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MOR for the alt-rock crowd - 60%

caspian, June 10th, 2010

Not entirely sure why I bought this really, I enjoy much of The Gathering's material but I've never really been head over heels in love with them, and generally live DVD's (except for Cliff 'Em All) are reserved for bands I have a major boner for, because you generally watch them twice through at most and then just put a song on now and then. Anyway, onto the review.

It's funny, the little blurb on MA has this as "A collection of The Gathering's heavier material" or something along those lines. I guess I never really realised just how, well, non-heavy most of their stuff is. There's a few moments where a proper riff will actually appear, or at least things'll get rather depressing and loud, but none of it gets above "loud rock band" type heavy. Indeed, a lot of it tends towards a sort of alt-rock MOR thing, just sort of plodding along. Suffice to say I struggled to play the whole thing through without just picking and choosing favourite songs.

Things pick up a lot more in the last half of the set; again I would never say it gets "heavy" but after the rather cool title track of the album, the better songs come on; 'On Most Surfaces' is some pretty cool sort of rocky stuff, 'Eleanor' has some rather nice dynamics and a deft usage of double kick, and 'In Motion' has this rather nice laid back doom-y feel to it. It's arguably some sort of doom metal, albeit the least heavy type you could possibly imagine. Most of the songs have been dicked around with somewhat too; there's a lot of deviation from the studio versions, which is a pretty good thing. Indeed, most of the songs here have some rather nice moments; a sublimely arranged instrumental section, some celestial vocals from Anneke, even just a groovy bass line for a bit (on the subject of bass; it's high in the mix but low on the visuals; we hardly ever see the bass player). All in all the band wants to sound like a rocky slowdive, Anneke wants to sound like Lisa Gerrard. There's worse combinations, definitely.

Poo-pooing must be done, though. It's pretty obvious that all the musicians here are extremely capable on their instruments, they're good arrangers, songwriters and so on, so it's super frustrating when they limit themselves to what is pleasant, occaisonally good, but rather bland alt-rock. A few moments aside, things rarely grip you here; there's just not really all that much emotion, just some competently played layers of smooth-ness. A slightly nastier guitar tone, a longer, deeper mellow section or two, some more forceful vocals, perhaps a bit of unhinged-ness certainly wouldn't go astray. Basically, they're properous Europeans and it shows through a bit too much. In general the whole package- the band's stage presence, the visual production, the music- is just way too polished.

That said, there are some good songs here and I'll probably play my favourite songs on here fairly often. This isn't a bad DVD and Gathering fans will love it. One final note, though: Anneke's "swing my arms around for a whole song" dance thing is REALLY bad, she does it all the time in the DVD, and thus I'm taking 10 points off for it.

A Noise Severe. - 80%

Perplexed_Sjel, November 26th, 2008

‘A Noise Severe’ is the latest live record from the Dutch contingent, The Gathering. The sad fact is as I never got to see The Gathering in the flesh, this is the closest I will come to seeing Anneke perform with the band live. Of course, I could always opt to see her perform in her new band, Agua de Annique but it just isn’t the same. Although I do like Agua de Annique, I do not share the same consuming passion for that band as I do this band, particularly with Anneke at the helm. I don’t for one second believe that she made this band what it was, but she certainly had an influence on the direction that the band took considering her vocals were always the main source of inspiration behind the music. I’m not aware of her influence behind the scenes in terms of the instrumentation, but she must have had some say when it came to instrumental direction too. Of course, I do credit her and believe she is a tremendous vocalist, particularly shown on the live records such as ‘A Noise Severe’, but there are other performers alongside her who deserve just as much credit as she does, particularly the bassist, Marjolein Kooijman.

So, although the music will obviously sound far different tomorrow than it did yesterday, there are still positives to the situation. For example, once again, the performance of Marjolein Kooijman is exquisite. The song writing suggests that The Gathering have come an awfully long way since the days of the first demos, which were decent, but amateurish in comparison. The bass is a thoroughly enjoyable aspect of this record. It exists throughout as an underlying feature that draws out much of the emotive soundscapes, which swirl above our heads like an oncoming storm of painful emotions. As a member of the audience myself, let there be rain! ‘A Noise Severe’ comes in two separate CD’s. The first, which contains more songs, is the better half, but the second, contains two lengthier songs; the awesome and emotive ‘Travel’ with its brilliant keyboards and the legendary ‘Black Light District’. ‘A Noise Severe’ is the third live recording and the second that I’ve heard, although I do plan on reviewing ‘Superheat’ for this review challenge too (hopefully - motivational issues aside), since it has yet to be covered by Metal Archives reviewers. This means that ‘Sleepy Buildings’ was the first time I had heard The Gathering live (but sadly not in the flesh).

‘Sleepy Buildings’ seems to act as a metaphor for the content of the record. We are the buildings, standing tall and proud in our support for these Dutch masters, and sleepy is what the atmosphere was like. Of course, I do not mean in a boring or tedious manner. I simply mean that ‘Sleepy Buildings’ was a semi-acoustic live session that embodied a relaxed environment in which The Gathering worked their magic in. It was a sedated look into the minds of these musicians and was a splendid indication into what this band could achieve, in varied atmospheres. This live record is a lot different. Its more aggressive and pressing upon its audience, especially those present whom are very vocal on this recording. I’m unsure as to when it was recorded, but one would imagine it was just after the release of the successful ‘Home’, the last studio full-length with Anneke covering the vocal department. The description states that, of all places, this recording is taken from a gig in Chile where I see the support for this Dutch delight is bordering on delirium. The Chilean fans are vocal, as stated, throughout this piece and its a significant indication of the nature of this particular live recording. Its bouncy, it’s happy and it’s delirious.

Much of this comes from the crowd, but the instrumentation does provide a certain vibe with it too. Mainly caused by the ambiance of the keyboards, which are another central figure (but more so on the studio records) and the never ending bass lines that stream into our minds like a raging river. In comparison to ‘Sleepy Buildings’, this live recording isn’t as effective but that’s simply because a different approach was taken for this particular record. Do I rate ‘Sleepy Buildings’ higher than this? Yes. The emotional attachment to ‘Sleepy Buildings’ is easier to establish because of the quaint and small gathering that took place when it was recorded. The atmosphere is special on that live recording. That doesn’t mean to say it isn’t on this record because, on songs like the title track ‘A Noise Severe’, the crowd quiets down and allows the band to project their emotionally draining sound. To have experienced this live would have been a treat. The adrenaline rush when the instrumentation picks up from a slow movement, to a faster, more vocal display would have been difficult to stay quiet during. Thankfully, this recording does contain all the positive that the individual songs have on the full-length recordings. S

ongs like the classic ‘Leaves’ with its whirling ambiance and sing-a-long lyrics is brilliant in comparison to the melancholic ‘Waking Hour’. There is a juxtaposition on this record that makes it unfold in a truly unique way, but again, it pales in comparison to the emotional ‘Sleepy Buildings’ with its love for closed-off isolation and solitude. There is a catchier theme to this record though, which differs from ‘Sleepy Buildings’. Much of the content requires an exuberant listener who is willing to sing the lyrics along to each song because of the happy vibe that flows throughout the songs, from one to another, being carried by the surge of adrenaline. The crowd sings to the songs, so why shouldn’t we at home? Anneke’s vocal performance is as strong in person, it seems, as it is on studio records, another reason in which to give The Gathering credit. Her voice is superb live, on record and where ever else we fucking hear it. Its a matter of fact, not one of life’s growing mysteries. ‘A Noise Severe’ is a collection of live recordings that every fan of The Gathering should own, simply put.