THE GATHERING


"Black Light District" (Psychonaut Records; 2002)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

The Gathering have been one of my favorite bands since my gig with Rough Edge began to expose my ears to the diverse world of musical talent that camps under the ‘metal’ tent.

“Black Light District” features three new tracks and a plethora of multi-media content to tide fans over until a full-length release of new material hits the streets. It should also be noted that “Black Light District” is the band’s first release of original material on their very own label, Psychonaut Records. What does this mean? It means that The Gathering will most likely be exploring the very outer limits of their interests as they no longer wish a label to dictate what they can produce creatively. “Black Light District,” as you might guess, is a little window into the band’s current and future creative direction.

The epic title track plays out like a movie score with various sections that feature all the instruments and vocals in some sort of dominant fashion at each point of the song. “Debris” finds The Gathering going for the fuzz and buzz as well as an adrenaline-fused tempo trussed up against mellow rhythms for a track that screams ‘The Gathering' without repeating past successes. “Broken Glass (piano version)” is a quiet rejoinder to the expansive title track and rocking second track with plaintive yet emotive vocal and subtle piano work.

The multi-media portion of “Black Light District,” among many things, hints at the future sound and progress that The Gathering will make in their recorded history.

“Black Light District” is an absolute must for fans of The Gathering. Casual fans of the band may wish to wait to see if any of this material ends up on future releases before purchasing it.

“Black Light District” was produced by Zlaya Hadzich.

The Gathering is Anneke van Giersbergen on vocals, Rene Rutten on guitar, Frank Boeijen on keyboards, Hugo Prinsen Geerlings on bass, and Hans Rutten on drums. Sarah Jezebel Deva contributes spoken word vocals on the title track.

For more information visit http://www.gathering.nl


"if_then_else" (Century Media; 2001)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

The Gathering have done a remarkable job of morphing into new shapes and sounds over the years and various releases. "if_then_else" demonstrates that The Gathering can combine the heaviness of albums like "Mandylion" and "Nighttime Birds" with the more mellow, experimentation of "How To Measure A Planet?" "if_then_else" actually sounds as if the band set out to achieve that kind of combination and that the resulting product wasn't a happy accident.

"if_then_else" allows the listener to relive the band's experiences through their eyes. The music serves as a way for those experiences to take flight in the songs. For example, "The Colorado Incident" commits to recorded history a very bad experience for the band. When the words "our rear view mirror is full of meaning" you know that the band got the raw end of a deal.

As usual, I really like the heavier songs that The Gathering commit their collective muses to in the recording process. "The Colorado Incident" and "Analog Park" are two examples where the music isn't tethered in the least - it's shot out of a cannon with force and conviction.

The softer, quieter songs like "Amity" and "Herbal Movement" shows The Gathering playing to their strengths in letting Anneke take the spotlight with her amazing voice. In particular, "Herbal Movement" with its translucent musical sheen allows Anneke's voice to soar to heights unforeseen in heavy music - except maybe, of course, Anneke's previous efforts! 

A unique touch that evidences The Gathering's constant evolution and achievement is the use of French horn, trombone, oboe, cello, and violin to accent the band's songs. Tracks like "Saturine" and "Morphia's Waltz" display these new sounds quite evidently and takes The Gathering to a new level that they've not yet reached before.

If you are already a fan of The Gathering then this CD is a must for your collection. If you're not a fan of The Gathering then "if_then_else" should prompt you to explore what this Dutch band has to offer.

"if_then_else" was produced by The Gathering and co-produced by Zlaya Hadzich.

The Gathering is Anneke van Giersbergen on vocals, Rene Rutten on guitar, Hugo Prinsen Geerligs on bass, Frank Boeijen on keyboards, and Hans Rutten on drums. Various folks contribute French horn, trombone, oboe, cello, and violin.

For more information visit http://www.gathering.nl


"How To Measure A Planet?" (Century Media; 1999)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

If you haven't heard of the Gathering you are missing out on some great music. The Gathering are not your typical heavy metal band. The Gathering avoid the overuse of bombastic guitars, pseudo-drama, and clichés. The Gathering are nearly like Pink Floyd in their ability to create a symphonic sound with passion and sensibility in their songs while avoiding sentimentality. Proving that heavy metal needn't be a constant barrage of loud guitars, thumping bass, and general excess, the band offers the idea that heavy metal can be about moods and the surrounding environment. The band carefully draws the listener into a space of empathy and sympathy - a very difficult task indeed.

The band was in such a creative frame of mind that they were able to release two CDs of new music. It's amazing that a band with such creative powers would take the risk of putting out nearly 100 minutes of new material. A total of 14 songs span the two discs and provide a wealth of enjoyment.

Anneke's vocals are sweet like honey. She has total command of her voice; Anneke really shines on the tracks "Red Is A Slow Colour" and "Marooned." Like water, Anneke's voice can fill any space, leave nothing untouched, and fit easily into any form that might contain it.  Although the lyrics tend not to be overly elaborate, Anneke's variety of inflections in her phrasing lend a great deal of enjoyment. The lyrical themes tend to run along the ideas of weightlessness (an overt fascination with space travel) representing freedom and separation from worldly things representing a more spiritual side of humanity.

Highlights on the first disc are the delicate "Frail (You Might As Well Be Me)," the vibrant "Liberty Bell," and the juxtaposition of smooth and harsh tones of "Rescue Me." "Great Ocean Road" allows Prinsen Geerlings to really shine on bass guitar in a more traditional metal way with the rumbling bass being blown through the speakers at near total distortion. Boeijen's majestic keyboard work is evident at every point on the two discs, but is without a doubt at its best on the track "The Big Sleep."

