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Underrated, experimental, beautiful - 95%

bimu, July 8th, 2006

This is a vastly underrated EP. In my opinion this one of the brightest points in the band's discography.

The title track is, simply put, beautiful. It starts out quietly with a sad piano theme, then the drums, bass and a very distorted guitar are gradually added along with a spoken section (by Sarah Jezebel Deva). Five minutes into the song Anneke joins in, and I must say that this 5-and-a-half-minute calm build-up is simply stunning. The piano theme is very emotional and it's perfectly complemented by the other instruments and vocals. Then there is a little more up-beat section leading to a bass-and-drums-lead theme, with an effective fuzze-out guitar solo. This part gets quieter, leaving only the synths for a while, just to explode again and then deconstruct into a messy fragment, then again into the up-beat section that appears after the initial build-up. After a while the track gets quiet again and the main motive re-emerges as the final section of the song. Although this description may suggest that the song is a case of a typical cut-and-paste composition, it is fortunately not the case. Rather, the song is a post-rock inspired piece and the changes in arrangement are the main factor that makes it evolve. The arrangement is based on the piano, a VERY distorted guitar, a drum-and-bass groove and quite varied, calm vocals, some of them nicely processed (towards the end) to form an atmospheric ambience. There is no single 'climax' in this song, even though there are parts far louder than the rest. Overall, this is a really effective song, one that doesn't feel to last over sixteen minutes, and its main strength lies in its beautiful melancholic main theme and the atmosphere, perfectly described by the title. Suprisingly, the track manages to remain emotional and beautiful despite the rather sparse use of vocals and the presence of quite harsh distortion effects and groove.

"Debris" is a faster track based on a bass/synth/drum theme, with slightly processed vocals and a very abstract arrangement. By this I mean that the instruments in this song are used in a slightly different manner than one would expect. This is a good track, on par with the more up-beat tracks from "Souvenirs" ("Monsters").

The piano version of "Broken Glass" is another beautiful track. It is very subdued and does not build up like the "Souvenirs" version. Anneke's vocals are more emotional here and on the whole this song is less artificial-sounding and more 'sincere' here.

The multimedia section is a nice addition, showing the band apparently having great fun recording their music. The Gathering give the imperssion of a creative, open-minded bunch of people. You can also see how the "Souvenirs" tracks developed and how the band came up with the piano version of "Broken Glass". Nothing spectacular, but a very nice documentary.

There is also a hidden track before "Black Light District" which is an abstract piece of music, more of a collage, based on a single theme and a slate of processed samples. Eerie, spooky and interesting.

"Black Light District" portraits the Gathering at their most experimental period (along with "Souvenirs"), when they concentrated on sound experimentation and creative arrangements. This EP also shows that they never forget about melody and creating songs, never quite entering the territory of pointlessness and inaccessibility. Get it especially for the excellent title track.