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Seeing as ‘The May Song’ is one of my favourite The Gathering classics -- and my individual favourite on the record it comes on -- taken from a record I didn’t previously enjoy too much but, thankfully, grew to appreciate with time ‘Nighttime Birds’, I decided a review on this single was in order seeing as its the review challenge, and this virgin hasn’t been deflowered as of yet. Whether I’ll knock the other singles out, I do not know just yet. After the last challenge, and listening to the incredibly unique ‘Monsters’ single with its surreal electronic base that took me back to my youth when I was a fan of simplistic trance, I had become interested to hear the singles that the band had released, especially the alternative versions to songs since ‘Monsters’ was offered in a contrary form to what most other The Gathering songs sound like, with the jazz-inspired bass leads and harmonious gothic-inspired famous female vocals from the glowing Anneke - who is on top form, as usual. Her voice isn’t at its ultimate best here, but is more mature and oozes sultry professionalism with lots of sex appeal - a great thing to have if you’re looking to sell gothic based records and other various releases, such as this single.
This single, ‘The May Song’ isn’t too dissimilar from the record versions of the songs.
The first two songs are precisely as they are on the full-length and are two of the strongest songs from it, in my humble opinion. Neither the radio edit, or the record version seem to deviate much from the original form, which confuses me slightly, since the song contributes to this single twice when it feels as if it doesn’t necessarily need to. If I had bought this single for the intensive purpose of listening to an alternative form of ‘The May Song’ itself, I would have been greatly disappointed. As it is, I’m glad I stuck to the full-length and not the single. The song is, as per usual, brilliant, but seeing as this a single that is meant to reflect its greatness, it feels incomplete and lackadaisical on the part of The Gathering, who’re working around patterns it seems in their careers. They somehow manage to release poor singles, or EP’s, but manage to pull of their best work on full-lengths. This single represents a small amount of the class we find on ‘Nighttime Birds’, the full-length effort, but its so minimal that its almost worth completely overlooking, unless you collect full discographies and if you do, then I feel sorry for you.
I suppose, if you’re going to want to perform to the highest standards you can, you want to do that on full-length record, not singles that contribute little to your overall discography but mere oven fodder, or something for the critics to mull over and crush with a war of words. Unfortunately, this single, as well as all the singles I’ve heard from these Dutch legends, do not reflect well. It makes them feel cheap, as if they’re only in it for the money it might potentially make them. Of course, this is their day jobs. They’re not about to turn away money, but it feels like the buyer is being scammed by an unfair deal. If it were not for the last song, I would totally write off this single and forget it ever existed! Given the fresh appeal of The Gathering after ‘Mandylion’ and how they transformed over night -- from a substandard death/doom band to a gothic rock band, with minimal metal intake -- this record was the beginning of the maturity and the letting go of all metal ties. The jovial, upbeat mood (particularly on the title track with its stuttering percussion and moving guitars) is strange in comparison to the downcast ‘Mandylion’, which exhibited relationship issues and bad moods.
The third song then, ‘Strange Machines’ is taken from the previous record, which is a cult classic these days, ‘Mandylion’. This song is a live version of the original, with a very unique edge to it, since it is performed alongside the Metropool Orchestra, who’s influence on the song is often subtle, but has actually increased my appreciation of the song with its symphonic styling that utilises string sections well and with a crescendo affect. We can hear the song slowly moving towards a robust ending with the strings contributing to great affect, and not necessarily on guitars (though the bass is fantastic as usual). There is even a startling wind section that supplies the listener with a fresh take on a classic, though it wasn’t such at the time of the release of this single. If I had heard this song before I had heard ‘Nighttime Birds’, I might have retained some apprehension, and closet excitement, when approaching the record. Whether or not I would have been disappointed with the record (though I was anyway) because it doesn’t include orchestral based soundscapes is unknown, though I imagine I would have had a totally alternate opinion of this surreal world The Gathering put us through on this rare, but special occasion. Worthless, for the most part, unfortunately.