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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.