Sunday, 20 September 2015

The Gathering "Mandylion" (1995)


Casting my mind back across through all the years this record has been with me, time may have gotten the best of my memory. How I found this band is hazy but of the ten plus years Ive been listening to them this record has always been a real treasure. The Gathering are a Dutch band with a patchy history of style and direction that started with a Death / Doom Metal debut that would be short lived as the group progressed through different Metal sounds before switching to Progressive and Alternative Rock after this record. In their beginnings they had trouble securing the right front man before uniting with Anneke Van Giersbergen who's voice is a free spirit with a charming purity and spirited power.

Despite the line up changes and wandering direction, on their third record, Mandylion, The Gathering created a magical record complete in concept and bearing. Anneke is the star of the show, her voice glides freely over the music, dazzling and mesmerizing with every word she utters. She guides the emotional narrative of the songs through the lows and highs with an impeccable range that gets the feels running every time. So soft and pleasant yet powerful and moving, soaring at times. Even though shes the star, the instrumentals are on an elevated level too, captivating, inspired music which we have the pleasure of hearing them both firing on all cylinders with a unique vision and chemistry that creates a "place".

The instrumental compositions are deceptively simple, aiming for an easy to digest experience with an approach to riffing and symphonics that pieces together simple ideas, often repetitive in delivery but with quality in mind over fleshing the songs out with needless complexities. The gorgeous aesthetic of the mix and Anneke's voice chime together to create a spirited and organic sound with another world feel that strays far from its metallic roots. The guitars have a tight tonal distortion thats played for its texture as the riffs take a far from aggressive approach, focusing on simple drawn out chords and melodies. The dense symphonies intertwine and weave around one another, allowing the two to both guide the songs, either in turn or together and its a real treat when all three fire with Anneke's voice.

On the track "Mandylion" the electronic instruments strike up a rich atmosphere of tribalism cultures and natural spirit that evokes vivid images of a forgotten meaning of humanity and our ancestors. Its a powerful track, but this power is their throughout the record, working with the guitars and drums which sound big and commanding on this record, holding together the pacing like a sturdy strut. The snare has a sharp and dense tone that sounds great in the mix alongside some big and yet not overpowering symbols that crash away prominently. The bass guitar has a big and warm tone that gets plenty of exercise under the guitars, not always mirroring them and adding a rooted variety that doesn't have much impact, but sounds great when its noticed.

 Its a special record to me, one that gives me a ton of inspiration, especially Anneke's voice which always gives me goosebumps. Listening to it again reminds me of all the times I used to play my guitar along with it and the youtube videos of them playing live in the 90s with Anneke dancing on stage with a youthful innocent energy that would captivate the crowd. Its a real gem, a beautiful and unique blend of Symphonic Metal with a tinge of Gothic on the side that I've never heard anything quite alike. Can't praise this one enough, its as perfect as it gets.

Favorite Tracks: Strange Machines, Eleanor, Leaves, Mandylion
Rating: 10/10

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