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The Gathering - Nighttime Birds CD (album) cover

NIGHTTIME BIRDS

The Gathering

Experimental/Post Metal


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4 stars In "Nighttime Birds" the band combines Heavy Metal (though less so than their previous release, Mandylion), with atmospheric compositions and beautiful melodies. This album bridges their former Metal days with the later-day Progressive/Experimental Rock.

Uses of quiet-loud playing, epic synths, varied instruments (tribal drums, Hammond, and some odd solo instruments on track #8) nice use of distorted guitars, and generally a better production are evident throughout. You can say that the band took another step towards Prog in this album...

Jelmer Wiersma, whose simple yet effective Metal-ish guitar solos left a huge mark on Mandylion, does a good job here. In later albums, after he left the band, they neglected the soloing and used the guitars mainly for experimentation and textures.

Frank Boeijen on synths and piano does a great job in every track, but mostly on "The May Song", and "On Most Surfaces".

And Anneke van Giersnegen, the band's awesome vocalist, well, just keeps imroving. Just listen to the vocals and backing vocals on the title track. Amazing.

Another great album from this great band !

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Send comments to Vonarga (BETA) | Report this review (#34931)
Posted Friday, May 27, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars The previous album Mandylion was very straigt-forward, with loud guitars and gothic influences, mostly the same kind of melodies, although special and very good. This album is even better. It's less loud with better melodies, even some songs that really look like some on Mandylion.

Vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen does again a great job with her beautiful voice. After Nighttime Birds, the band moved into another direction. More into electric influence and experimental moods. In the old style, this is a favorite. A beautiful, natural melodic metal/gothic/ambient/pop-crossover. I consider this album as a compliment to everyone who heard it. Highly recommended!

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Send comments to Robin (BETA) | Report this review (#61174)
Posted Wednesday, December 21, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is a strong follow-up to Mandylion. Maybe a bit too similar, but since the songs are great, why not? The vocals are still perfect and the music is still powerful and emotional.

"On Most Surfaces" is maybe the song that is the most similar in style to Mandylion, but it's one of the best on the album. The following songs are a bit less metal, with piano, organ and a touch of violin (or is it synth violin?). "The Earth Is My Witness" and the title track are amazing. And what about the final song! A great ballad with a mix of piano and guitar - and a live favorite.

Rating: 91/100

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Send comments to zaxx (BETA) | Report this review (#65550)
Posted Thursday, January 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars It is an undeniable fact: the forerunner "Mandylion" was a revelation for me, it was mainly the voice of Anneke of course, but the instrumentation was also something of a kind. With "Nighttime Birds" the band follows the same path they have chosen with "Mandylion": great atmospheric metal which blends perfectly with the vocals of this divine enchantress. Personally I like tracks like "Nighttime Birds" or "Kevin's Telescope" , but all the other tracks are cool, emanating a dark, but thanks to Anneke of a warm and pleasant ambience. The songs might be a bit more direct as heard on the previous record, but they still won't fit the daily radio shows. Some may claim that there is no evolution from "Mandylion" to "Nighttime Birds", others who liked "Mandylion" will greet this album. More radical changes will also follow with next albums, but for me these two stay the best albums of the band up to now. Must hear it !!!

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Send comments to Szöke Jenö (BETA) | Report this review (#82297)
Posted Friday, June 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Personally I see this in pretty much the same vein as MANDYLION. I really like the album as a whole and any of your picks of a favourite song is as good as mine. I have read a word in the previous review that I can absolutely subscribe to. The vocals have something of a divine enchantress, the blend between the orchestration and the voice is in balance. It maybe offers a few more details than its predecessor while the songs are even more compact with a length between 3:22 and 6:55. But I guess it's not wrong to say that NIGHTIME BIRDS is an obvious continuation of MANDYLION.

NIGHTIME BIRDS can be recommended as a good initiation to THE GATHERING. It offers a good collection of songs with atmosphere, melodies, sometimes almost dreamlike yet still it rocks. Give it a try!

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Send comments to Waylander (BETA) | Report this review (#88165)
Posted Friday, August 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 4.5 stars. This is one of my favourite records from THE GATHERING. It's all about powerful, heavy riffs and of course Anneke's voice.

