement and artistic scrutiny in the studio, a trait which is of course often lacking in so much of today’s popular music, and even a lot of progressive and serious art music. So high praise to the band for taking the time to get their sound right before releasing it.

That being said, I really can’t say this album breaks any kind of new ground for the band. The overall sound is consistent with their continued trend of moving away from pseudo-gothic or metal sounds, and more toward a well-crafted but undeniably mainstream adult contemporary sound. I don’t know what their live material is like, but I can’t draw any other conclusion from listening to their studio work.

A quick run through of the tracks here:

“Shortest Day” starts off with a promising hard riff and prominent rhythm line which includes new bassist Marjolein Kooijman, but listeners should be cautioned that this is as edgy as the album gets, with the remaining tracks becoming progressively more mellow for the most part. Right away Ms. Van Giersbergen kicks in with the vocals and like I said – if you can’t hear Ms O’Riordan in there, you’re not listening. Still, it’s a great sound, and this is probably the strongest track on the album. The song, by the way, is a mildly biting tale of a capitalistic success-junkie businessman rushing through his daily rat race.

On “In Between” I really notice that there are two female voices throughout this album. I assume this means bassist Ms. Kooijman is also piping up, but I suppose it’s possible Ms. Van Giersbergen is overdubbing her own vocals (doesn’t sound like it though). This one also has that mid-90s sound of a rock rhythm that threatens to explode into some sort of heavy metal explosion, but doesn’t. René Rutten rips off a few power chords, but mostly this is more of that slightly edgy adult contemporary I mentioned at the beginning. The story is a love song, sort of.

I don’t know what “Alone” is all about, read the lyrics and decide for yourself. Other than a persistent keyboard riff that is simple and repetitive (but a change of pace anyway), this is mostly more of the same.

“Waking Hour” is very mellow, stark piano with almost whispering vocals and a slowly building guitar that doesn’t quite peak, but just kind of levels off midway through the song and holds that tempo throughout. This one is about self-actualization, or something along those lines –

“Falling for a part of who you are, makes you shine inside”.

That’s actually a really good line, and I have to say that Ms. Van Giersbergen does have an ability to turn a phrase from time to time on this album. I wonder if she writes poetry as well? Probably.

“Fatigue” is a short keyboard and guitar instrumental interlude that is mildly interesting, but the significance of why it was included here escapes me.

Again on “A Noise Severe” I’m not quite sure what the lyrics are all about, something along the lines of losing oneself, but to what, or under what conditions – I have no idea. By now the middle songs on the album seem to take on a fairly predictable pattern, so perhaps “Fatigue” was included to break up the slight monotony.

There is a really interesting picture in the gatefold middle of the CD’s liner notes that I would love to get an explanation of. The right half of the picture is a sunset relief of what looks like some sort of tall stalk-like plants (five of them). At first I thought these were cactus, but there’s no cactus in the Netherlands, right? Anyway, on the right half of the gatefold is the same picture in reverse, but on this side the plants are bent down and appear to be breaking apart in a stiff wind. Over the top the lyrics to “Forgotten” are printed in stark white text. I’m quite sure there is some sort of symbolism here, but again – skid marks on the forehead. There’s an even longer reprise of this song at the end of the album that includes some rather beautiful keyboard work.

“Solace” includes some spoken-word bits in what I assume to be Dutch, and an almost martial drum beat and monotonous guitar riff set behind Ms. Van Giersbergen’s ramblings, again some sort of abstract love song of sorts.

In “Your Troubles Are Over” the story is about the singer running to “the light”, another self-actualization kind of tune with abstract meaning that probably only has value to the author. Again a fairly simple and monotonous tempo, and a very mellow and song.

“Box” is a keyboard-driven number with completely introspective and abstract lyrics, vocals that border on a lullaby, and really very little character to it quite frankly. For an album that is more than an hour long I’m not sure why the band felt the need to include filler, but for some reason they did.

“The Quiet One” is the other instrumental on the album, this one leaning more toward acoustic guitar, although there is a mellow piano and vocal humming as well. Another mood-setting interlude, I suppose, and a fairly pleasant one.

Which brings us to the title track, “Home”. Here’s a very interesting track, mostly in the lyrics. The song is clearly reflective, a mother to her sons (and possibly to her husband as well, kind of hard to tell) –

“I gave my life to you and I have worked so hard at it too; Would I do anything other than to raise you to be –

The finest men?”

The sentiment should give men pause to think, clearly. As someone who is a son, a husband, and a father to three young men, it sure gives me pause to reflect for a bit. I know Ms. Van Giersbergen is herself a mother now, and the overall mood of this album indicates her state of mind is much more reflective, introspective, and nested than perhaps she was ten years ago or more. A natural progression certainly, but like I said at the beginning – more adult contemporary and definitely not goth, metal, or even a traditional type of progressive music. But a decent listen anyway, and probably more suited to those with more mature tastes, or at least hard-core fans of the band. Three stars, almost three and a half.


