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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.