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will this atmospheric gem ever be matched? - 96%

WitheringToSerenity, March 21st, 2004

The Gathering's Mandylion was truly a landmark release of epic proportions if there ever was one. Forget Lacuna Coil, Lullacry, Within Temptation, Nightwish, On Thorns I Lay etc... for a second. All are great bands granted but this is THE album set the standard for female fronted metal bands and still stands at the top of its game despite the numerous bands to utilize this style in the late 90's with their own fresh sound. What defines The Gathering's sound is mostly distorted, melodic riffs which alternate between quite heavy chord based guitar riffs and beautiful guitar harmonies. As well they use gorgeous keyboards which are an excellent compliment to their patent sound and most importantly the passionate, angelic vocals from Anneke van Giersbergen. Easily one of the top vocalists in this genre and ultimately the main reason for this bands success.

The Gathering's heavy yet simplified and incredibly atmospheric sound is an excellent combination with Anneke's charming yet NEVER over the top vocals. If there was one slight weakness in this album, I'd have to say the lyrics aren't as impressive as their sound but after hearing the music it is very easy to ignore this minor blemish. What is also so great about this album is the variety of fans this album could have attracted if it ever received more recognition. Surprisingly catchy and not quite instantly accessible but its good enough to give anyone who isn't insistent on pure speed in their music something to think about. I have a hard time recommending specific songs on this album because I think its truly as great as the rating I've indicated. The title track Mandylion and Sand and Mercury are more experimentive pieces that are not as similar to the rest of the album but set some of the most amazing atmosphere on the album as well as diversity which is never a bad thing. Sand of Mercury in an instrumental that has a stunning, almost surreal beauty that I have never seen matched(especially the ending solo). Favorite instrumental and possibly song of all time. Other standout tracks include Strange Machines, Eleanor, Fear The Sea but as far as I'm concerned this is not important because each track is excellent. If you are into heavy, atmospheric female fronted music or interested in it I wouldn't just recommend downloading it first, but to outright buy it immediately. Its that good.