The album starts off with a very "Mandylion"-like song called "On Most Surfaces". It gets hard and heavy right away when out of the fire and smoke comes this voice that's too beautiful to be of this world. It settles some 2 minutes in as piano comes in but it's still heavy. Great song ! "Confusion" is a slow powerful song that reverberates with guitar. There are three guitarists on this record by the way. Everytime Anneke stops singing the sound gets more powerful. "The May Song" is another favourite, it's brighter and Anneke's voice is the focus. Some organ 2 minutes in. "The Earth Is My Witness" is a top four track for me. It has this nice heavy sound with vocals. The vocals are incredible after 3 1/2 minutes.

"New Moon, Different Day" is spacey to start with as a beat comes in with vocals. Some nice bass here and I like the organ before 2 1/2 minutes. A fuller sound follows. Anneke is amazing. It calms back down as contrasts continues. "Third Chance" has a good solid sound as vocals come in. The vocals are more passionate 2 minutes in. Good song. "Kevin's Telescope" is a top three song, it's just wondrous including the lyrics. Anneke's vocals are moving. "Nighttime Birds" has the best chorus on this disc, Anneke sings "When they fly through the night as beautiful nighttime birds". I love the atmosphere here and we get some excellent guitar before 4 1/2 minutes. "Shrink" opens with piano as vocals join in. Meaningful lyrics as well.

Overall a very strong release, and if you like lots of guitar and an amazing vocalist, you can't go wrong with "Nighttime Birds".

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#92382)
Posted Wednesday, September 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Nighttime bird is the logical followup to the landmark album Mandylion. The record is mostly in the same melodic almost-but-not-quite-gothic metal vein, but overall mostly a bit softer. On top of that there are a few more short poppy songs here. That said, Mandylion and Nighttime Birds are still the two subsequent Gathering-records that are closest to each other.

On most surfaces opens the album in a powerful way, with a very attractive guitar solo. Songs like Confusion, The earth is my witness and New moon different day are all low-key. A bit more variation might have made the record even better. More pop-oriented songs like The May song, Third chance and Kevin's telescope apparently divide the fans. I like these all highly. The title track is a class apart.

Less legendary than its predecessor and in time eclipsed by later albums, Nighttime birds is at itself still a very good record from this varied Dutch band.

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Send comments to Casartelli (BETA) | Report this review (#114783)
Posted Saturday, March 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
The T
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Well, this one for sure it's much, much better than this band's latest album, HOME, which I rated with 2 stars a few months ago. But it isn't perfect by any means.

The music in NIGHTTIME BIRDS is much more metal-oriented than in HOME, and here I could actually find the evidence about the metal past of this group from The Netherlands. The sounds are very heavy, very dark, a little gothic at times, with some passages that remind me of works by bands like Agalloch, with sad, grey landscapes that seem to relate to other genres like post-metal. But the song structures are far more normal and the tracks themselves are of the conventional kind. We have quite a few instrumental moments here, too, but not in the shape of solos or virtuosic displays but just as long rests for the voice that carries this music and makes it worthy, the one of Anneke van Giersbergen, the singer that gives this outfit a little of a certain Ayreon flavor, though only for the vocals. If we have to be perfectly honest, we could say that The Gathering wouldn't have any chance at standing out of the rest of the rock crowd were it not for the seducing, melodic, enchanting notes that come out of the lady singer. With her input, the dreary, gloomy music takes another form, it ascends to the land of dreams and beauty instead of remaining immobile in the desolated barren territory of slow, depressing metal.

To those that only have heard The Gathering's latest, HOME, let me tell you that this album bears little resemblance to that one. Here we are in the presence of a true metal band, with some Nordic elements that at times even remind us of a band I happen to love, Amorphis, unlike the recent album which is just a collection of dark-pop-rock songs. This is metal, with hard riffs, heavy guitars, pounding drums, though with a feminine voice adorning the rather obscure notes that the instruments deliver.

The problem here is the same that I had with their most recent release: dynamics. If one was to listen to the songs as stand-alone tracks, some of them are actually good, and there would be nothing to complain about. But when it comes to hear to the whole album from top to bottom, it could turn into a difficult, even tiresome experience, as most of the songs share the same tempo, the same slow speed, the same mood. It's a challenge for the listener to be able to maintain focus to a set of 9 songs where most of them have more or less the same speed and spirit. The somber atmosphere doesn't help matters, either. For if this was happy music, it wouldn't be so difficult to digest a collection of songs with similar tempos and moods; but with the rather downcast, depressive tone that this music sets us in, 50 minutes with just a couple changes in speed seem like a lot more.

