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Good Followup - 90%

Uom, March 20th, 2006

Exhilarating, crushing yet beautiful; a lot of words can be associated with the Gathering’s fourth output, Nighttime Birds. Following in the footsteps of its predecessor, Mandylion, the Gathering retained the approach in its music: weaving a tapestry of dreamy waves, the mesmerizing atmosphere of colliding guitar riffs and thriving drumbeats, coupled with the rich sound of keyboards and the touch of amazing female vocals, unified in unmasking the beautiful secret that is the Gathering. The main difference that this has with its precursors is that it rocks harder on most tracks. Opener ‘On Most Surfaces’ and ‘Third Chance’ display their rock chops, as it clearly shows the band intent on rocking your socks off…
…which leads to the problem of this album. One cannot help to feel that Anneke’s voice is not completely comfortable with some of the hard-edged track on the album. Unlike Mandylion, where even the heavy parts gracefully dance with Anneke’s vocals, the rock-heavy tracks somehow limit the vocals into long howls and oooooh-aaaaahhhhs. Not bad by any means, but the magic found in Mandylion is obviously wearing thin in this album.
With that out of the way, what carries the album are the soft songs, which clearly exhibits the band’s talent of coming up with catchy hooks and memorable passages. Single ‘The May Song’ is a moving, yearning song, a little lovelorn on the verse but eventually releases a surge of energy come chorus time. The title track is a sprawling masterwork, again building with soft, gentle verses, courtesy of Anneke’s searing vocals, but crushes with emotive fury of the rhythm and the drowning effect of the keyboards. Finale ‘Shrink’ emanates a desolate relief that only the Gathering can do, where Anneke’s haunting passages and harmonies are accompanied by doom-like keyboards.
I would oblige you to purchase a copy if you are into brooding, passionate, and stunning music. Recommended.