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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.