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your music was to stay forever - 95%

TowardsMorthond, May 22nd, 2012

Not so much a reaction to attempts by media and label to misrepresent them as a gothic doom metal band as it is a moment of definitive self-realization, How to Measure a Planet?, The Gathering's fifth album, and third with vocal extraordinaire Anneke Van Giersbergen, marks a significant shift in the band's sound and presentation. The music on this effort is more experimental in form and instrumentation, particularly in guitars and keyboards, featuring frequent electronic nuances and a few programmed percussive sounds to add texture to the organically produced drum beats, drenched in atmospheric bliss and richly melodic, and is much closer to shoegaze and 1970s-style progressive rock than doom metal; bathed in a warm, refreshingly organic sound that is a dramatic change from the embellished and polished Woodhouse Studios production jobs of the previous two efforts, the language of motion and orchestration of the music is pure feeling given musical shape according to the rhythm and spirit of human aspiration. What has not been altered is the enveloping atmosphere and melody that this band has become known for, although here these components are even more powerful and enthralling due to more confident songwriting, featuring excellent arrangements emphasizing the band's strengths in a natural and self-sure form revealing tremendous growth in compositional vision and conviction of creative identity.

"I have heard this mental search
has made them all
take a look along the border
Having the urge
For their minds
to be lifted
to something new
I'm running to meet
my higher self"

Giersbergen's heavenly voice is the primary feature and expressive source of emotional energy of these songs save for a couple of instrumentals, and as brilliant and stunning as it is on the two previous albums, her singing is more consistently harmonious with the music here, which is rich in instrumental texture, mostly slow and reflective, with intense rises to emotive eruptions, allowing her voice an enhancing level of flexibility with very fluid, naturally flowing arrangements. René Rutten's guitar playing is more experimental, entirely in the tradition of ambient guitar rock and progressive rock, using a heavily fuzzed-out distorted guitar tone for louder sections, with a variety of effects to color the sound, and absolutely fantastic lead playing during the transcendent coda of the vastly life-embracing "Great Ocean Road", and "Rescue Me", a reflectively intimate track given an astounding sense of ascendant yearning by his thickly distorted, hazy-toned mid-song lead.

"I feed you balance
We will not rest
Until the search ends"

One gets the sense that the expansive conception of this double-disc release was the product of experiencing an abundance of creative inspiration, not just in the amount of fantastic music offered here, but in the theory of its organization which reflects the parallel of the direct (song-oriented disc one) and abstract (psychedelic space-rock disc two) in fundamental human observation and discourse. This sequential arrangement is important, but an underlying reinforcement of the music's feel and portrayal of the trip that is human existence in the ceaseless but beautifully diverse movement of the world, considered from the affirmative position that is this band's natural creative character, in their most definitive, ambitious, and inspirational expression.

Tied for best Gathering album - 100%

mikeald, May 11th, 2009

Talk about a total facelift! How to Measure A Planet? Sounds nothing like Nighttime Birds, hell it doesn’t even sound like the same band. This double album marks the first of many changes the band would go thru. One noticeable change is the absence of second guitarist Jelmer…which was for the better. From this album on, (no offence to Jelmer) The Gathering became a force to be reckon with. Rene filled in both positions quite well. This is the first body of work from the classic line up: Rene, Hans, Hugo, Frank and Anneke which sadly ended after Sleepy Buildings.

When listening to this album one must have patience. This album is quite long and demands your full attention. Majority of songs are slower with progressive and trip hop influences. Some songs are your typical Gathering rockers such as Liberty Bell, Travel, and Probably Built in the Fifties. But again this album demands you to grasp it as a whole rather than a collection of songs.

One interesting thing about this album is that every member is credited for the song writing process. Anneke even wrote two songs, My Electricity and Locked Away. Unlike many bands who abandoned their roots, The Gathering seemed to do it with ease. This album seems to be something that the band took their time to write and record, this is not a “sellout “album by any means. Looking back at the first four albums it seems like their hearts were never into metal in the first place.

Scattered throughout the album are samples of astronaut transmissions, although this is not a concept album but rather a travel/spaced themed album. Keyboards and guitar effects saturate this album. Songs like Marooned display some of the most atmospheric beats I’ve ever heard, picture a space craft floating through deep space.

One song I would like to point out is the self titled song. At 28 minutes plus some may see this song as filler to justify the second disc. Yes at first I even felt that this song was a bit useless but giving it a few spins you begin to unfold its mystery.

