without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
At first, seeing things in historic perspective. Back in 1991/1992 the gothic metal we know now in 2007 (After forever, Nightwish, Epica etc) wasn’t around yet and The Gathering were truly a groundbreaking and trendsetting group. If they hadn’t played their part together with for instance Orphanage, the Dutch scene would probably have developed very differently.
Still firmly based upon the 1991 Paradise Lost album ‘Gothic’ but incorporating keyboards in a more important way and writing some lengthy songs. There were death grunts and additional female vocals which these days have become quite mainstream but were refreshing back then. The Gathering were pioneers, so don’t expect the style to be perfected yet on a pioneering debut album. In 1992 ‘Always’ received 100 points in many magazines.
Having said that, the album in a way has lost a lot of impact over the years. This has two main reasons. First an entire scene in this subgenre emerged and later incidentally surpassed this album but secondly the band themselves made some changes later on in their career and broke through to the mainstream audience with their third album ‘Mandylion’ and vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen.
Still, ‘Always’ is a beautiful and very important album if you are into the genre. With some lengthy songs, a lot of diversity and – in contrast to contemporary gothic bands – the emphasis really on DOOM. Bart Smits has a monotone voice but suits the material well and Marike Groot (ex-Little Mary Big, Wonderlust) did a great job with the female vocals. I’ve seen the old Gathering perform live once without their keyboard player and that performance made it very obvious how important the keyboards were on these songs, namely indispensable. The keyboard add an important touch to the atmosphere as well as a lot of melodies.
Verdict: Impact in 1992: 100 points. Historical value: 100 points. Quality compared to 2007 standards: 70. Performance: 80. Result: 88 points. But I’ll just give them 90 points since this important album cannot get anything less. Best songs: the lot. It’s a trip from start to finish.