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"This is a re-review of The Gathering’s ‘Nighttime Birds’, the Dutch legends fourth studio full-length, and another evolving record. When I initially came across ‘Nighttime Birds’, I was hugely disappointed. I remember the time well. I had heard ‘Mandylion’, my first record from The Gathering, and was impressed with it, therefore I decided to check the rest of the band’s material out, expecting it all to be similar to one another. I was in for a shock. ‘Nighttime Birds’ is extremely different to ‘Mandylion’ and every other record The Gathering have produced. This Dutch band have evolved from a lowly doom metal band, who were given much criticism for their amateurish sound, to this, an atmospheric gothic/rock band. The transformation was sudden, to me, as I didn’t follow the bands transition from doom to gothic rock, or even their career at all to begin with. Having picked up on The Gathering in 2005, or so, I was out of my depth and the impact of ‘Mandylion’ on my life, as well as my journey through metal, was immense.
So, to hear ‘Nighttime Birds’, a far different record to the aforementioned, and the one’s after it that I also loved, I was shocked and disappointed. The more aggressive style didn’t suit my needs, having heard records like ‘How To Measure A Planet?’ before it. I was taken aback and felt as if this record lacked a certain punch, as well as any characteristics that set it apart from other bands of a gothic nature, bands like the lacklustre Lacuna Coil, or the lackadaisical Nightwish, both of which I’m not fond of. ‘Nighttime Birds’ originally struck me as lacking in creative juices but, in actual fact, this is a creative piece and a good one at that. Musically and emotionally I have matured. I have discovered what it is I like and why it is I like it. This very fact has established The Gathering as a sort of coming-of-age band for me. As my tastes evolved, The Gathering evolved with them and kept me satisfied for a number of years, in fact, they still do. It remains to be seen whether the Dutch outfit can maintain it’s fan base due to the departure of Anneke, but regardless of that, this material will always exist, stretching out into history and beyond. Tracks like ‘The Earth Is My Witness’ with it’s fanciful ambitious nature establish the Dutch act as a experimental band without many limitations.
‘Nighttime Birds’ is, as aforementioned, a lot more aggressive than it is progressive in it’s structure. To me, this record represents a new era for The Gathering. ‘Mandylion’ should be viewed as experimental, sure, but also a naïve effort. The band weren’t as established as musicians as they are now, or even when this effort was put out. One can tell that The Gathering have managed to find their sound and are shaping it into a form that suits their needs, as well as the audiences. Again, vocally, this record is strong. Anneke is known as one of the finest female vocalists in the industry, and even outside of it where she is involved in now. Although she may be participating in projects outside of this band, I will always remember her for her performances with The Gathering as they’re so pivotal to the band, and her reputation as a leading artist. ‘Nighttime Birds’, to me, doesn’t represent her best work (that would be on ‘How To Measure A Planet?’) but it does symbolise her own personal transformation as a singer. She has developed her own emotive style which, when situated next to the instrumentation, is neigh on perfection.
Songs like ‘The May Song’ with it’s fantastically bass driven soundscapes and stunning mellifluous leads, conquers over my initial perceptions of this record. From being largely disappointed, songs like this indicate to my fragile sense of knowledge, the inner and outer essences that make The Gathering as good as they most definitely are. The bass, for example. I never really took much notice of their bassist at first, not until recently actually, but now, wow. His performance on this record is top notch. The bass is always audible, due to the crystal clear production, and often leads the soundscapes by the hand on even more evocative emotional journey’s. Whilst it is important to recognise the fact that The Gathering consist of more elements other than the vocals, it is still imperative to recognise the impact of the vocals. Instrumentally, this record is far from perfect, but it encompasses an astral sound, which makes me feel both nostalgic and reflective over my life, that is what makes this record a cut above the rest.