So let’s begin….First, we hear astronaut samples which slowly fades into a post-rock bass line with distant vocals in the background. This can be scene as a space ship’s countdown to lift off. The music begins to pick up, vocal melodies are louder, guitar becomes more present. This can be scene as the take off. Near the 10-13 minute mark is when things begin to get strange, the bass is the only instrument that seems to be keeping a steady beat while all the other instruments are in heavy echo effect. This can represent breaking out of the earth’s atmosphere and into space. 14-28 minute mark is where people may get confused. All the instruments are buried deep in effects. This literally feels like endless space. This track is highly recommended for nighttime listens. If you’re not into ambience then you have at least 14 minutes of an actual song.

How to Measure a Planet? Is indeed a long listen, songs may not stick out upon the first listen, but if you enjoy progressive rock then you’ll love this album. Highlights include: Frail, Liberty Bell, Red Is a Slow Colour, Marooned, Travel, South American Ghost Ride, and How to Measure a Planet? Highly Recommended!!!

"Simply an Accurate Measurement" - 98%

HanSathanas, March 11th, 2008

I try not to overrate this band. I take a few careful listens before I decided to write this review. Woman fronted metal band is occasionally looked down upon by some, but for me The Gathering is actually beyond ones’ expectation. They have certain aspects that are rarely discovered by the likes of them.

How to Measure a Planet features a double album; both of which are melancholic and purely relaxing. The first track is enough to give me a picture of everything in this album. Anneke is a blessing for The Gathering, she is the valuable asset that keeps the band forward. With more experimental touch, they explore various aspects of conventional music to be used with their own style. Eventually they are not metal anymore, but at least they’re taking the right directions. At least they do not fall under nu metal crap. For a brief listen, I noticed there is no room left even for a slightest error to overwhelm the song. Most instruments are clearly audible. Plus Anneke style of singing which is above par thus creating more dynamic blend with the music and effects going on behind. She sings with absolute dedication and feeling that makes listeners feel the depth of her emotions. “My Electricity” is one of the best examples for this. Although this song has more mainstream rock feel in it, but it is even better than any ordinary rock bands out there. Here, there snare provides a very brilliant resonance that even without continuous acoustic plucking, the music is already comprehensive. Therefore this song deserves the best credit for its outstanding performance. Perhaps the only hard element of this record is Liberty Bell which has a rockier sound reminiscent of early Black Sabbath traditional stuff. Overall, it is not a bad song but my least favorite, but it still has some metal element of The Gathering.

Red is a Slow Color is a medium combination between “Frail” and “Liberty Bell” but this one has great overtone. More importantly, the good timing for Anneke to sing the verse and chorus are perfectly aligned to avoid bland, repetitive and uninspiring piece of music. To a greater extent, this album has more maturity in terms of song writing and composition since it takes more than meets the eye to deliver such masterpiece wholeheartedly. Let’s just listen to the song “The Big Sleep”; it is an honest representation of Anneke’s inner passion for the music. The thoughtful lyrics along with her over the top vocals prevent the significance from dissipating into thin air or vanish without interpretation. Lovely and serene are words that can describe “Marooned”. There is some nice keyboards’ effect in this one, popping out now and then but they never bored me down. I do believe that without the keyboards or whatever effects they have in their disposal, the track will sound dull and empty. Although Anneke vocals are powerful enough to break through the song, the use of keys and auxiliary synthesizer helped reinforce majority of the track in this album. One track after another, you’ll find even more and more sophisticated approach being included by each and every one of them. The longest track on the first disc “Travel” discovers the subtle elements of fantastical journey to the galaxy, which I believe will give humans more freedom to choose their desired way of living. Anyhow, maybe they mean something else and all those travel matters are concealable metaphor. Nevertheless the song has great concept and totally atmospheric.

