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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!