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The Gathering / Rain Fell Within / October 31 / Forty Days Longing / Divine Silence

August 2, 1999; Phantasmagoria; Wheaton, MD

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

The Gathering, a superb band from Holland, are in the midst of a short U.S. tour to promote their double-CD "How To Measure A Planet?" Phantasmagoria, one of the few venues to provide extensive support to the heavy metal community in the mid-Atlantic, was lucky enough to be a stop along the way.

New York City's Divine Silence got the show started in grand fashion. The melodic doom leanings of Divine Silence attracted the crowd's attention from the get-go. Unfortunately, the vocals were hardly audible (I'm certain this was due to soundboard and PA problems); otherwise, the performance was solid, if unspectacular.

The second act of the evening was Forty Days Longing which proved to be the night's biggest surprise. The genre-defying acrobatic journey that is Forty Days Longing is the freshest sound I've heard in quite some time. Adding violins and keyboards to a death metal foundation, Forty Days Longing have crafted a unique mark on my impression of American death metal. Extraordinary unexpected twists and turns leave the listener engaged in a harmonic flight of fancy. The performance of Forty Days Longing was a feast for the ears as well as the mind; this band may one day make me regret my recent comment that the good metal was only coming out of Europe.

The classic '80s metal sounds of October 31 whipped the crowd into a glorious frenzy. The lead guitarist ripped leads like there was no tomorrow; he proved that a steady diet of Randy Rhoads, Glenn Tipton, K.K. Downing, George Lynch, Warren DeMartini, and other '80s favorites could really have an effect on a musician. The original "One Million Goodbyes" was a crowd pleaser; October 31 closed with a rousing cover of Saxon's "The Power And The Glory."

Rain Fell Within had the unenviable task of performing right before the headlining act. Rain Fell Within's operatic vocal delivery atop an atmospheric understructure was certainly worth hearing, but overall their performance was flat.

The Gathering took to the stage and greeted the enthusiastic crowd with the subtle "The Big Sleep" before heading into a quicker paced "Great Ocean Road." Rene Rutten was able to flex his musical muscles on the next two tunes especially when he laid down the heavy riffs of "Strange Machines" - this number really showed off the band's heavier past recordings with great flair.

The band then slowed things down a bit with the delicate "Rescue Me." One could easily see how the lyrics affected Anneke while she was delivering the line "All I want / Is to be where you are." Anneke is one of music's most fragile voices, yet she exudes a strength that most singers can only hope for.

The rollicking "Probably Built In The Fifties" was followed by the charging "Liberty Bell" (why this song isn't on the radio only demonstrates how pathetic radio station formats are these days).   "Travel" closed out the set with great fanfare as the ambitious nature of the studio track was only heightened during the live performance.  The band gratefully acknowledged the audience's shouts of "thank you for coming to America!"

Luckily for everyone, The Gathering took the stage for an encore. "Sand And Mercury," from the 1997 release "Mandylion," was the band's choice to end the night. The artful "Sand And Mercury" was a majestic detour into an emotional and tumultuous ride with overwhelming satisfaction.

The Gathering's sound throughout the show was crystal clear. Anneke van Giersbergen's vocals were magnificent, Rene Rutten's guitars were vibrant, Frank Boeijen's keyboards provide much sonic variety, Hugo Prinsen Geerlig's bass was solid, and Hans Rutten's drums never failed to hold a steady beat. This veteran outfit proved that a solid performance that connects with its fans is something to truly behold.

Somehow The Gathering have been stuck with a "symphonic metal" tag which I don't quite understand. There's a point were good music outweighs any label; The Gathering are Exhibit A in my on-going crusade to emphasize that good music is good music no matter what style it is.

Overall this was a fantastic show from beginning to end. Each band brought a unique sound to the show which made for an enjoyable evening all around.

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Copyright 1999 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 23 Aug 2016 22:57:17 -0400.