While on the second disc it kicks in with the instrumental “South American Ghost Ride” which still has some ethereal vocalization in it plus several indecipherable effects. I don’t really get what the band means with that title. Nothing special about this track, but first I thought it was a mixture of industrial rock. Then again I was wrong; The Gathering are just wanted to experiment and create something new. It might as well have, you know, but I’m yet to listen with some industrial stuff. “Illuminating” is a contrast to “Locked Away” in a sense that the second track has more vitality as compare to “Locked Away”. The latter is chilling and mournful with Anneke’s finest vocal aesthetics. Unlike any other song both in the first and second disc, “Probably Built in the Fifties” sounds even more deep and haunting; the drum has distinctive patterns, the guitars are straightforward rock piece and Anneke finally sings with supreme control over the music. Entering the 4:45 mark, the guitars’ chugging chord is added with nightmarish resonance of smooth keyboard sound. Actually this song ends around 7:06 which leaves a few seconds of silence before it enters the next track. The album reaches its climax with the title track, and to my great surprise the instrumental song exceeds 20 minutes mark! What the hell were they thinking? It is even longer than Burzum’s Rundgang Um Die Transzendentale Säule Der Singularität. While Varg only uses repetitive keys to make up the whole song, The Gathering have alternately utilize between instruments ranging from guitars, drums and some ghostly vocals. Majority of this instrumental is synthesizer dominated. Male voices can be heard in the background with unfathomable end, it sounds like the voices are coming from a megaphone or something. Really guys, they wanted to measure the planet with this track and they are questioning us as listeners in a secreted way. For almost half an hour of otherworldly ambient eventually the album properly ends to complete stillness and tranquility. All that remains is satisfaction.

To sum up the whole thing, How to Measure a Planet is a must have for everyone regardless their musical tastes. If someone doesn’t like this band for its sluggish music, then he or she will never understand the beautiful music that The Gathering have to offer. Of course they are not your typical favorite; absence of blast beats, high pitch shrieks, guitar shredding solos and such. But The Gathering is a band that worth to be around, and they will never disappoint their fans in any way. I should say that their shifting style from doom death outfit into more atmospheric rock / metal is totally acceptable. This album appeals to my hard earned bucks and I never regret to have it in my collection.

Too much is never enough! - 95%

blackoz, September 29th, 2006

You have to wonder sometimes what The Gathering is doing in these august pages. After all, the death metal inclinations have all but disappeared since the arrival of Anneke. Is “How to Measure a Planet?” really a metal album?

Viewed another way, though, the telluric forces that powered the band’s earliest efforts are still there and bubble occasionally to the surface. In a sense they are even more evident when held in check: there’s a feeling of dark, restrained power even in the dreamiest ballads here, such as the gorgeous “My Electricity” and “The Big Sleep”. So, The Gathering remains “metal”, albeit camouflaged, like a Tiger Tank.

The Gathering, with Anneke on board, could easily have gone in the “beauty and the beast” direction of so many other bands such as Evanescence and the mighty Nightwish. This would have been a disaster. Anneke is not Tarja. Her voice is much airier and folkier with its characteristic yodel trill and would have been swamped by the panzer grind. Instead, the band pulled back on the power creating a unique symbiosis between band and singer. Nowhere is that more evident than here on “Planet”, and, several albums further on, the band’s decision has proved enduringly successful, both artistically and commercially.

If “Planet” – and, indeed, The Gathering as a whole – deserves any criticism it is that the band is predictably medium-paced. They rarely step on the gas and go for it. In fact, the only time on this album that they do slip the leash is with the marvelously anthemic “Liberty Bell”. You could also say that Anneke’s scales become somewhat repetitive, as hauntingly seductive as they are. Even so, each song on “Planet” has its own unique identity, something that becomes apparent after several listens. Any tendency to plodding sameness disappears as you go with the flow and enjoy each track for its own delicious pleasures. It’s a bit like the Botticelli Room in the Uffizi Gallery: you’re not looking for the Warhol.

The two-CD format of “Planet” has earned the band a little criticism. Judicious editing would have rescued the music, some say, from the self-indulgent dreamscapes that especially characterize disc two. There’s an easy answer to that: just play disc one, a very satisfying record in its own right. Disc two is really, “oh, alright, another won’t hurt; I might be run over by a bus tomorrow”, perhaps best held over for those special times when too much of The Gathering is never enough.

Very Unique and Progressive. - 85%

caspian, September 5th, 2006

My first experience with The Gathering was a fairly good one. Their new Album, Home, was fairly left of field, with some pretty unique guitar lines and arrangements with Anneke's great vocals over the top. While it was a pretty good record, it lacked a bit in dynamics and just the overall ability to really sink in. Luckily, in this period of their career, The Gathering had the melodic rock aspect filtered through some crunchier guitars.

There's plenty of real cool tunes in here to be found. Admittedly, describing different songs isn't too easy to do, as The Gathering follow a fairly loose formula. Slow Burning guitars plod away, synths fill the background, and the rythym section for the most part is happy to stay in the background. Anneke's vocals are a bit weaker then the newer records, but they're still very strong, with some effects occaisonally thrown in to great effect.

