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The Gathering turned in their "metal membership" badges over a decade ago, but unlike many of their peers still bearing the torch while simplifying their music possibly in hopes of getting their tunes on the next batch of soundtracks concerning films about vampires, guns, tattoos and horseshit, this group still puts out some pretty high quality music. They also continue to be one of those acts that's a real pain in the ass to classify, which can make reviewing somewhat of a bitch since their influences seem all over the map and their style toes the line between progressive and alternative rock, which, let's face it, are two genres open to interpretation as to what the hell they really are in the first place. Disclosure doesn't make things any easier by being what it is, an experimental yet approachable work with its fair share of epics and shorter pieces that vary in execution while the overlying theme remains constant and flowing. I'm getting a headache already.
Feasibly, the best way to capture a sense of what the band are doing here is to focus on a few particular tracks. "Heroes For Ghosts" immediately springs to mind for its role as the centerpiece, a sprawling number with a few changes of pace and some noteworthy sections. It commences in a languid fashion, continuing the atmospheric vibe resonating from "Paralyzed", but adding an extra layer thanks to the smooth trumpet playing. The production is clear yet 'bassy' with no instrument left buried in the mix. Silje has already established herself well as the new vocalist by not trying to ape Anneke's dynamics, but instead opting for a more sultry delivery which suits her voice better and complements the music agreeably. Around the halfway point the song slowly crescendos as the beat evolves gradually to a more uptempo rhythm until finally a heavier guitar jumps into the fray and arouses the senses. Great shit, but after that climactic portion, the song just sort of lingers a bit too long afterwards before it finally concludes. This wouldn't have been bothersome at all if the same deal didn't occur for the other two epics, with "Meltdown" in particular being a case of a meandering tune that doesn't seem to want to leave the dais after making its point.
"Gemini I" proves that The Gathering haven't morphed into some complete space-jam act by showcasing the band's capacity for killer vocal hooks and tight musicianship. Maybe not their most ambitious track, but one of my favorites since it rocks and the vocals are blazing during the chorus. This isn't to say that the album would benefit by loading up with more stream-lined tracks such as this since I dig the band's pursuit of creativity over accessibility, but I'm still glad it's there. The final track rehashes this tune in a mellower and less vital format, but at least this 'safe for a cocktail party' version concludes in an arresting, trippy fashion.
Another track that certainly deserves mention is the opener, which brings back the band's appreciation for post punk and new wave with fresh vigor, bringing to mind Boy era U2 through The Gathering's somewhat hard-edged yet paradoxically ethereal blender. This isn't the kind of shit I hear everyday, in fact, hardly ever, but the band's penchant for bringing about unusual and divergent elements of rock into an almost singular sound works because the band also knows how to write praiseworthy melodies that spring out exactly when the album needs them. "I Can See Four Miles" dabbles with noisy post rock for the latter half of its running time, but after that sexy dream-pop that precedes it, the transition to the bedlam is surprisingly fluid.
I had assumed that Anneke leaving the band was akin to an ice-cream scoop leaving the cone onto my lap. Possibly salvageable, but messy and conceivably not worth the effort. It's not perfect, but Disclosure has basically stymied my assumptions, demonstrating that The Gathering is not wasting its time bumbling along stupidly like The Doors did without Jim Morrison for two albums. If anything, they seem energized, full of ideas, and accommodating to their new vocalist who, dealing with some heavy shoes to fill, suits their current sound perfectly, whatever it is. I still can't label it.