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The Gathering - How To Measure A Planet ? CD (album) cover


The Gathering

Experimental/Post Metal

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Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This is a very remarkable album. I'd call it Progressive Epic Ambient Rock. The Gathering started as a Gothic Metal band with progressive elements, and although there still are some edgy metal guitar sounds, their newer albums like this really evolved into some sort of modern Space Rock. It sounds quite electronic at times, but is largely based on traditional instruments.

The wonderful voice of Anneke is the constant element in this 1 hour 43 minutes journey. All the instruments just support the vocals, there are very few solo spots for guitar or keyboards. The whole album just flows from melody to melody, from song to song. And these melodies are really great.

If you like mellow albums like Opeth's Damnation, or Porcupine Tree's Sky Moves Sideways, you might want to give this a try, if you enjoy female vocals, too.

Report this review (#38866)
Posted Friday, July 8, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars As every Gathering album (from Mandylion), this one is very interesting. After some though times, the members of the band began to experiment by writing songs with electronic and fuzzy elements. The gothic influences from the two previous albums are gone and the songs sound very raw and dark on this album. By the way, it's quite a long trip as it is a double-album, with a less accesible second disc. The first one contains typical Gathering-songs with excellent melodies, singing and instrumentation. The single Liberty Bell is very loud and energetic, as Red Is A Slow Colour and Marooned are more "underground" favorites with strong melodies and interesting lyrics. The long song Travel, which closes the first disc, is very dramatic, but beautiful. The band is building towards a melancholic climax with loud and fuzzy sequences.

The second disc contains more instrumental work and three vocal songs, which are more experimental and less melodic than on the first disc. The last (title) song, which takes more than 24 minutes, is hypnotic, psychedelic and a little too long, as the same soundscapes are repeating al little too much. Anyway it's still interesting and good music. On the next album (If Then Else) the band found their way into this stuff much better and is considered as the best Gathering-album by many fans, although the follow-up "Souvenirs" seems to be the band's highest artistic achievement to date.

Report this review (#61175)
Posted Wednesday, December 21, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This double album would require two reviews, as the two parts are totally different, almost like they were played by two different bands. Part I is classic Gathering, with more mellow songs than on Nighttime Birds. Part II is much more experimental, with less vocals and more instrumental parts.

The more memorable tracks on disc I would be "Frail", "My Electricity", "Red Is A Slow Colour" and "Marooned" (I love the "croaking" on this one) - all beautiful melodies with awesome vocal performance. "Liberty Bell" is the heaviest track and "Travel" probably the darkest. The Gathering at their best.

I didn't really enjoy disc II as I found the songs too hermetic. The title track is 28+ minutes of ambient music, somewhere between Echoes from Pink Floyd and Dreaming The Romance from Anathema.

Rating: 93/100 (disc I - 5 stars) + 76/100 (disc II - 3 stars)

Report this review (#65552)
Posted Thursday, January 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Another change, not as radical as between albums 1 & 2 to number 3 & 4, yet obvious and easily visible, mh ... excuse me ... audible. I couldn't deal with ALWAYS & ALMOST A DANCE - the non-ANNEKE albums. I really enjoyed MANDYLION & NIGHTIME BIRDS a lot and would use these two as my personal recommendations.

Where's the difference now? All the elements of the two albums before can still be found on HTMAP but there is something new. They use electronically programmed soundbits and samples, sort of a ... let's say ... ambient industrial touch. Sometimes this works quite nicely, adding new colours and nuances -> TRAVEL, MAROONED, RESCUE ME. So, based on disc 1, I would call it a development and definitely interesting - a noteworthy combination of good old trademark sounds and new elements.

Unfortunately ... there are also songs - especially on disc 2 - where these new elements seem to take over and thus pushing aside some of the strengths in their performance. To me, the sound of THE GATHERING has a lot to do with atmosphere and ... if you can agree: mood and emotion. It seems to me that they were able to catch me completely with MANDYLION & NIGHTIME BIRDS and disc 1 of HTMAP. Everything they did since then (including disc 2 of this one here) made it more difficult and less accessible for me ... which does not at all mean that it's not good.

I reread the points 4 & 6 of the reviewing guidelines below, so I will try to put it like that: I do not really feel the need to dwell in almost half an hour of electronic ambient noises, like offered in the title track. I prefer to use this time rather to relisten the rest of an otherwise really good and enjoyable, very decent album. But this is of course only my point of view.

Disc 1 -> clearly 4

Disc 2 -> 3 for the songs 1-4

The title track being the reason to have the 3 as a result instead of a 4, sorry - but I was waiting 28:33 for something to happen but nothing did. It simply didn't touch me at all.

