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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.