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A contender for best goth metal album - 100%

goflotsam, April 24th, 2019

Gothic metal is a very divisive genre which has spawned many female-fronted cookie cutter bands in the years to come. Many will point to The Gathering's 1995 magnum opus Mandylion as a landmark album that started this trend. Long before Anneke van Giersbergen took over the mic, The Gathering was a death-doom band with a male and female vocalist. Pursuing a more melodic direction, Anneke was hired and The Gathering released this mammoth of an album.

Imagine writing riffs in 1995 that sound as doomy as Black Sabbath yet with an atmospheric yet crisp production provided by Century Media. These beautiful riffs are all over the album, but my favorite of these eight songs is "Leaves" which has a guitar solo that feels like it perfectly blends with the instrumentation. Other highlights include "Strange Machines" which has a really good riff section in the second half, "Eléanor" for its suspenseful cliffhanger mid-song, and the title track for being a really good instrumental in the gothic metal genre. The instrumental sections in the various songs on Mandylion are what I could consider mindblowing, and are probably on progressive metal levels of technicality. The drums and bass aren't used for speed and funkiness respectively and are instead used for atmosphere which benefits The Gathering's change in style.

Anneke van Giersbergen's vocals are some of the most beautiful vocals you'll ever hear, especially with the keyboards layered into the mix. However the ironic thing about Anneke's vocal performance is that she sings as if she's all happy and cheerful, but then in songs like "In Motion #1" which drops lyrics like

    Kill me with your thoughts
    Use your mind
    Hand me over to this world
    Into death...
you know something's up. The album is kind of like a goth metal version of Green Day if that's a good stretch. It's this kind of vocal performance that helped make Anneke a frequent collaborator of Devin Townsend. That's quite an achievement.

Although The Gathering ventured into a more progressive rock direction beginning with How to Measure a Planet?, Mandylion remains a major influence on the large bulk of female-fronted gothic metal to this day. The album's legacy has pretty much been cemented and will remain a classic in the gothic metal genre for the years to come. I would consider it a must-buy for any goth metal fan.