On Most Surfaces (Inuďt) (8.5/10) Without a doubt the best song in the album. A long, shaded journey through very dark, threatening atmospheres. The piano touches after what we could call the chorus are very good, and the drum detail where the toms and floor tom are hit in unison after the piano figure really adds to the menacing mood of this quality track.

Confusion (8/10) Another slow, sad song that has a sordid atmosphere and that is saved by Anneke's dreamy vocals in the chorus, doubled, giving the idea of archangels of darkness. Good song. The middle section reminds me of TALES FROM A THOUSAND LAKES by Amorphis. The May Song (8/10) The mood is the same, but the tempo is slightly faster. This one is another success, as it sounds like a mix between Ayreon and less metal, poppy rock music. It has energy, it has some power. I could use some better melodies in the chorus which sounds a little bland. The album still holds our attention by now.

The Earth is my Witness (7/10) An atmospheric, dark opening, which takes us to obscure forests where the light of the sun is hard to see. The song continues down the same path, and it starts to get difficult to remain 100% concentrated in the music. Halfway down we have a passage that seems to be taken out of a post-metal recording. Could've been a better song.

New Moon, Different Day (6.5/10) The beginning is very similar to the future (by the year when this album was released) sound of Agalloch. Anneke continues to breed flowers over sterile, dead wastelands of dried earth. This track has a few good melodies (mostly the main guitar theme), but it's too long and slow. In the middle of the song we have a weird moment of energy, but it doesn't last long. Not a bad song but nothing great either.

Third Chance (8/10) Surprisingly, we get a tempo change here! The main section is not overly interesting, but the middle section with a pretty fast, even electronica-ish rhythm saves this song and makes it stand out from the preceding ones.

Kevin's Telescope (5.5/10) My beloved triple rhythms, I really have issues with those. The same atmosphere from other songs but worsened by the rhythm, that's it for me. At least the song is short and doesn't kill the album. The problem, to be honest, is not really the rhythm but that there's nothing of interesting going on above it. Worst song in the album.

Nighttime Birds (6/10) By now we're a little bit exhausted with the music. What started as a very fine album has descended into the realm of boredom. As the title track, I expected better of this one but it's actually one of the less enticing, and were it not for the vocals in the chorus, it wouldn't stand a chance in the ratings. Maybe if I hadn't heard all the other 7 tracks before this one I would've liked it better.

Shrink (7.5/10) Only piano with vocals. A good way of closing the album and saving it from going down any further. It's still slow and pensive but it's melodic and it really has a magic, an atmosphere of longing to it.

I'm still not convinced by The Gathering but this album with no doubt makes me hold better hopes for the remaining of their output and maybe will make me think about getting a third one of their cd's. Anneke van Gierbergen is the star of the band, no questions about that. Now if the music was a little bit more interesting, more varied above all, this could be a group worthy of attention and consideration for climbing to the upper echelon of metal and progressive rock bands.

Recommended for: fans of The Gathering; fans of dark, somber metal with gothic elements;

Not recommended for: Fans of ultra-complex progressive rock music; fans of happy music; people that dislike metal and post-metal, and most of all, fans of energetic, dynamic music.

. these Hollanders really could use a shot of caffeine.

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Send comments to The T (BETA) | Report this review (#118871)
Posted Wednesday, April 18, 2007 | Review Permalink
aapatsos
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal and Heavy Prog Teams
5 stars ...as beautiful ...Nighttime Birds!

'I am evaporating, a veil of smoke is what I am...'. 'Pale is my face, you might want to colour while I breathe...'.

The best way of expressing my feelings for this piece of art is by quoting a couple of lyrics' lines. This is one of 'those' albums that make you think, trouble your mind, wonder and wander... a great example of how a band matures with time. With Nighttime Birds, the Gathering have reached a state where past meets the future and all elements blend ideally to produce a breath-taking album. Evolving from Mandylion, the band turns to slightly more melodic patterns, keeping its 'metalish' background.

