The Gathering - _How to Measure a Planet?_
(Century Media, 1998)
by: Pedro Azevedo (
What usually happens whenever a band establishes a considerable fan base through a certain musical style (_Mandylion_ and _Nighttime Birds_) and then ventures into unpredictable realms of experimentation is that some fans will be terribly disappointed and some others amazed at how the band managed to conquer the borders of their previous style. And then, of course, a few will consider that these new realms also contain musical quality, but simultaneously ask if it was really necessary to go this far and lose so much in the process -- wasn't there a better level of equilibrium between what's gained through experimentation and the loss of old characteristics? A lot of electronic sounds have been thrown into _How to Measure a Planet?_, together with experiments using several different instruments. Most of the music is also much softer than before, giving Anneke's voice more room -- which is by no means surprising. Speaking of Anneke van Giersbergen, The Gathering's highly gifted singer hasn't lost any of her qualities, as one would expect, and her voice is by far what I find most interesting in this album. The rest of the music doesn't do much to become the center of the listener's attention most of the time, although there are a few exceptions; The Gathering have overall disappointed me in the heavier sections ("Rescue Me", for example, has some very good softer components, but the heavier instrumental part towards the end of the song is mediocre) and the new electronic sounds are usually very superfluous. But what is truly annoying is finding those parts of the album that show just how great it all could have been, in "Red Is a Slow Colour", "Travel" and a few others, because most other songs aren't really very remarkable, except for Anneke's vocals. The double CD edition of the album totals over 100 minutes, almost half of which is on the bonus CD (which includes a nearly half hour long ambient track). For those of you who are into ambient experimentation, this could be a jewel; but for me, some important ingredients are missing, although I'd settle for an album that would just have much more of the kind of passages that I mentioned above.
(article published 1/16/1999)
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