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Needs Rescuing. - 60%

Perplexed_Sjel, November 27th, 2008

‘Superheat’ is where the live recordings began for The Gathering. I’m not entirely sure where this version was recorded, but it is certainly less emotive than the amazing semi-acoustic work of ‘Sleepy Buildings’ and less intense than the chaotic ‘A Noise Severe’, which was recorded in front of a fanatical Chilean crowd who certainly made their presence felt. At times, one could be forgiven for not knowing that this is a live recording because, as per usual (I’m sure someone must be getting sick of hearing this), Anneke’s performance is dazzling despite not being as strong as it is on the other two live records. ‘Superheat’ consists of 10 songs, only two of which I’d rate highly; ‘Electricity’ and ‘Marooned’, both of which I have loved on live and studio recordings. The selection for this record may not be the strongest, but still demonstrates why The Gathering are in the position they are and why they manage to draw in large crowds whenever they tour or play general gigs worldwide, even across continents like South America, which one doesn’t think of in association to The Gathering’s wide ranging appeal. The selection of songs for this recording is the main problem as none of the ‘top drawer’ songs, in my opinion, are present on this piece. I do, however, enjoy this live recording for what it is, but would have liked more influence from the crowd. On ‘A Noise Severe’ the crowd were bouncing. The electricity of the crowd flowed through my headphones and into my body, sending shivers down my spine and causing me to feel like I was actually there. On ‘Sleepy Buildings’, the session was more intimate and cosy. ‘Superheat’ doesn’t draw any of those feelings on which is disappointing. It sounds rather distant and disassociated from the listener. Its cold and unloving. There are a vast array of emotions on offer, particularly displayed through the bassist, who has come on in leaps and bounds during the recent years that this record was released, but performances are restricted by the indirect nature of the record. There is an obscurity to The Gathering which hasn’t been felt since the early doom days when the band encompassed a sound which didn’t cater to their needs.

I’m not entirely fond of songs like ‘Probably Built In The Fifties’, although it does contain some entrancing vocals, which concerns me because songs like this make me question the direction of the recording. I assume the song selection wasn’t processed at random, so I’m left wondering why certain songs were included into the mix when there are better songs available. However, this decision to include songs like ‘Probably Built In The Fifties’ allows The Gathering to include other, more prominent songs on later efforts, which is a positive after effect of this record. One must also take into consideration that the live recording was done when some of The Gathering’s best material was merely in the pipeline, or not even released at all. Despite taking note of these things, one is still disappointed by the song selection, though one cannot really falter the musicianship though, having said that, Anneke’s vocal performance isn’t as strong or convincing emotionally as it usually is (see ‘Liberty Bell‘ for an example of her tired sounding vocals), especially on live recordings. With ‘Sleepy Buildings’ I truly got the essence of the record, its direction was clear and the path was unblocked allowing the emotiveness to stream through to the listener as clear as a bird singing in an undisturbed landscape, the sound echoed across the wilderness, spraying it with mellifluous musings that made the soundscapes truly beautiful. Even ‘A Noise Severe’ had more appeal. It had a spark and an edge that gave off a powerful controlling feel. The usual suspects that make The Gathering a hit are weakened by the closed off feel. The bass is the only element of brilliance that exists on the record in the clearest form. Even the keyboards aren’t as impacting as they normally are, only coming into the foreground on occasions to fill certain gaps which have been left by its isolated and obscured sound. Even the songs I consider to be the better tracks by The Gathering which exist on this record don’t provide the much needed relief from the removed and restricted soundscapes, songs like the aforementioned ‘Marooned’. As far as live recordings go, this isn’t terrible by any means, its just mediocre in comparison to the other two and against the high standards they set themselves.