After listening to Home, the new record by The Gathering, one thing is instantly apparent; Anneke van Giersbergen is a siren whose entrancing vocals could stop traffic. The material is excellent and well executed. However, the centerpiece of the band is clearly the 28 year-old singer. There are so many highlights on this record, it’s hard to name them all.
The Gathering has been slogging away since 1989 building an ever-increasing fan base and getting stronger with each release. The Dutch band added vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen in 1994 and the results were immediate. Their next record, Mandylion was their biggest success thus far. Since then every record has found more ears who were more than eager to snatch up their atmospheric rock. Started by the Rutten brothers, René (guitars) and Hans (drums), the band also includes keyboardist Frank Boeijen and bassist Marjolein Kooijman.
With Home, the band has opted for a more straight-forward approach. Many of the ideas are simpler and more rooted in a traditional rock format. That is not to say, however, they have turned into Heart. The ambitious arrangements are still there and the songs themselves are not your average radio-fare. However, there are at least three cuts here that could find themselves onto mainstream rock-radio.
The band recorded this record in a small church in the tiny village of Maurik, a different way of working for the group. Evidently this approach paid off because the material is very tight and well performed. Sadly, the sessions were not without tragedy. The father of Hans and René passed away while making the band a meal at the church. Needless to say, this cast a pall on the project but the band persevered, releasing this record earlier this month.
There are 13 tracks on the record, all highlighted by the amazing vocals of Anneke. Opening with “Shortest Day”, the rock-ish quality of the cut is surprising. After René’s laser-beam guitar ushers in the song, the pounding drums of Hans keep everything in line. Anneke sounds awesome on this track with her voice soaring all over the track. The next cut “In Between” is in the same vein except it’s even better. I literally cannot stop playing this song. The song is great until it gets to the middle section where Anneke does this cascading vocal section that is simply eargasmic. René’s guitars kick in at just the right spots and the band expertly straddles a mid-level energy with some more crankin’ parts. This is just a phenomenal song.
“Alone” sees the band back in more familiar territory with a haunting atmosphere that alternates between several passages, all equally memorable. The spotlight is squarely on Anneke for “Waking Hour” one of the many highlights of the record. Over a gentle intro, she begins singing and you’re just spellbound for the entire song. The chorus is fantastic and this is purely one of the best songs they’ve ever recorded.
“A Noise Severe” is hypnotizing with a tranquil vocal that just builds into a meta-physical force by the end. “Forgotten”, “Box” and “The Quiet One” are all serene jewels. “Solace” starts off with some spoken word in Dutch running into another rock-ish cut that is placed correctly on the record to bring the energy level back up. “Your Troubles Are Over” begins with a vocal that recalls The Rankin Family. This song goes into a surprising more mainstream section that is really enjoyable. The record ends off with the title cut which has Anneke singing the lines in an off-rhythm to the guitar lines that works well. Her angelic vocals scrape the ceiling on some notes and once again you’re off in dreamland. “Forgotten Reprise” closes out the record, a half-song variation of “Forgotten” from the beginning of the record.
If you’re a fan of The Gathering, you might at first be a bit surprised by the more accessible nature of some of the cuts. However, the band has simply streamlined the approach this time out. They have not abandoned their roots and this is not a different sound by any means. If you’re a newer fan like me, you might be more open to the record. Either way, this is the best record by The Gathering so far. I was fortunate enough to see them in concert a month or so ago and the new material just smoked live. And if you ever get a chance to see them, go. Anneke appears on stage as the most happy-to-be-there performer I’ve ever seen. She’s like a conduit for the music, helpless to do anything else. And then there’s that voice…..