The Gathering – Home

I reviewed this album when it was first released on a blog and went into detail about how to me the whole album seemed like a journey through life and death. There is an overall pervading mood which conjured images of travelling through the Underworld, mythical style and coming into contact with lost souls before resurfacing. Whether this was partly intentional or whether this was my imagination going to unrelated places I’m not sure but now that I’m reviewing all of their albums again for Amazon I thought I would ditch what I see between the lines and focus on what remains. Home was recorded during a difficult period for the band- personal tragedies and hardships were occurring and it had been a few years since they had recorded anything new. The music has taken on a more minimal approach, there are no long songs here, and it may be their most commercial record, although the usual dark moments, experimenting, and self deprecating lyrics are exhibited.`Shortest Day’ opens the album, a mid tempo song pushed along by a steady beat and backed by a swelling guitar riff. Anneke sings in her usual melodic style, she doesn’t show off her powerful vocals or sensitive qualities yet but it is a good opener which has become a live staple. The shrouded effects at the end open the following track.`In Between’ flows along with a stunted guitar riff and a mix of low to high pitched vocals. Once again the lyrics are good, the tune melodic, but neither are particularly outstanding. The chorus shows some nice tricks by Anneke and there is a typically interesting bridge and middle section before the strange and unnerving climax which goes back and forth like an ocean ever approaching closer.

`Alone’ was the main single from the album and the intro sounds (like a few other parts of the album) OK Computer influenced. Once the main riff kicks in there is a `Souvenirs’ era dark and foreboding feeling. The guitar again has a Eastern tone to it and the verses are pushed along by a computerized thump, sounding like an army of robots marching forwards or a huge factory hammer squashing downwards. There is a good, simple guitar solo and an interesting fake string section before an extended ending which moves from soft back to that robotic thumping.

`Waking Hour’ is the best track here, and possibly the band’s best ballad; possibly Anneke’s best performance also. There is the familiar robotic effect controlling the rhythm of the verse, the chorus gives Anneke a chance to push her vocals to the limits, but it is the quiet middle section which makes the song something truly special. Every time this is performed live the crowd is in silenced awe as she does her thing, and there is usual an adoring few seconds of applause before the rest of the song continues. Again it is the range of emotions, the heartbreaking tenderness of it all which will make you freeze and listen and rewind and repeat. Just when you thought the song would end it goes on for a mellow, emotional, conclusion. Boeijen’s piano also deserves special mention on this track.

`Fatigue’ is a strange, mostly uneventful, mostly experimental song. It is less than two minutes long, has a couple of whispery vocals, and features some machine like noises growing and fading.

`A Noise Severe’ is another fairly mellow, laidback song. There is good bass here, some background distorted notes from Rutten, and some very good vocals from Anneke- beautifully melodic verses, and then a soaring `ooh’ chorus. This song in part symbolizes the live DVD package- one was loud, one was soft; this features both styles in almost equal servings.

`Forgotten’ is the second piano led ballad on the album and is just as effecting and gorgeous as the first. This time the structure is more straightforward- consisting of verse and chorus, Anneke and Boeijen. Everything reeks of sadness and regret again, loss and lonliness and rather than being in anyway depressing (like many detractors would claim of Radiohead) it is fragile and affirming.

`Solace’ begins to the sound of money perhaps hinting at wealth not bringing happiness and making one lonelier? The sounds of money and a chugging guitar drive the song forward, the drums coming in to match the beat. The vocals are okay here, the melodies not as catchy as others meaning the song won’t be remembered as fondly as most. The best part (and one which is memorable) is the fading out and back in `ooh ah’ part before the main beat returns.

`Your Troubles Are Over’ lifts things up with a quicker pace, with clear `There There’ Radiohead beats. The story style lyrics work well, the rhythm sounds like we are being rushed towards the finish line, and Anneke has a pretty simple job until the louder sections begin. As the instruments build and the drums get more prominent the song moves into a higher gear and we can jump about. This should really be a live favourite due it’s growing, bouncing nature, but I don’t think it is played very often.

`Box’ is marked by organ playing giving the song a church like tone, served well by Anneke’s usual angelic vocals to give an almost ethereal quality. This one seems to be left behind when people talk about this album, true there is nothing too special but can still be seen as a good album track with some nice twisting guitar work and an unusual hissing drum climax.

`The Quiet One’ begins wonderfully with Anneke’s voice accompanied by some light guitars. At some point along the way the song loses its grip but luckily it isn’t too long. It is a decent instrumental with a handsome guitar part in the middle.

`Home’ closes the album, another ballad, another success. This in retrospective could be seen as Anneke coming to a realization that she was ready to move on- she has given everything to her bandmates, been a massive part in their success as a band and as people. It speaks in a maternal, protective way of raising and setting free (though never fully leaving) a child or a friend. It has some of the band’s most melodic work, excellent strings, and of course flawless vocals and guitars. As an album closer it brings the journey to an end, finally reaching the place where everyone wants to be. More than any other song perhaps there are OK Computer influences as I am always reminded of `The Tourist’ when I hear this. Which is the better song will depend on you.

`Forgotten Reprise’ is a longer version of the earlier song, hidden at the end of the album. The main difference is that the piano is replaced by a strange keyboard sound and the vocals are more whispery. The chorus is changed and it is really only eighty seconds long while the ending is stretched out for minutes, repeating keys and church bells.

Home signals the end of an era; one of the best vocalists ever deciding to leave on of the best bands of all time. Both sides relied on each other and both would move on to new recordings. There is an air of sadness when returning to this album and any number of hidden messages can be found in the lyrics and music. Putting all that aside it is another different album by The Gathering once again trying something new, one again succeeding. While some songs don’t always have the impact they perhaps should those moments are more than covered by a few glittering classics. The line up from this era would go on tour and produce two amazing DVDs before finally parting- these are essential and feature many tracks from this album. Non-metal fans should appreciate this album more, but as with all of their albums I would encourage everyone to give it a try.

Tell it like it is!

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