This would be the perfect soundtrack to the lazy afternoon’s of a long hot summer. Well it may have just missed the boat but then again it feels like we have missed summer anyway but there could be an Indian one looming so we may make the most of things. However the most important thing is that we have a new album from The Gathering. I was going to say the Dutch band but cannot really do so now as Norwegian singer Silje Wergeland is very much part of the fold and anyone who doubted her should well and truly be eating their words by now! For those keeping count this is the band’s tenth studio album and having been going since 1990 they are one of the most established bands of their kind with an easily identifiable sound but one that should never be taken for granted. Of course there have been all manner of other releases and if you have been picking them all up you will have quite a collection by now. This even has an accompanying EP Afterlights due for release on the same day.
Paper Waves starts this album off and it does so with instant shimmering melody building around Silje’s fragrant vocals. In a word ‘beautiful,’ you should find yourself transfixed and bewitched on the first couple of listens, after that, the song will be greeting you like an old friend. Sure it is lazy and carefree and unchallenging and commercial but it is certainly not bland. As ever The Gathering are a hidden treasure to many who would dismiss them as another metal / rock band without bothering to give them the time of day. There is a reason why they are so popular in Europe but in England where people are at times woefully dense they have not played for far too long. The fact they pretty much self release material is not lost on me either, it does give them complete control though and after years of doing what they have been doing Rene and Hans Rutten and Frank Boeijin surely know exactly how they want to play the music industry.
As simple as the opener is the second track Meltdown is much more ambitious and has a lot of parts to it. We even start with a more rocking beat and male vocals provided by Frank Boeijen. Silje joins in and the song goes into a much faster and more up front sound complete with brass parts and bombastic instrumentation before going into a lush acoustic part. It’s a bit of a massive attack combined with trip hoppy ebbs and is simply breathtaking once you have picked that jaw up and digested it all. Paralyzed does just as described, it takes form of a lilting ballad pretty much and is a fragile song with a slight brooding undertone about it. ‘Heroes For Ghosts’ is another very long ever flowing stream of a number gently easing you in with ripples before picking things up. Vocally it strikes as a bit of a lullaby, easy to drift off to and dream along with. It’s all kind of perfect as Silje just became a mother, doubt little Marie will not have any nightmares with this as a bedtime soundtrack. The track does slowly build and again the brass parts are integral to the melody.
The B side as such starts with the first of two part number ‘Gemini’ which has a hot sultry feel to its minimalist instrumentation. Emphasis is placed on slow drum timbre and Silje’s slightly echoing vocals. When the chorus hits it bowls you over, the croon laden harmonics are heavenly and resound triumphantly over the slow rocking beat. I can see this one quickly becoming a firm live favourite (well I would like to but….) After a piano, vocal piece ‘Missing Seasons’ delivers another gentle but totally harmonically simple chorus. I guess this one could be looked upon as another nursery time type ballad. Whereas other bands would have you thinking it was too twee and sickly in The Gatherings hands it is pure poetry. Nice bass groove going through the cleverly entitled ‘I Can See Four Miles’ which is a song that appears to have another version on the aforementioned EP. There’s a large definition on things striking as loud and emphasized in parts but also shoegazing and reflective at others. A sample sounding like a radio playing adds to things and you can hear strings too as everything builds into the albums most dramatic peak, wow it’s like a whole orchestra are in on the act and it is dynamic and powerful. This is probably the song that will be the fan favourite and the wake up part of the album and I have to admit listening to it, that if everything on the album was like this I would have no choice but to give it a top score.
Of course that is not what this band are about it cannot all be about the power and surge, the cut and thrust but it really does make it all the more sensational. After this there has to be a breath drawn and a less grandiose ending and that comes nicely in the form of ‘Gemini II.’
At first I was not convinced but it always takes a fair few listens for the majesty of The Gathering to sink in, once it does well … it truly does and this is another sublime album from the band.
What else remains to be said, would I buy it, yes certainly and I shall be putting my money where my mouth is as I have done with all their albums. Now if only I could see them live again. I already said this on the review of Bloodstock but surely they are the perfect addition to the line up for 2013!
(9/10 Pete Woods)