Report this review (#87676)
Posted Saturday, August 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Another good effort from The Gathering. The music is a mix of the last few albums: ambient, but not as "How To Measure A Planet", electronic, but not as "if_then_else", dark, but not as "Souvenirs". In fact, only the doomy/gothic elements of the first albums are not present on this album. The vocals from Anneke Van Giersbergen are perfect as always.

"Shortest Day" - a catchy poppy song. "In Between" - probably the closest from the "if_then_else" era, overall lighter sound with heavier guitars in the background. "Alone" - a slightly darker mid paced song. "Waking Hour" - the first ballad on this album, Anneke Van Giersbergen showing the full range of her voice. "Fatigue" - a small instrumental filler, as can be found in The Third And The Mortal albums. "A Noise Severe" - a shivering beautiful ballad, in the vein of "You Learn About It". "Forgotten" - another beautiful ballad, a piano/vocal song. "Solace" - a heavily catchy song with drum hammering (I just don't like the spoken parts, they break the flow of the song). "Your Troubles Are Over" - another poppy song, one of the less remarkable of the album. "Box" - slow and intimate, with a bit of electronica here and there. "The Quiet One" - the second little instrumental filler on this album. "Home" - another slow paced song, with distorted guitar in the background. "Forgotten Reprise" - the outro of the album, starting with a reprise of "Forgotten" with a long fading instrumental.

Rating: 87/100 (4 1/2 stars).

Report this review (#87679)
Posted Saturday, August 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars I spoke of "the listening community might be divided" when writing the review to SOUVENIRS, the predecessor of this one here. If you browse through the reviews to HOME, then I think it became very obvious.

While I still enjoy MANDYLION & NIGHTIME, while I still see and dig the experiments and the newer, calmer sound beginning with HOW TO MEASURE A PLANET, transcending into IF THEN ELSE and finally SOUVENIRS, I feel like THE GATHERING are drifting further and further away from me ... and this is to say: from my personal taste.

Whether it has become too "poppy", too "calm", too "reflective", too "ambient" ... or whatever ... for me it has simply become too far away from what I like. The problem with rating HOME is that it is not a bad album, surely not. My problem with HOME is that what once used to be "enchanting" has almost become "boring". It's up to you whether you consider it to be the culmination of the transition they made over the last albums. I can even agree that they did try to bring this package of sound and voice to a perfection.

The reason I think of it to be the weakest studio album (apart from the first 2, the metal and non-Anneke albums) is simply that this perfection to me doesn't feel like an improvement but more like a reduction. An aspect in which they are undoubtedly great but which is not enough to keep me on track for an entire CD.

Report this review (#88173)
Posted Friday, August 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
The T
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars This will be my shortest review ever, mainly because this album is very easy to review in just a few words: this a mediocre record, a rather uninspired effort by a quite talented band (although their prog-afiliation is still not 100% clear).

I can say tell you my personal problem with this disc in just one word: DECIBELS. What??! yes, I can BARELY HEAR the music. No, it's not that is badly recorded (although the recording is nothing to be particularly amazed of, too). It's just that, it seems, the dutch fellas decide to play all of their new songs WITH NO DYNAMICS, no changes, everything sound the same, and bad for us, they chose a LOW dynamic level at that. I can honestly say I think, if we put it in musical terms and if we put this music in one instrument's perspective, this album is only played PIANISSIMO. Now, as I've said, I love quiet music (I love classical composer Bruckner, and the adagios in his symphonies are very, very quiet save one or two blasts), I like peace and quiet..... but quiet music has to be GOOD music for me to appreciate. When you are playing at a low volume level, you probably won't be playing ultra difficult wizardy music, so you have to play melody, you have to make good music with unique harmonies, or at least a good instrumentation (have you heard ELP's quiet moments? They may sound low but never boring, you can tell there's three musicians playing there). But in this case, what we get is not only too repetitive in dynamic terms, but TOO WEAK, too. There's not great melodies whatsoever, no good choruses (I can't remember any), no good solos, not much originality. We get a lot of DARK POP ROCK, but without the catchyness of pop.

What's to applaud? Well, the singer saves this from utter disaster. She's good and she, BY HERSELF, manages to give some emotion to these rather bland, boring collection of songs.

Not recommended for: People eager to find a new, exciting band with great music.

Recommended for: people that are worried thinking they are going deaf. Buy this album! If you can HEAR IT, not only you aren't going deaf, you actually are an owl, for you hear sounds the human ear is not capable of distinguishing.