Report this review (#88168)
Posted Friday, August 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars 4.5 stars. Quite a change on this one from the last two records.They toned down the guitars (in fact one guitarist left) and put the focus on Anneke's vocals and the atmosphere. And as if to show their fans this is a permanent move they made this album a double. I found this release took a lot more listening patience to grasp it all, and i'm still finding new things, while the 2 previous releases appealed to me right away with the powerful riffs. I guess this album is much more progressive in some ways. While some have complained about it all sounding "samey" I would disagee as the more I listened to the songs the more their own personalities come to the fore.

"Frail (You Might As Well Be Me)" opens with some atmosphere before this laid back beat with acoustic guitar joins in followed by vocals. Annek'e vocals sound so beautiful 2 1/2 and 4 minutes in. "Great Ocean Road" opens with experimental sounds before a beat comes in then guitar. Great sound ! Vocals follow and I like the contrasts on this one. Excellent tune. "Rescue Me" is a top three track for me. It's laid back with Anneke's reserved vocals joining in. Love when it kicks in after 3 minutes with heavy guitars and theremin.The guitar starts to lead as the theremin continues. Amazing sound ! "My Electricity" is again relaxing and laid back with vocals. It sounds so good though. I like the subtle guitar work in this one. "Liberty Bell" is another top three tune for me. This is darker as the sound builds and the vocals come in double tracked. It continues to build. Killer sound before 1 1/2 minutes ! "Red Is A Slow Colour" is one I like very much. It's fairly heavy but slow paced. Anneke shines. A heavy sound before 3 1/2 minutes and the rest of the song is outstanding. "The Big Sleep" has electronics and a good beat as vocals come in. "Marooned" has a nice heavy beat as vocals join in. It settles after 3 minutes. "Travel" is the final track on disc one. Experimental sounds to open before a melody with vocals takes over. It's fuller 1 1/2 minutes in as contrasts continue. Great song !

"South American Ghost Ride" opens disc two. We get some didgeridoo in this one and orchestral sounds. Samples too. It sounds like psychedelic sirens when it kicks in with a heavy sound. Kind of a weird track but cool. "Illuminating" has this heavy beat with bass. Synths join in then vocals. It kicks in as contrasts continue. Theremin before 4 minutes. "Locked Away" opens with strummed guitar and it sounds so good as synths and vocals join in. Beautiful, beautiful song. A top five with "Red Is A Slow Colour". This one gets quite heavy too. Just love it. "Probably Built In The Fifties" rounds out my top three. Heavy percussion as vocals come in. It all sounds processed then it kicks in. A great heavy sound 3 1/2 minutes in as contrasts continue. "How To Measure A Planet" is 28 1/2 minutes long. It opens with some sampling of a Russian radio broadcast, some vocal melodies later and lots of samples. It sounds so good when it kicks in before 5 minutes.

This album is very highly recommended though and patience is the key to unlock this beautiful release.

Report this review (#95296)
Posted Saturday, October 21, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Here is a good way to travel. At this point, the Gathering had become a self confident and accomplished band, able to provide you with precious music and the right atmosphere. The first thing you may notice in this album is its extreme coherence. In the long run this could turn out a little boring, but in general you have the impression you are listening to an ALBUM, as an album should be: if not a concept one, at least a collection of songs and tracks each sharing feeling and approach to music. Songs like "Frail" and "Marooned" can gain back the spirit of the 1970s psych/prog rock and give it a modern and passionate form. The slow crescendo of "Rescue me" makes it one of the best songs of the 1990s. Anneke's voice is just perfect, vibrant and solid, but not intrusive and bombastic (Evanescence should learn much from this band, but they're just one of those MTV creatures for which the producer is more important than the very band), almost lullying (by the way, the theremin "solo" really drives me crazy). "Liberty Bell" is a very good rocking piece, while "Red is a slow colour" is an impressive listening for the way the band manages to merge different sounds. It's a pity that disc 2 is notably inferior to disc 1, with that poinless title track: Advantgarde is nothing for beginners! If they wanted to play with loops they should listen to some Stockhausen masterpieces from the 1950/1960s - the only idea I can get from the last quarter of an hour of this song is just how boring outer space may be. Nevertheless, this record, if you like Pink Floyd, Hawkwind, Krautrock and metal, has much good stuff to grant a good purchase.
Report this review (#116950)
Posted Saturday, March 31, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars The first four Gatheringalbums gave a good motivation to fit them into the Progressive Metal category but from here on things change drastically. The leaving of second guitar player Jelmer Wiersma partly turns out to be a blessing in disguise, because at the time that several Mandylion/Nighttime birds-clones pop up from other bands, The Gathering builds its new niche.

In their new soft vein, The Gathering deliver many very beautiful songs (Frail, Great ocean road, Red is a slow colour, Travel, Illuminating, to name a few). A slight drawback might be that some of the songs have a certain sameness towards them (a typical double-disc phenomenon as well).

