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Beginning Of A New Era. - 85%

Perplexed_Sjel, September 12th, 2007

Transformation ... Transition ... Transfiguration. What ever tag you wish to put on it. Mandylion, the third full-length album by Holland's The Gathering is a significant album in both the history of the band and to the face of alternative music. The Gathering went through a major shake up during this period and introduced the fans to the new face of the band, Anneke van Giersbergen, who went on to turn around the fortunes of this band who were gaining some criticism over their previous two full-length releases. I think it's rather unfair to the other members of the band to say that Anneke single handily transformed the band and gained them the recognition they perhaps deserved. She is often seen as the spark behind the band and even though her vocals are great and even though the band's fortunes DID change when she became the front woman, I personally say that it was due to a complete regeneration in terms of vocals and the music itself which gave The Gathering the status they duly deserve today.

Mandylion, as previously stated, signified a regeneration of the band in every way, shape and form. The band had just begun to shift away from the death/doom metal status they once were to a more gothic/rock style they play today. I'm not so sure that Mandylion was the pivotal moment in the career of The Gathering, but it was certainly one of them. It signified a dramatic change in vocal styling with Anneke taking control with her beautiful voice. Her quite terrific soulful voice hits deep with it's emotional feel and fantastic ability to be able to stir emotions from within us. The Gathering use her voice to harness their lyrical themes to the best of their abilities. Her voice quite aptly depicts the lyrical themes. Without even knowing the lyrics you can feel the emotional torment and anguish felt from within. The often long passages of slow and melodic riffs help contribute to the overwhelming emotive feel. The strong songwriting and musicianship is a great backbone to the album and allows the listener to fully appreciate what is unfolding before them. Although there are some mediocre moments during the album, it is generally quite enjoyable to listen to. Certain songs lack the edge and power to really stand out. They're somewhat overshadowed by other songs, thus making them slightly insignificant to the proceedings. This detracts from the overall view I have on the album as a whole. However, I take into account that the band was going through a transitional period and thus this can be seen as a somewhat experimental start. Though having said that, each of The Gathering's albums after this one have been different. Mandylion probably represents the more aggressive and forceful era of The Gathering's career as it contains a certain edge, perhaps due to the different style of production.

The use of the Synthesiser is quite important to me. It adds a certain depth to the atmospheric nature of the music. It acts as an entrancing background to the overlapping melodies that the riffs create, the subtle drums that can often become quite catchy and the powerful vocals. I hate to say that people shouldn't focus all their attentions on the vocals as this is a female fronted band and that is how people generally tend to operate, but I cannot harp on enough over Anneke's beautiful voice. It's a shame she's departed the band, but hopefully the band can turn this departure into a positive. Afterall, it is the musicians who contribute most to the music, not the vocalist. Female vocals are generally not something I enjoy, so that may be a problem for certain people upon listening to this album. I suggest listening with an open mind.

Highlights are 'Eléanor', 'In Motion # 1' and 'Leaves'. Three songs which even today remain amongst my favourite songs from the band.