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It's hard not to be really, really unreasonable when I think about this album- 3 out of the 4 songs here are great; but the Slowdive cover is so bad, so ruthlessly awful that I just can't force myself to give it more then 50%, even though something like 70% would be more accurate.
Let's get the ranting of that out of the way first. "When the Sun Hits" is Slowdive's best song- beautiful guitar lines and perfect, reverb drenched vocals drift through the mix before the chorus explodes (Nirvana, THIS is how you do a good dynamic rock song) into a heavenly mix of massive distorted chords and a really awesome guitar lead. Probably the best rock song of the 90's; a total classic. The Gathering cover pushes the vocals way out in front, kills the huge volume boost in the chorus, and substitutes the soaring guitar/synth bliss-out thing with some really weak synths. To say I'm disappointed is a major understatement; this could've been so damn awesome if they'd done it right. Instead they sort of shat on the whole thing, and man, is it terrible. Really horrible!
I pretty much downloaded this just for that cover, but I should probably mention the three other songs as they're actually pretty good. Kevin's Telescope is a catchy and effective Gathering tune from what was a very catchy and effective album; typically solid atmospheric rock with some of the best vocal lines Anneke did for the band. Fairly triumphant and major key; not one for the angry and/or depressed, but a pretty enjoyable song that sums up what's good about The Gathering; just like the two other tunes really. Lisa Gerrard is not an easy person to do justice too but the Dead Can Dance is pretty well done; effectively it sounds like a mellow Gathering song but with much better lyrics, and I'm fine with that. Not entirely sure what the difference between the demo of Confusion and the finished product is, it could be the lush synths that wrap around the guitar lead around the end? Regardless it's a pretty cool tune, redundancy notwithstanding.
So there's three good tunes, and a brutal, visceral ass raping of a Slowdive classic. 50% doesn't quite convey my utter hatred for that cover but it'll have to do, as everything else on here is really good.
I’ve chosen to review this single because three out of the four songs are not on any of the full-lengths available from the band. The general consensus seems to be that reviews for singles are redundant, seeing as the vast majority don’t pick up singles, or that they generally have little place within the collection unless you’re a true die-hard fan who collects everything, though those are few and far between. I, myself, am not one of those, but for the purpose of completing The Gathering’s discography, which I still have some way to go from doing, I will review this single ‘Kevin’s Telescope’. From the four songs available on this single, I have only previously heard one, that being the title track taken from the full-length ‘Nighttime Birds’. I remember being disappointed when I first heard ‘Nighttime Birds’ because of its heavier stance, but not so heavy that it induced those special gothic feelings that ‘Mandylion’ was attached to at the hip. ‘Nighttime Birds’ was regarded as one of my least favourite records from this legendary Dutch band, but as time has ticked by, the record has started to slowly grow on me and nowadays, I regard it much higher than records like ‘If_Then_Else’, which actually pleased me the first time I had heard it. The difference between the two is extraordinary.
‘Nighttime Birds’ was the relinquishment of the metal sound and the younger sister of the strong ‘Mandylion’ which is regarded as a gothic classic and one of the ultimate influential records in existence within the genre. Though it certainly isn’t my favourite by The Gathering, that award going to ‘Souvenirs’, the obscenely lambent and luminous. So much so, it lit up the entire discography and put a different spin on the bands appeal, in my opinion. Not only that, but it spoke to me on a deeply affecting emotional level -- unlike most other records I have heard in my lifetime -- and with that, it became a mainstay in my top ten listened to bands and records for a number of years. In fact, when I look at my listening habits down the years, this record is the main reason behind the number of listens I’ve give to The Gathering. ‘Nighttime Birds’ has only really taken on an appealing façade over recent times, with the main turn-on being the beginnings of the bassists influence behind the band, which has only struck me since Kooijman’s arrival in 2004. As I’ve gone back to study the different eras of the band, although Anneke’s will always receive the most attention for the appeal of the bands sound, Kooijman and former bassist Geerligs were responsible for the most endearing segments of the soundscapes, really defining The Gathering’s sound. Songs on this particular single will indicate that with tremendous affect.
Take the alternative version of ‘Confusion’ here, which is a demo/eroc mix, whatever that means. This song really is driven by the bass and less so the guitars, or unexpectedly, the vocals of Anneke which have been slightly altered to accommodate a live feel to her voice. As a live entity, Anneke has always given strong performances. I’ve listened to the numerous live recordings the band has and the semi-acoustic evening really stands out from the faceless crowd. The band really know how to exert experimentation into their music, using subtle acoustics to reflect the divine ambiance and atmosphere that the band projects with minimal effort. Songs like this alternative version of ‘Confusion’ go as far as to suggest that The Gathering are one of the best performers live and this is a studio version as far as I’m aware! This song really does have a live sound to it, especially on keyboards, which is responsible for the echoing feel the music has and is even responsible for most of the symphonies that slowly move in and out of the limelight. I would go as far to say this edition of the song is actually better than the original, though I do like that version too. Other songs on this single state the obvious fact that The Gathering are a multi-talented band. This single consists of a bass driven Dead Can Dance cover, whom are a one of the most influential darkwave/gothic bands in the history of music and a Slowdive cover, whom are one of the most influential and pioneering shoegaze bands.
The use of such covers is a smart move on the part of the band, showing that they’re capable of living up to any expectations, perhaps even exceeding them, by choosing to do covers of well thought of songs from strongly supported bands like Dead Can Dance and Slowdive. Though I’m not a die-hard fan of either of these bands, I do have a soft spot for some of Slowdive’s songs, such as ‘Avalyn II’ and ‘Dagger’, which really drives a stake through the heart with its rocking emotional core that breaks the listener down. The Slowdive cover here, ‘When The Sun Hits’ is much more preferential than the original since I have actually heard this song. The spin that the female vocals puts on it is noteworthy and as Anneke is a fantastic vocalist, she’s probably one of the best to cover it. The Gathering’s instrumental take on these songs is well adapted and they’ve wisely put their own spin on them, not wishing to tread on the toes of the original artists. Though I’ve never listened to Dead Can Dance with much intent, I do appreciate these two covers as most singles tend to have nonsensical additions to them and The Gathering have been guilty in the past of contributing to that opinion, take ‘Monsters’ as your example. Though these covers are good, and adapted well for the purpose of your average metal/rock fan who follows the career of this long since formed Dutch band, they don’t compare to the bands own material, which will always stick out more and for overly positive reasons. A much better addition to the singles collection.