The rest of the band is at the top of it's game, and for the most part keep it up for both disks. Probably Built in the Fifties is really quite heavy and awesome, and probably the best song on the album. It shows that these guys can get quite aggressive when they want too. Great Ocean Road has some great guitar lines, and really evokes the mood of gazing at a vast empty horizon, (as another reviewer accurately put it.) Rescue Me has a very effective post-rock style build up, before slowly fading out. The nine minute epic, Travel, closes the first disk in a very powerful manner. Very effective use of synths here. My Electricity is very melodic and mellow, full of clean guitar and with some subtle yet interesting drumming. The Gathering are extremely good at creating a subtle mood and atmosphere. They do it like no other band. While Isis, Sigur Ros and tonnes of other bands may give you a stronger sense of emotion, The Gathering put you in a state of mind without you even noticing, which is a good thing.

The Gathering manage to be fairly unique, even though they use the usual song structures and the like. That's a very hard to achieve thing. One song that is fairly unique in all intents and purposes, however, is the almost half an hour long title track. It's also the reason why I'm marking it down a few more points. While it wouldn't be the most annoying song I've ever heard, it's not that great, and it takes up almost a third of the album. The use of samples is very effective, but for a half an hour long track to work, it had better be an awesome bit of music, and quite simply, it isn't. The track would be cool if it was shortened to twenty minutes then split into two, with one half being the pretty instrumental parts and the other one being the noise ending. (By far the best part of the song.) But instead, it's half an hour of stuff where nothing really happens. If it was split up, I'd give this album a 95%.

Regardless, even if half an hour of this CD is bad, you've still got 76 minutes or so of material that is great to listen too. Not exactly recommended buying for one-eyed death/black/thrash metal fans, but most open minded people should enjoy this album. I would suggest you buy it.

Measured By Atmosphere. - 100%

Perplexed_Sjel, July 2nd, 2006

The Gathering's legacy continues with ‘How To Measure A Planet?’, the fifth full-length in a string of full-lengths from the Dutch destroyers. This record is significantly different to the last, ‘Nighttime Birds’, which was heavier and lesser accessible to the average day fan. If you’re hunting down some mellow rock which generates an almighty atmosphere, look no further than this masterpiece. The Gathering have established themselves, since Anneke’s arrival at least, as an experimental band who takes influence from a variety of genres, not just from metal. From atmospheric rock, to the gothic scene, The Gathering are masters of the act of crossing over and mixing to perfection. ‘How To Measure A Planet?’ wasn’t my favourite record from the band at first, that title belonged to the influential ‘Mandylion’, but after several years, this record slowly developed into my favourite, pushing all others aside into mediocrity when compared. It probably isn’t a secret that I’m a huge fan of this band and, of course, the loveable Anneke, but I am seemingly forever judging the content of their records based on what I hear here which, to my ears, is atmospheric perfection. The record swings back and forth from mellow to sustained distorted pressure, but as a whole, this will always be seen as the least metal, and the most soulful record that the band have conjured.

As well as that, its probably the most interesting and partially due to these facts. ‘Frail (You Might As Well Be Me)’ is typical of the record and as brilliant an opening song as you’re ever likely to hear for a record of this type. The significance of this song cannot be put into words. Having heard ’Nighttime Birds’ prior to hearing this, I expected another fully blown assault from The Gathering, a jazzed up bout of anger towards the break down in communication and ultimate failure of relationships that the band based their instrumentation around (lyrics are courtesy of Anneke)., but that wasn’t what the band had in mind at all. Generally, this record follows a similar road the entire way through. At no stage does the anger of the previous two outings rear its ugly head, but the anger is concealed by a more mature approach, a sombre approach. The semi-acoustic passages, the harrowing keyboards which enlighten the mood and the emotive vocals all lead to a much more concise and productive sound, which is displayed over a finely tuned production. This record requires patience and understanding from the listener. It is a personal journey, a story of development, of trials and tribulations, this record is the heart and soul of every relationship you’ve ever had. There is a surreal wisdom that is portrayed by the soulful instrumentation that I haven’t encountered anywhere else before.

Both ‘Mandylion’ and ‘Nighttime Birds’ were aggression releasing records. They were full of negative emotions, displaying openly how the lyrics worked and why, but ‘How To Measure A Planet?’ is more subtle, which works well with the new and improved approach. The brilliance of this work of art is not in the crushing guitars and it isn’t in any other overblown piece of instrumentation. Its all about subtlety. The key foundations for The Gathering’s work also reflects this thought due to the fact that it’s the bass and the keyboards that prove to be the true essence of the bands work here. The bassist, Marjolein, has improved and taken a more productive stance on her role as bassist. She isn’t afraid to take the reigns, she isn’t too proud to sit back and allow the guitars, or vocals to show their distinctive prowess. Her performance is as noticeable as anyone else’s. She’s consistent and constructive. Her bass lays the foundations alongside Frank’s work on keyboards as the better known parts of The Gathering’s instrumentation takes hold (A.K.A Anneke’s vocals). Whilst I understand the hype over Anneke and her ‘perfect voice’, I don’t believe the epitome of this band lies in her performance. She is a cog in the machine that is The Gathering. She isn’t a one woman band. She’s one part of a band with several other musicians who’re equally important. This fact is shown in songs like the enigmatic ‘My Electricity’.