The second disc is the most experimental one, with the instrumental opener pointing towards future releases and Probably built in the fifties containing probably their best guitar part. The title track has its moments, but 28 minutes is a bit overlong in this context.

While they may have better albums, this is one of their most historically important records to date.

Report this review (#120045)
Posted Saturday, April 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
The T
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Too long. That's the first idea that came to my mind while I was looking for a phrase to describe this album by THE GATHERING.

Now, how can an album ever be too long? That would certainly mean that there are set standards that artists and reviewers should follow to create and to judge records. Well, there aren't any. When an album seems too long to a listener, this is an entirely subjective appreciation based on the enjoyment he/she had while listening to the music and his/her perception of the speed at which time passed while doing it. While listening to this double-disc by the once-metal Dutch band, time passed slowly, extremely slowly. I realized that this effect was caused by the endless procession of slow, sedated, repetitive songs that clutter "How to Measure a Planet", my third, and probably my last experience with THE GATHERING.

This appreciation, again, is entirely my own. One can't come to a review and try to find pure objectivity on it, especially when it's written about something so subjective as music and art. There are cases, though, when it's easier to point out the details that should be evident to everyone, both converts and infidels alike. In this case, I have to mention the beautiful voice of Anneke van Giersbergen, clearly the highlight of this pseudo-interesting band. This same music without her voice would be utterly impossible to digest. There are also some good moments of music, and the band is clearly capable of delivering an ambient-atmospheric experience without much effort, but I'd love if they were also capable of writing a good melody or coming up with a really good riff, for a change.

This review may sound extremely negative and quite incongruent with the rating I'll award this record. It is neither. I'm pointing out my qualms about this album, but I'm sure a listener more used to this kind of "relaxing-rock" will enjoy the experience, even more so considering this is a double-album, a fact that, while tedious for me, will be very rewarding for fans of THE GATHERING. And about the rating, I would give the album a 2.5, and I will round up to a 3, because while my opinion is clearly stated on this text, for those looking for an immediate judgment on the music by looking at the ratings, 3 stars express what is album is in a better way: a middle-of-the-road record, not harmful, not terrible, but not brilliant either.

Report this review (#243440)
Posted Wednesday, October 7, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars The Gathering had their act together at the end of the 90's. How To Measure is the third spectacular album in a row and there was even more to come on the next one.

Frailty continues where the most daring experimentations of Nighttime Birds had stopped. It's like Radiohead's laidback style but fronted with a female vocalist. Anneke Van Giersbergen, who matches Yorke in all his emotive power, surpasses him in cuteness and melodious skill. The music is minimalist, a slow pulse on kick and snare and an echoed guitar loop is all that she needs to evoke a flow of sweet melancholy. If anyone thought the Gathering had still anything ado with metal, rest assured, this is Cocteau Twins meeting Portishead. No trace of anything metal in sight. Great Ocean Road is heavier but not in a metallic way, more like noisy spacerock. Van Giersbergen lays down another startling vocal here. Another highlight early in the album is the sweeping Liberty Bell, a chunk of uplifting modern space-rock.

The style of the Gathering has evolved into a very personal sort of trip-hop meets space-rock, call it trip-rock or space-hop if you like. A fine example is the slow groove of Marooned, the pulse can easily be traced back to Tricky and Massive Attack, but if you listen carefully, it all goes back too the pioneering drum work of Can's Jack Liebezeit really. The Can is everywhere! The song features some mellotron and xylophones, making me wonder if they had the guys from Anekdoten over for a jam here?

The album clocks off at a dazzling 103 minutes. It must be noted that the last half hour is a post-rock noise bit that I've never managed to sit through. But even the remaining 75 minutes have the doubtful honour to be too much really. This album is another example of a potential 50 minute 5 star album that is blown out of proportion by its overindulgent length. It makes good songs with slightly less appealing vocals such as Rescue Me into songs that I have to skip in order to sit through the entire album. To continue my stream of critical consciousness, also Red Is A Slow Color and the first half of Travel suffer from droning vocal lines that sound too similar to everything else around it. Travel builds up quite dramatically though, watch out for that second half!

I must be in a bad mood really, wasting an entire paragraph on a few weaker spots on this remarkable album. More positive-minded people would probably consider this as having 2 albums for the price of one. I guess I'd better find me another album to be grumpy at! This one is a stunning piece; if it's too much to handle for me then that is my loss really. 4.5 stars.

Report this review (#263276)
Posted Friday, January 29, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
3 stars Somewhere between JOY DIVISION and the CRANBERRIES is where these strange folk gather. The irrevocably plodding despair of the former and the alternative rock female-fronted angst of the latter somehow meld to form a post-industrial spacey mix that is intriguing even if rarely fully realized. The group clearly has progressive idols as the mellotron strings swoosh in and out of the somewhat grungy mix. Anneke's vocals are suitably languid and quite lovely if somewhat uniform and emotionally unavailable.

