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Well what can be said about this album? In a nut shell…amazing music yet HORRIBLE vocals. Almost a Dance is second album by the Dutch band The Gathering. Gone are the death metal vocals, as well as original vocalist Bart Smits. In its replacement are Goth vocals by Niels Duffhues who thankfully only graces us this one time. The problem with the vocals is the fact that it sounds he’s doing a bad impression of Pasi from Amorphis.
Martine’s female vocals are a step up from Marike’s performance on Always but still not even close to Anneke’s vocal performance in future release, I guess the third times a charm. Not saying that her performance is bad but just generic, doesn’t stand out as compared to Anneke.
Now on to the best part of the album…the music, Almost a Dance is comparable to Mandylion. I will argue that it’s actually better. First, both have that heavy doom metal feel yet Almost a Dance feels more majestic rather than the dense Mandylion. Second, the keyboards are much more atmospheric which also helps create an overall sense of grace throughout the album. Bass is audible and flows with the rhythm quite nicely. Drums are far from technical but keep the pace up quite nice. Guitars are meaty and melodic, instrumental sections stand out much more than Manylion.
Yet again no matter how good the music is the vocals do put a damp around the entire album which gives this album the title “Worse Gathering album.” I really wished they rerecorded the vocals with Anneke because this album would have received a much higher score. But this is still a must for Gathering fans because this is the link between two different periods of the bands evolution. My suggestion is to imagine Anneke singing rather than Niels, you’ll find it much more enjoyable.
Album highlights include: Like Fountains, Her Last Flight, the Blue Vessel, and Heartbeat Amplifier which are actually really good songs minus the vocals.
I am going to keep this short an simple. ‘Almost a Dance’ was an experiment gone wrong. A lot of these songs were written when Bart Smits was still in the band and especially ‘Heartbeat Amplifier’ was a song worthy of their ‘Always’ legacy. Musically therefore there was not much wrong with this album.
Vocalist Niels Duffhues is reminiscent of Faith No More during the ‘Real Thing’ album but obviously without the individual quality of Mike Patton. He really does his best but that’s about it. With his vocals and the very prominent keyboards, this album was sounding like Faith No More gone doom metal. Unfortunately it just didn’t work. They went from groundbreaking fantasy-doom metal to this just because of the vocals. Also the female vocals presented here were not bad but also not very memorable. Fortunately they got it right again on their next album Mandylion with vocalist Anneke van Gierbergen.
I wish the band would re-record this album someday with Bart Smits and Marike Groot on vocals, finally delivering the real sequel to Always.
A band very influential in the gothic metal scene, in so far that gothic metal bands for a long time were called 'The Gathering-clones', as The Gathering pioneered that typical gothic metal style, with minimalist build-up repeat riffing and synths for atmosphere. They also helped establish the cliche for gothic metal bands having many members (they got 7 on this album).
Speaking of members, it's fairly ironic that The Gathering aquired so much fame using a set up radically different from what they have nowadays; where they had only a gruff grunter (Bart Smits) on their debut-album, here they've exchanged him for clean male and female vocalists, who would for the next album both be replaced by the by now famous Anneke van Giersbergen who had quite a different voice.
I'll start by commenting on the vocalists on this album: they're not very good. Martine van Loon, who would later join Orphanage until they too found a superior replacement, isn't bad per se, but her high clean voice lacks depth and power, and is other for the heigth fairly uninteresting. Niels Duffhues' voice on the other hand is medium level, but has a monotonous quality to it, as if his voice is forced, and comes across a bit whiny in his attempted emotionalism.
Speaking of which; the album, other than the vocal performance, is comparable to the last one, with the difference that they attempted to achieve supreme emotionalism on this one. The atmosphere is still here mostly, built from the atmospheric keyboards and the doomy death riffs, but it suffers from a sort of overambitiousness. They try to evoke more intense emotions than on their last album, but fail. A pity really, because even though I've spent a lot of attention to the lesser aspects of the album in this review, as a whole it's not bad at all. Where bands that strain after effect usually end up producing an album that's nice on the first few listens but ends up being superficial and bland, Almost A Dance has more staying and growing power.
All in all, not a bad album, but mostly for fans of the band (also for those curious to The Gathering's roots) and fans of the genre of atmospheric gothic.