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A New Beginning... - 93%

Uom, May 28th, 2004

After years mired in obscurity, The Gathering fully takes its form on Mandylion. In place of the style that flirted with the doomdeath genre, the band’s music become more accessible and natural, thanks largely in part of the vocal duties handled by new-recruit, diamond-in-the-rough Anneke Van Giersbergen. Her addition to the band fueled a redemptive fervor in the music, as this album transformed the music of the Gathering, in place of a more ethereal, soulful music. Considering the musical climate during the mid-90s, Mandylion was stunningly invigorating and powerful during its initial release.

What makes this album so amazing is Anneke’s grand and majestic voice that complements the music. The vocals on past albums don’t reach the level that she has with the music, because she was able to flesh out the real emotion that the Gathering wasn’t able to show on its previous releases, thus giving the songs more life and power that it should actually have. Although she doesn’t boast the operatic qualities that make Flor Jansen and Tarja Turunnen technically skillful with their set of pipes, she does possess the charm that some completely lack with their delivery. Tracks like ‘Strange Machine’, ‘In Motion’, and ‘In Motion #2’ show how capable Anneke is. Her soulful yet dreamy vocals on ‘Strange Machine’ makes the music so vivd and yearning with hope and passion, with line such as ‘I wandered in centuries in a lifetime’, seem so haunting and memorable. Her performances on both ‘In Motion’ and ‘In Motion #2’ are as equally compelling and riveting, showcasing her emotion upfront with the music, baring the naked beauty of her poignant delivery. Painful, powerful and exalting all at once, these tracks are some of the band’s band moments ever.

That is to say, the band is no slouch either. The dichotomy of Anneke’s dreamlike vocals, and the heavy, crushing atmosphere provided by the other members provides a unique and distinct sound that was needed during that time. They do not drown each other in creating the feel of the music, and most especially, the Metal elements of the music did not hinder the development of the lucid impression that they were trying to accomplish, thanks also to the production job of the album. The double-bass portion of ‘Eleanor’, the riff-heavy ‘Fear the Sea’ creates beautiful harmony with the ethereal essence that is charged in their songs. The keyboards stabilizes, and does not subdue, the hard edges of the music by remaining prevalent throughout the songs, providing a welcomed atmosphere that helps the music in its approach. Aside from these tracks, ‘Sand and Mercury’ and the title track goes out a limb and utilizes various instrumentations and progressive influences to further delve into the hypnotic trance set by the music.

Haunting, riveting, and euphoric all at once, Mandylion needs to be heard. The surge of sonic rapture in listening to tracks ‘Strange Machines,’ ‘In Motion,’ ‘In Motion #2,’ is meant not only to be heard, but experienced. Regardless of musical genre the Gathering crosses with this album, Mandylion is simply stunning.