Accompanied with really meaningful lyrics, mainly referring to our 'Mother Earth', the beautiful voice of Anneke van Giersbergen sounds totally captivating. Ethereal melodies and ambient passages mix with heavy guitars, producing a 'charming' sound. The riffs and overall compositions are not sophisticated or complex at any point, but the magic on this record lies within simplicity. Still pretty gothic influenced, the music borrows 70's elements, primarily in the keyboards. Slow and mid-tempo rhythms sometimes give their place to fast guitar breaks, towards a darker and more adventurous result, as in New Moon, Different Day.

Enchanting, haunting, captivating... Warmth is the emotion that you are left with after completing a whole spin. The heaviness of On Most Surfaces and Confusion is counter-balanced with the 'sweetness' of Kevin's Telescope and the memorable harmonies of the title track (one of the best melodies in Gathering's history). Shrink ends the album with a piano tune accompanied with another remarkable performance from Anneke.

Worth-mentioning is also the cover of the record that realistically pictures the content: simple and beautiful. If you are interested in the genre, this is one album that must be present in your collection.

If you could excuse me now, I have to 'shrink and shrink until I'm gone...'

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Send comments to aapatsos (BETA) | Report this review (#189820)
Posted Tuesday, November 18, 2008 | Review Permalink
tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover Team
4 stars The Gathering is a Dutch rock band that decided one fine day to alter its metallic course and delve deeper into a heavier yet more atmospheric prog , symphonizing their sound considerably into a more melancholic, less harsh environment. But for that to succeed, you need to make a crucial twirl in finding a voice that will generate the new flow convincingly. By hiring singer Annike Van Giesbergen , a female vocalist that can soar over the riffs and shimmer with fervor, they simply retooled their craft in a proggier direction. The instrumental core is still enthroned by the dual power guitars of René Rutten and Jelmer Wiersma, aided and abetted with majestic piano and sumptuous synth work from Frank Boeljen, while the booming bass is handled by Hugo Geerligs and the pounding drums of René's bro, Hans. No screwing around with these lads, as the scorching opener clearly sets the tone, "On Most Surfaces" rocks without restraint , steamrolling forward with gigantic slashes of sound, coiling with insatiate fury, the axes slashing , the bass shoving the theme brutally and Annike announcing her passion from the get go. Frank's elegant piano adds a welcome coloratura with a repeated phrasing that induces deep droning euphoria. The fret solo is devastatingly accurate and hauntingly effective. "Confusion" plummets deeper into the melancholic mist, a harrowingly bleak anthem that pulses, breathes and pants with unassuming anxiety, as good heavy prog should by nature, the grooving rhythm weaving a simple tapestry of churning guitars, while the voice laments regretfully, certainly my highlight here without a doubt. The immense synthesized cascades spice up the entire heavy-hearted mood with aplomb. "The May Song" is lighter fare bopping along nicely while a vacillating organ leads the path, jaunty guitars slipping in right behind, increasing the spell. Annike's microphone work really tightens the passion, howling like a disbelieving convict. "The Earth is My Witness" broods with dreamy perplexity, the riffs splendidly conveying the environmental thematic of a desolate future where the damage is irreversible. The synth glows with symphonic splendor, this is prog heaven. "New Moon, Different Day" is an undulating bass-led lullaby, a clear definition of the moodier, cottony tendencies that have overtaken the past metal harshness with apparent triumph. "Third Chance" is brief and basic with a little electro twist while "Kevin's Telescope" is grandiloquent and moody. The title track is a thorough stand out with a mammoth chorus that glimmers and shimmers, while the sonic palette glitters and gleams convincingly. The finale is okay. I enjoy this kind of hard progressive music when I need a little heat in my routine. 4 evening owls

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Send comments to tszirmay (BETA) | Report this review (#202883)
Posted Sunday, February 15, 2009 | Review Permalink
Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
4 stars For reasons that defy all laws of common sense, I completely discarded this album on its release in 1997. After 2 years with Mandylion I had probably hoped for a noticeable departure from a sound that I had grown a bit tired of. My statistic reports tell me I only obtained about 25 albums a year in those days, of which only 10 noteworthy. No wonder I got a bit weary of some stuff...