Report this review (#95887)
Posted Thursday, October 26, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Summer 2007 The Gathering shocked the world by announcing the split with singer Anneke van Giersbergen. That made Home retrospectively the swansong of the collaboration, but what a magnificent swansong it was!

Clocking at an hour, Home is as well an inspired journey through different moods as one of the softest records of this amazing Dutch band. "Soft" is a relative word however: the direct sound dynamics are relatively low, but atmospherically the record takes quite some different turns. New bassist Marjolein Kooijman is quite present, but we can also see that, more than in any previous record, Anneke's voice is used as an instrument as well.

Like Souvenirs, this record hardly has anything to do with "metal" (although I feel the new label "Experimental / Post Metal" is slightly more appropriate than the old container category "Progressive Metal"). The music is a tad more spacy and less trip-like than Souvenirs, showing the band still took the word 'progressive' quite literal.

To me, Home is their best record since Mandylion, with Anneke apparently bookending her career with the band with the highlights. Both go their separate ways and while writing I'm curious for The Gathering with new vocalist(s) (new record in 2008?) and Anneke's new band Agua de Annique. This little diamond however stays with us.

Report this review (#148797)
Posted Sunday, November 4, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars It's maybe not so surprising that the ratings are low for "Home" as they have changed directions on this one. The focus is clearly on Anneke's voice, and that may sound like a silly statement given that when she sings it's hard not to focus her vocals, but it's like the instruments being played behind her are meshed and layered together instead of there being any solos. In fact i'm sure that's one of the complaints, the fact that there are no real guitar solos.The guitar is there, but it's buried under the layers of sound. Lots of electronics as well on this release that remind me of CHROMA KEY at times.

"Shortest Day" is such a catchy song and I really like her vocal melodies. In fact I don't think i've heard her use so many vocal melodies on any of their past albums. This is quite heavy as well. "In Between" is another catchy tune with vocal melodies.The focus is on the drums and vocals. "Alone" is one of the best songs on here. They incorporate electronics with drums and vocals to great affect. This reminds me of CHROMA KEY, it's very melodic. "Waking Hour" features more electronics as they sound even more like CHROMA KEY. This one is slower paced. Amazing track ! She sings with a lot of emotion and there are some Post-Rock styled guitars sounds on this one as well. Piano 3 minutes in followed by some heart breaking vocals. What a performance ! "Fatigue" is experimental and spacey.

"A Noise Severe" is slower paced with a heavy undercurrent. The vocal melodies after 4 minutes are uplifting. This might be the best track on here. "Forgotten" features piano and reserved vocals throughout. "Solace" is one i skip. I don't like it at all. It just seems out of place. "Your Troubles Are Over" is dominated by vocals and drums. Anneke sounds amazing on this one. "Box" is a slower, electronic filled track. Very cool song. "The Quiet One" is mostly strummed acoustic guitar and vocal melodies. I like it. "Home" is a great tune. It opens with electronics as drums then vocals arrive. It gets spacey 2 1/2 minutes in as the beat stops briefly. It becomes heavy 3 minutes in as the words are calmly sung. Before 5 1/2 minutes she sings like Thom Yorke. Yes she does. "Forgotten-Reprise" has synths or electronics instead of piano. Tons of atmosphere on this one. She stops singing 1 1/2 minutes in and doesn't return in this almost 8 minute track.

There are so many songs that I really like on "Home". It was a grower, but the patience was worth it. I guess this is the last THE GATHERING studio album that we'll hear Anneke on. She pretty much wrote all their songs and then sang them like no one else could. An incredible lady.

Report this review (#159460)
Posted Monday, January 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars While each preceding Gathering albums were met with unanimous praise, Home tends to divide fans.

A first reason is the changed musical direction. The Gathering have continued in the softer and more laid-back atmospheres of the previous album Souvenirs. It's a move that is obviously not appreciated by everyone. It results in an album with little dynamics: the pace, the volume and instrumentation stays very similar throughout all songs. It brings the Gathering very close to Antimatter, an Anathema spin-off that also abides by similar sultry and moody soundscapes. Also the influences from indie artists like Radiohead, Cocteau Twins and Massive Attack are obvious.

A second reason for the diverging ratings is the inconsistent songwriting. Fans of the style might still love all songs here but the obvious qualities of Alone, Waking Hour, The Quite One and Home are not maintained on the less-inspired tracks around it. In many cases nasty pop modulations in the choruses or song breaks damage the tension built in the verses, Shortest Days and Your Troubles Are Over are sad examples of those.

This album surely isn't the Gathering's most inspired effort, but it has still enough flashes of plendour and a good dose of Cocteau Twins-alike fluffy-frail froths for 3 stars.

Report this review (#266625)
Posted Tuesday, February 16, 2010 | Review Permalink

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