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Gathering, The: Home

Anneke van Giersbergen's singing is like a good cabernet - smooth, strong, immensely pleasing, and it seems to improve with age. She may not have a huge range but when you're cursed with an ear for perfect pitch it's a blessing to hear a singer who has total control over every single note. But Home is a song-oriented, vocals-dominated body of work that seems to revolve around Anneke's singing, and giving many tracks a 'samey' quality - and after spinning it a few times you'll be forgiven for thinking that The Gathering has been reduced to Anneke's backing band.

That criticism isn't quite true, of course. One of the clearest glimpses at The Gathering's wonderful musicianship and versatile compositional skills was the all-acoustic Sleepy Buildings. It wasn't a very exciting record, but you could tell that these were truly fine musicians when they re-crafted much of their all-metal back catalog into delicate, masterfully played unplugged pieces. That record was also the first hint that the band was moving slowly but deliberately away from its metal roots.

The overall quality of The Gathering's performances and production is out of the top drawer. They do what they do very well and there's no doubt that this is one of the most polished, professional acts in the business. It's what they're doing that's in question. The edge has gone from their music, there isn't much new or adventurous, and you won't find a single note of the progressive metallic sounds that first put them on the map. The music is still proggy in that it's well layered, there are almost no verse/chorus/verse structures, and there are some interesting time signatures and a few well managed tempo shifts. Some longer instrumental passages would have been welcome, though. There are more electronic sounds inserted into Home than on most of the band's prior releases, which somehow give it a radio-ready quality.

"Waking Hour" could have come from Pain Of Salvation's Remedy Lane - with that record's distinctive lilting cadence. "Forgotten" is a piano-based piece, with Anneke singing in an ethereal, higher pitch, over strong mid-range piano lines. Sarah McLachlan's "Angel" comes to mind, but Sarah ain't no Anneke! "Solace" features a woman talking in a foreign language - who knows what she's saying or what the language is (it isn't Dutch), but you'll be amazed at how musical the spoken female voice can sound when put in the right context. The penultimate song "Home", is close to the band's earlier work and is probably the standout track. But it has that incredibly annoying feature that is becoming alarmingly popular. Five and a half minutes into the 7-minute piece it goes silent - and for one and a half minutes you listen to nothing. Then enter the hidden track "Forgotten Reprise" which is a whispy, ethereal thing whose only purpose in life is to fade away slowly, after having annoyed you with that wait. Perhaps it should have stayed forgotten.

Having pioneered their genre, let's hope that The Gathering is not resting on its laurels. This is damned fine music, it's melodic, well executed, nicely written, and it's a great listen that you'll be happy to have in your collection. But let's hope The Gathering is planning something more daring and more progressive in their future.

Track Listing:

  1. Shortest Day (4:12)
  2. In Between (4:44)
  3. Alone (4:56)
  4. Waking Hour (5:38)
  5. Fatigue (1:49)
  6. A Noise Severe (6:06)
  7. Forgotten (3:25)
  8. Solace (3:51)
  9. Your Troubles Are Over (3:46)
  10. Box (4:43)
  11. The Quiet One (2:16)
  12. Home (6:58)
  13. Forgotten Reprise (7:57)

Added: June 28th 2007
Reviewer: Duncan Glenday
Score:
Related Link: The Gathering's Web Site
Hits: 3068
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Gathering, The: Home
Posted by Ken Pierce, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-06-28 14:38:29
My Score:

If you have been following The Gathering since their inception in 1989 then you are well-aware of all the vast and varied musical changes and transformations that their sound has gone through over the years Originally starting as a type of Gothic/Doom outfit, the band became more of a more Gothic Hard Rock presence when singer Anneke van Giersbergen joined them in 1994. They released classics such as Nighttime Birds and Mandylion but the style changes would continue along with every album they gave us. As far as singers go, Anneke is one of those rare finds and a treat on the listener's ear. Her voice is quite literally one of the most musically perfect you could hope to hear and as the albums continued to be delivered her abilities would shine ever brighter and the band would morph more and more until eventually becoming the brand of Atmospheric Ambient Rock we get on Home. It's a logical step and one I first felt this happening with the semi-acoustic evening recorded on Sleepy Buildings. This was like an episode of MTV Unplugged and while the band shined in this fashion, it seemed as though Anneke was running the band as the whole thing showcased her a lot more than they had in the past. There is some great music on Home, but it is a far cry from the crushing Gothic edge they once had and holds instead a much more commercially acceptable vibe. Rene Rutten's guitar really sings but it always is taking a second place to how Anneke is singing the song (she has written all the lyrics on this one for those that were unaware). It makes sense for the band to make this rather drastic shift in the presentation because we are now in a musical world where the front woman is a dominant force and the most impressionable ones are those that are taking their bands into the future. We saw Evanescence become a force in Gothic Hard Rock, and isn't it funny how The Gathering is pretty much the founder of this format along with Within Temptation, but many of that bands fans either don't know, or could care less about who came first. The commercial edge will definitely disturb the peace of the diehard original fan, but there are some great tracks here such as "Shortest Day" and "Waking Hour". They are hypnotic tracks and Anneke's voice just captivates you while the slowly trudging drums count the measures of time and the keyboards open the atmospheric realms for visitation.

The band themselves have cited that this album does still have The Gathering sound that all fans know and love, but it is a more stripped down version of what they expect of them. Taking this as a Commercial Pop Rock release might not be easy on those who grew up with them as a different sounding band and instead this might be more for those fans who are easily willing to accept change and run with it. I can only stress that I don't see a return to the crushing sound anytime soon and that we should deal with the continually intriguing music that we are getting. Anneke has definitely made her stamp on the group and if you look on the photograph inside, you will find her upfront while the rest of the band is off to the far rear. Artistic statement or sign of future changes, only time will tell. Lyrics are included for your pleasure.


Gathering, The: Home
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-04-16 08:39:29
My Score:

I can remember fondly the days when The Gathering produced music that was crushingly heavy yet beautiful, oddly progressive & psychedelic yet accessible. Let's face it, this band has gone through many changes over the years, starting off as a doom and death metal band before adding lead vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen and slowly starting to let trippy, ambient, and pop leanings appear in their powerful metal sound. The last few releases have seen more and more acoustic and pop elements turn up in their music, and Home, the bands latest, once again sees a shift to more vocal oriented music that sees much of their rich instrumentation taking a backseat to let Anneke really shine.

Quite frankly, I've thought for years that The Gathering, who practically started the whole female fronted goth-rock thing but never received the sales and accolades that the others who followed in their wake fell into, have been criminally overlooked by the mainstream, and Anneke herself is a major, major talent. That talent is no more evident than on Home. With a more basic and stripped down musical approach, Home loses all the past metal and prog rock arrangements for a more direct trip-rock/ambient style that basically leaves Anneke to shine all on her own. While part of me misses the more adventurous bits that this very talented band has created in the past, I'm left thinking that Anneke's voice and personality is really what is going to be the make or break element for The Gathering. She's so alluring on songs like "Alone", "Shortest Day", and "In Between", with sparse keyboards, guitar, and percussion behind her, and fans of soaring, ethereal rock will rejoice in her glowing vocals on "Waking Hour". Otherwise, there's plenty of songs here that fall into the "nice" category, nothing much to get overly excited about, but pleasing to listen to nontheless.

Perhaps that's the problem with the music that The Gathering are coming up with these days. It's a little too nice, with not enough fire. Still, I'll take a subdued The Gathering album any day over a lot of the drivel that is floating around on the music scene these days. Ethereal pop fans will no doubt love this album is they are given the chance to hear it-let's hope that it happens.



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