Anyways, water under the bridge now. I got back into the Gathering from 2001 onwards and this album was a pleasant treat. The sound hasn't changed all that much from the preceding album but the songs are easily as good and the band had learned not to overdo their instrumental sections anymore (which was an obvious flaw on Mandylion). The Gathering isn't a band with exceptional musicianship, so their power has to come from smart song writing and emotional vocals; and their progginess has to be earned by sonic experimentation and their genre defying attitude.

On Most Surfaces is one of the most astounding doom metal songs ever, it has a very strange structure, almost as if it starts with the chorus instead of the verses. It's an overwhelming start. Confusion lets go of all things metal; it's a slightly gothic mood rock track that knows to avoid the frequent exaggeration and pose in that style of music. The Gathering have a much more subtle and suggestive approach. The May Song strays even further away from metal and follows the emotive modern rock path that Radiohead had carved with The Bends.

After the rather weak The Earth Is My Witness, the album has a next chilling piece of laid back rock music on New Moon Different Day. The verses have a decided Pink Floyd flavour and Anneke Van Giersbergen vocals are simply gorgeous. Well, she's my Goddess for some reason, only contested by Kate Bush and Tori Amos. More amazing music follows on Nighttime Birds and Shrink.

Nighttime Birds is an album that I shouldn't have overlooked. So in order to purge me from my initial blasphemy, I got me the lavish 2 CD edition, which comes highly recommended for a diverse range of music lovers, going from Floyd and Radio-heads to Bush/Amos fans and melodic doom metal bangers.

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Send comments to Bonnek (BETA) | Report this review (#263180)
Posted Thursday, January 28, 2010 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars 'Nighttime Birds' - The Gathering (5/10)

Having been introduced to me through the works of Ayreon, the beautiful and unique voice of Anneke van Giersbergen ranks among being one of my favourites among the hundreds of cookie-cut symphonic and gothic metal female vocalists out there. Having set the standard high with some gorgeous vocal work on '0101101' and the earlier 'Into The Electric Castle' from Ayreon, I was excited to take a look at her flagship band, The Gathering. While her talent is still clearly evident in her performance here however, 'Nighttime Birds' feels subdued and dry, almost to the point of being mundane.

Though there are hints of strong songwriting throughout the record, The Gathering's fourth record 'Nighttime Birds' dissapoints by delivering a relatively conventional, by-the-numbers piece of music that while boasting good production standards and competent performances from all musicians involved, rarely ever grabs ahold of one's attention and even renders itself irritating at moments.

While pop-tendencies and a more conventional style of songwriting certainly does not mean that a record won't be great, many of the better pop records out there have a level of dynamic and warmth to them. Here, the adherence to strict convention doesn't lend much catchiness; instead feeling boring at parts, as if the band was trying too hard. However, there is certainly great music in doses here. The first three songs and the soft closer 'Shrink' are all quite good songs that are interesting enough to merit a few listens. Some powerful melodies and atmospheric work at the hands of the instrumentalists lend a measure of beauty here. However, the musicianship is never capivating; once again feeling very by-the-numbers and constrained. While everything is competent and some songs even enjoy some interesting arrangements, the music feels like a backing track behind Anneke's overwhelming voice.

'Nighttime Birds' has certainly not excited me about the rest of this band's work. However, if anything, the album has proven that The Gathering certainly has talent and a good ability to choose proper tones and timbres for any particular song they might be doing. In any case, this one fails to satisfy, but I am not completely turned off from looking farther into what this band has to offer.

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Send comments to Conor Fynes (BETA) | Report this review (#291168)
Posted Tuesday, July 20, 2010 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Taking on more melodic and alternative rock influences, Nighttime Birds is otherwise a repeat of the approach of Mandylion - combining Anneke van Giersbergen's All About Eve-ish vocals with doomy gothic metal riffs. It's a pleasant listen once again, and some compositions - like Kevin's Telescope - are genuinely haunting, though there are points where it feels to me a bit too much like a retread of its more successful predecessor. On the whole, I'd say if you loved Mandylion you will most likely enjoy this one, but at the same time I do feel glad the band took things in a more experimental direction subsequent to this because one more album in the exact same style as this one would have been too much.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#629038)
Posted Thursday, February 09, 2012 | Review Permalink

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