The second disc, fewer songs notwithstanding, has many highpoints as well. The brief, but well executed, instrumental "South American Ghost Ride" contains a steady, menacing bass line that allows every member to exhibit their talents including van Giersbergen who manages to contribute her wonderful voice with a scat-like vocal that provides the song with amazing depth. "Illuminating" is a majestic tune with slow, quiet verses that lead to loud ringing choruses interspersed with fuzzy chaotic musical breaks all seemingly strung together like a running brook. The disc ends with the title track, a 25 minute epic journey; the first 14 minutes are sensational and engaging while the last 11 minutes are interesting, but largely forgettable. "Probably Built In The Fifties" adds touches of electronica, but is just as heavy as anything Black Sabbath has done, but has the added benefit of a soaring vocal line that allows the song to achieve great emotional heights.

The band members are as follows: Anneke van Giersbergen on vocals, Frank Boeijen on keyboard, Hugo Prinsen Geerlings on bass, Hans Rutten on drums, and Rene Rutten on guitars. Rene Rutten and Frank Boeijen handle the lion's share of the songwriting duties, but there are substantial contributions made by van Giersbergen (all lyrics and two songs) and Prinsen Geerlings (contributes to two songs).

Attie Bauw produced "How To Measure A Planet?" who also managed to get in on the creative process by contributing programming and percussion. The disc was mastered at the famous Abbey Lane Studios (famous for its place in history by the Beatles).

To learn more about Holland's musical gift to the world click on http://www.gathering.nl/ and discover a truly unique band.


"Nighttime Birds" (Century Media; 1997)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter



The Gathering, huge stars in their native homeland the Netherlands, strike forth with their most  impressive work on "Nighttime Birds." If you're looking for weak songs you won't find any here; each track is stellar.

"Nighttime Birds" is an exception to the rule that metal is only about heavy guitars. The Gathering take a Pink Floyd-ian approach to their music with a mix of crushing dark guitars, swirling keyboards, thumping bass lines, and pointed drumming into one cohesive punch. The Gathering's patient approach yields majestic movements and emotionally packed songs.

"Nighttime Birds" is a wonderful collection of songs that explore the beauty of sounds and emotion in self-imposed solitary confinement, stories of self-discovery, dealing with life's misfortunes, and spiritual longing.

"On Most Surfaces (inuit)" is a powerhouse song that allows silky vocals to caress the pounding rhythms and atmospheric interludes with great passion. "Confusion" lays down subtle sections before alternating between sustained chords and fierce rhythmic explosions. "The Earth Is My Witness" has classic examples of the drawn out vocals that Anneke is famous for. The slippery tone of "New Moon, Different Day" allows the band to shine without being too heavy. The up-tempo "Third Chance" offsets the piano-laded "Shrink". The band's continuing fixation on flying continues with "Kevin's Telescope" and the title track, "Nighttime Birds", is a musical journey of longing and striving for effortless grandeur.

"Nighttime Birds" was produced by Siggi Bemm and the Gathering at the famous Woodhouse Studios in Hagen, Germany.

The Gathering are Anneke van Giersbergen on vocals, Rene Rutten on guitars and flute, Jelmer Wiersma on guitar, Frank Boeijen on synthesizer, Hugo Prinsen Geerlings on bass, and Hans Rutten on drums.  All music was written by the Gathering and all lyrics were written by Anneke van Giersbergen.

For more information visit the band at http://www.gathering.nl/ and get a sense of The Gathering's mark on music. 


"Mandylion" (Century Media; 1995)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

With "Mandylion" the former death metal outfit The Gathering started to make a successful transition to a more atmospheric, symphonic sound.   This is due in great part to the addition of Anneke van Giersbergen on vocals. Van Giersbergen's voice adds a sophisticated dimension to the band's repertoire; this allows the band's dramatic music to be matched by equally dramatic vocals.

A tightrope of tension is evident on "Eleanor"; this song describes the false identities that people hide behind - the song also features a nod to classical motifs. "In Motion #1" is a track to be handled with care; the smooth music belies the serious subject matter. The need for companionship is highlighted in the delightful "Leaves." The instrumental "Mandylion" is an amalgam of dramatic atmospheric sounds and subtle tribal drumming; the spirit in this song shows gratefulness for a fallen friend.

The band retains a healthy dose of heaviness on tracks such as "Strange Machines" and "Sand And Mercury." The historical journey that is "Strange Machines" adds a sci-fi mood to the disc while the glorious "Sand And Mercury," undeniably the highlight of the disc, patiently explores loss and longing within the realm of human relationships. Both of these songs feature ascending riffs and Rene Rutten's inventive guitar playing.

As a whole, "Manylion" is a solid precursor to the band's most satisfying disc (the very impressive "Nighttime Birds") which would follow two years later.

Siggi Bemm (Covenant) and Waldemar Sorychta (Grip, Inc., Tiamat) produced "Mandylion." The Gathering also assisted in the production.

The Gathering are Anneke van Giersbergen on vocals, Rene Rutten on guitars and flute, Jelmer Wiersma on guitar, Frank Boeijen on synthesizer, Hugo Prinsen Geerlings on bass, and Hans Rutten on drums.  All music was written by the Gathering and all lyrics were written by Anneke van Giersbergen.

For more information point your web browser to http://www.gathering.nl/ and learn more about this Dutch outfit.


Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.


Back to CD Reviews Home

Back to RoughEdge.com Home

Copyright © 2005 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 19 Feb 2017 18:25:01 -0500.