The sorrowful bass, the laying low guitar which only just functions above the sound of the bass and the harmonious balance between vocals and instrumentation. Though the lyrics may not be to everyone’s liking, the connection between lyrics and music is of great importance. Where this record does not differ from any other offering from The Gathering is in the fact that it is filled to the brim with emotion, atmosphere and ambiance. All qualities we have come to love and treasure as the years have dwindled by. Anneke's vocals dramatically changed during this release from the previous one's. Her vocals are solid and have more of an impact upon the music. Her previous performances may have seemed naïve, but her maturity really begins to flow through her voice, which has grown in stature as the band have progressed. The average fan is looking for well written and well performed music, if you’re one of those average fans, your next port of call is here. Stop, take some time out of your busy lives and relax to this comforting, yet suspenseful release. Its moody tones, its brisk underlying features and its honest approach are here to be admired, but only in reflection. Nostalgic, emotive and seemingly brooding, this record is almost, almost perfect. Highlights include: Marooned, Red Is A Slow Color, Frail (As Well You Might Be), and Great Ocean Road and the amazing Travel.

Classic... - 95%

Uom, April 18th, 2006

This album is The Gathering’s Rust in Peace, or Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, for that matter. If I were to stretch it, it will closely resemble Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness by The Smashing Pumpkins, aside from both being double-disc affairs. These albums share a similarity, where the bands charted new musical territories and progressive ideas into their trademark sound. As a result, Megadeth got more technical, Iron Maiden got more theatrical, and Smashing Pumpkins got more famous.

How to Measure a Planet? is a tour-de-force. It is the album where The Gathering finds their visions fulfilled, where they sounded like the way they should sound. They did away with the Metal and Gothic posing they fostered with their previous albums in order to create music without boundaries. They have basically toned down the guitars, and focused more on the dreamy atmosphere and the beautiful vocals. Anneke van Giersbergen has proven time and again that she is the BEST FEMALE VOCALIST EVER (quote me on that). With this album, she even solidifies that claim because her emotive voice fits better with this kind of music, where she can just focus on channeling emotions through her singing without having to coincide with the distorted guitars.

The album deals with distance, where the songs talk about yearning for someone (Rescue Me), the feeling of witnessing the vastness of an endless horizon (‘Great Ocean Road’), or the exhilaration of flight (‘Liberty Bell’) . Even the sound sympathizes with the theme of the album, embellished with the verdant and vivid instrumentations the band is known for.

‘Great Ocean Road’ is easily one of the best songs ever recorded in music history, if one THE BEST (quote me on that again). The main riff just washes the listener away into the unknown deep, where dreams are forged real by just having the sound take you to your destiny. The powerful tapestry of sound becomes realized with the affective singing of Anneke. This song is just powerful, amazing, superb, and wonderful.

‘Rescue Me’ contains one of the best lines of a love song ever, “All I want/ is to be where you are”. The yearning music and the wall of sound in the middle create a feeling of desire in a lost world. The production with the song could have been lusher, but a good song is a good song. ‘My Electricity’ is another winner, a lovelorn, sentimental song with a simple arrangement, yet it is carried by the spacious and jangling guitars. ‘Liberty Bell’ is an upbeat, feel-good pop song if I didn’t know better. The song creates a feeling of flying with the uplifting, soaring music blasting through the speakers. ‘Travel’ feels like a dream sequence, a collection of riffs of previous songs serving as a culmination of the first disc. ‘Locked Away’ is similar to ‘My Electricity, only this time, the guitar blasts in during the chorus.

The only small gripe I have which prevents the album from getting a perfect score is the second CD could have been done away with. In fairness, the second half deals with the band’s proclivity to writing more daring music, as heard with the title track, and it ain’t bad at all, but at this point, hearing that the first half is just perfect, the second half is too indulgent for its own good.

I cannot recommend this album any further. One of the best albums ever from any genre! Buy this, and be swept off to your dreams! Hail The Gathering!