The first disk is more song oriented and I do enjoy most of it to a point. However, I'd be hard pressed to pick one or two highlight tunes. I suppose that the Fripp-styled lead guitars weaving into the outro to "Great Ocean Road" and the wondrously morose melody of "Marooned" top the list, while "The Big Sleep" and "Travel" simply can't eschew their paranoid shell enough to warrant future considerations.

Disk 2 is the more experimental, with well over half devoted to the title tune that milks the fascination with space endemic to progressive fans for far too long. Still, the point of noise as music is well taken, like the manner in which those living close to large motorways learn to integrate the base level noise into their experience and perhaps their sense of space and place. In fact, I have heard that the sound wave frequencies of this decidedly human ambiance and a mountain stream with cascades are not all that different. In any case, "Illuminating", while similar in style to what came before, seems more passionate and infused with an almost danceable beat that somehow works. The deployment of distorted guitars and multitracked harmony vocals help the transformation. "Probably Built in the Fifties" is almost as good as its title, and at times suggests a pre rather than post metal quality, countered by effusive mellotrons and fragile passages. I might actually recommend listening to Disk 2 first as I believe it offers more for the discriminating listener.

It's a fine line between hypnotic delicacy and droning redundancy, and your own boundary will vary, but if the above mix is one manner by which you measure good music, do give the Gathering clearance for a few spins about your planet.

Report this review (#344049)
Posted Sunday, December 5, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Gathering's How To Measure a Planet? is a bold and innovative departure for the band, who take on significant amounts of shoegaze influence (filtered through All About Eve) and amp up the electronic content and end up charting a course for the borderlands between the gothic metal of their previous albums and the uncharted expanses of post-rock and post-metal. Though it's a very mellow album, there's still a few more spritely compositions here and there - including the intense rockout of Probably Built In the Fifties. On the whole, this is precisely the departure from expectations The Gathering needed at this time.
Report this review (#634823)
Posted Thursday, February 16, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Not so much a reaction to attempts by media and label to misrepresent them as a gothic doom metal band as it is a moment of definitive self-realization, How to Measure a Planet?, The Gathering's fifth album, and third with vocal extraordinaire Anneke Van Giersbergen, marks a significant shift in the band's sound and presentation. The music on this effort is more experimental in form and instrumentation, particularly in guitars and keyboards, featuring frequent electronic nuances and a few programmed percussive sounds to add texture to the organically produced drum beats, drenched in atmospheric bliss and richly melodic, and is much closer to shoegaze and 1970s-style progressive rock than doom metal; bathed in a warm, refreshingly organic sound that is a dramatic change from the embellished and polished Woodhouse Studios production jobs of the previous two efforts, the language of motion and orchestration of the music is pure feeling given musical shape according to the rhythm and spirit of human aspiration. What has not been altered is the enveloping atmosphere and melody that this band has become known for, although here these components are even more powerful and enthralling due to more confident songwriting, featuring excellent arrangements emphasizing the band's strengths in a natural and self-sure form revealing tremendous growth in compositional vision and conviction of creative identity.

"I have heard this mental search has made them all take a look along the border Having the urge For their minds to be lifted to something new I'm running to meet my higher self"

Giersbergen's heavenly voice is the primary feature and expressive source of emotional energy of these songs save for a couple of instrumentals, and as brilliant and stunning as it is on the two previous albums, her singing is more consistently harmonious with the music here, which is rich in instrumental texture, mostly slow and reflective, with intense rises to emotive eruptions, allowing her voice an enhancing level of flexibility with very fluid, naturally flowing arrangements. Ren' Rutten's guitar playing is more experimental, entirely in the tradition of ambient guitar rock and progressive rock, using a heavily fuzzed-out distorted guitar tone for louder sections, with a variety of effects to color the sound, and absolutely fantastic lead playing during the transcendent coda of the vastly life-embracing "Great Ocean Road", and "Rescue Me", a reflectively intimate track given an astounding sense of ascendant yearning by his thickly distorted, hazy-toned mid-song lead.

"I feed you balance We will not rest Until the search ends"

One gets the sense that the expansive conception of this double-disc release was the product of experiencing an abundance of creative inspiration, not just in the amount of fantastic music offered here, but in the theory of its organization which reflects the parallel of the direct (song-oriented disc one) and abstract (psychedelic space-rock disc two) in fundamental human observation and discourse. This sequential arrangement is important, but an underlying reinforcement of the music's feel and portrayal of the trip that is human existence in the ceaseless but beautifully diverse movement of the world, considered from the affirmative position that is this band's natural creative character, in their most definitive, ambitious, and inspirational expression.

Report this review (#637279)
Posted Tuesday, February 21, 2012 | Review Permalink

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