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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!!!