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Its hard to believe, but 18 years ago a band going by the name of The Gathering took center stage within the Dutch scene, playing a hybrid of death and doom metal. This demo, the first ever official release by The Gathering, is entitled ‘An Imaginary Symphony’ and announced the Dutch bands arrival on the scene in 1990. At this point in time one could be forgiven for thinking The Gathering wouldn’t last the distance that is the marathon to become the best and most influential in the business because of this amateur approach. However, as we understand it, The Gathering are one of the most influential rock based bands in the business. Some statement, for sure, but its the truth. There is no doubt that this demo doesn’t do the band justice, mainly due to the sub par production, but it showcases a promise of hope that the band can go on to better things, which they do. The Gathering, obviously, don’t stick to this style as they evolved into a rock band due to the fact that Anneke took over as lead vocalist, but there are still those who treasure this era of the Dutch bands existence. Although ‘An Imaginary Symphony’ doesn’t represent the pivotal part of the bands existence, it shouldn’t be neglected as it is still somewhat significant.
There several issues with this demo. These problems range from poor production values to a lack of creative flair but, at this stage, the band were only beginning to explore what sound suited them best. Bart Smits is on vocal duty, as he was up until after the debut record, ‘Always’. In fact, ‘Second Sunrise’ managed to survive the onslaught and participate in the first records track listing. By then, the production was better and the sound the band inhabited was closer to what they wanted at the time. Bart Smits vocal performance isn’t as good here as it is on ‘Always’ were he projected the lyrics in a professional manner, with a certain degree of maturity. At this stage in The Gathering’s career, his vocals needed some work. His growls are ineffective, his screams are rather pitiful as they crumble under the production and the rest of the array of vocal variations, particularly the unnecessary clean vocals, pales in comparison to what he achieved later on with the band. Its obvious, from this demo and later recordings, why he was replaced, but he still managed to turn in a decent performance on ‘Always’, commanding the band like a general preparing his soldiers for the battle with criticism that the record would come under. The beginning of ‘Share The Wisdom’ says it all. Unfortunately, his soldiers are dismantled on this record with a disconcerting ease. Undoubtedly, comparisons from this style to the style the band later took up will be made. Ever to the performance on the more mature effort ‘Always’.
This demo is sloppy on occasions and lacks a diversity that could and probably would drive it on. The saving grace, and most creative aspect of the instrumentation, are the keyboards, provided presumably by Henk van Koeverden, His performance isn’t as accomplished as Frank Boeijen’s are on latter epics, but his performance is the most outstanding aspect on this demo. The guitars are too formulated and monotonous for The Gathering, they don’t compliment the vocals that well either, which is a major disappointment. Whilst the bass and keyboard are trying to establish some sense of emotional values, the rest of the instrumentation prevents them from doing so successfully. What are The Gathering without emotion? Poor. This demo lacks spark, inspiration and a drive to succeed. The percussion is one dimensional, the bass isn’t as prominent as it later becomes. Thankfully, as a fan of The Gathering, I can say that things certainly do pick up as time goes by. Hugo Prinsen Geerligs, although not as accomplished on this demo, does eventually turn into a very eloquent and established bass player, often leading the soundscapes when needed and intertwining with the emotiveness created by other aspects like the vocals and keyboards, which are encompassed with emotion. The songs begin to flow like wine as the evolution of the band takes shape, but this demo isn’t a significant showcase of why this band are so influential or highly thought of. Song writing needed to be reworked and the shape needed to be restructured. Not the best.