Seasoned fans of The Gathering will know that the band is all about change; they started out with a death and doom metal sound, merging male and female vocals, and on their third album brought in singer Anneke Van Giersbergen to approach a cleaner metal sound. For the next decade, their albums moved between a variety of genres, eventually ‘settling’ into their own created genre of Trip rock. Disclosure is the 2nd album with latest vocalist Silje Wergerland, and seeks to reach the more complex, expansive heights of previous albums, compared to the rather simple The West Pole.
‘Paper Waves’ opens the album and settles the listener in to the latest Gathering sound quickly. With jangling guitars and echoing drums, it is the most straightforward rock song on the album, but with a unique sound thanks to a great production. With swirling vocals merging with those jangling guitars, we get a fierce wall of sound which pulls you in and refuses to let go. Silje’s voice is at the forefront, a more ghostly, slight, dreamy sound than the sheer angelic power of Anneke. The song doesn’t simply rely on the same tricks, but offers enough refreshing moments throughout, from the sudden, powerful guitar riffs and piano additions, and packs in at least 4 strong melodies.
‘Meltdown’ starts with some funky, heavy drums, beats, and with dual male and female vocals. The first epic of the album, at over 9 minutes it bounces from the heavy dance style of the start, through a metal influenced middle, and on to a haunting, quiet close. With strong lyrics, accompanied by ethereal melodies, the opening half of the song, a massive attack of sounds, is a joy to behold. A sudden shift over the halfway point, takes the song in a completely different direction. The second half is the post-meltdown remorse, a soulful, sullen, prayer, a trumpet and soft vocal led which departs unending into the distance. Some may feel the song is a little stretched, but I find the more I listen to it, the more I want to listen again.
‘Paralyzed’ fades into view, a nice transition from the end of Meltdown. A haunting, slow paced track where the melodies wrap around each other, the lyrics a series of questions and thoughts covering a difficult, violent, relationship. An introspective, unsettling depiction of the mind of an abuse victim, it features a number of beautiful moments, and whose outro serves as a brilliant transition into the album’s best track.
‘Heroes For Ghosts’ is the second epic of the album, at nearly 11 minutes. Every second fortunately is perfection, with the band delivering one of their finest songs. With a mournful, brass led introduction, sounding like a military funeral salute, followed by a wonderful, Gilmour-esque guitar piece, the opening moments are awe-inspiring. More beautiful vocals follow, with the peak being a heartbreaking chorus. The spirit-like, floating music continues to chill and shatter our emotions until the song picks up pace before the halfway point. We move into an instrumental section, drum and trumpet led with pace and volume gradually increasing, given the sensation of a physical, or mental escape. More vocals collapse into the song, and a new range of brilliant melodies – the ending a mixture of anger, joy, relief, fear, and ecstasy.
‘Gemini I’ is another slow paced, moody track. Shimmering guitars, vocals shrouded in reverb and mist, it is an extension of the feelings of escape from a bad relationship – if the album can be seen as a concept album, then this is another glimpse of the main character being free, but looking back unable to fully escape. More than that, it features more gorgeous melodies, a forceful chorus compared to the bitter, soft verses, and exquisite vocals.
‘Missing Seasons’ is a short, piano driven song, a breather between the larger, at times exhausting tracks. Keeping the slow pace, and haunting melodies, it is a simple song, but one with melodies of extraordinary beauty. With one of the band’s most catchy choruses, it’s easy for this one to get lost among the larger tracks, but you’ll be missing out on one of the best.
‘I Can See Four Miles’ is the third and final epic, clocking in at over 9 minutes. Arguably the album’s most experimental track it features various distinct parts, with the opening featuring a gradual build of drums, bass riffs, and seemingly random guitar pieces. The song finds a loose structure once the vocals begin, but the emphasis is on ‘loose’. An off-kilter track for most of the opening, with organs, swirling backing vocals, and drums vanishing and re-materializing without warning, it is a chaotic melding of parts which all somehow fit together. About a third of the way through, the song shifts in focus, with sound bites, clashing guitar chimes, repeated pianos, and tribal drums with an Eastern tinge. The song continues to expand throughout the final 6 instrumental minutes with dramatic strings, and fantastic beats to create a euphoric climax.
‘Gemini II’ closes the album in an effective manner. Little more than a reworking of Gemini I, it continues the idea of being unable to escape your own memories and thoughts. Taking some of the central melodies of the first part, this one strips back the music even further, leaving Silje’s voice at the forefront. The vocals are not only more prominent, but louder, and more direct, as if making a final statement.
The Gathering’s 10th album is one which may take time to grow on the average listener, but once it clicks with you, you’ll recognise it as a fantastic album, one of the band’s best. In my ranking I’d say it’s their best since How To Measure A Planet, and indeed shares some similarities with that epic. It is a largely mellow, emotive rock album which will please long term fans, and will would resonate with a wider audience to fans of groups like Pink Floyd. While not a huge leap in terms of experimentation, it is instead a vast improvement over the last album in every department, taking the band back into that pantheon of artists who only seem to make quality with each release. While The West Pole was a transitional album due to a massive line-up change, and had a simple, middle of the road rock approach, Disclosure is an album which brims with confidence and which has allowed Silje to take control. From sprawling epics to moody rockers, Disclosure is a study of the band’s refusal to be placed in a box, and which should rank in any self-respecting music critics list of the best of the year.
Let us know in the comments what you though of Disclosure.