Coming hot on the heels of their exceptional 10th album, Afterwords is a bonus album featuring reworked cuts from Disclosure and a small number of new tracks. Fans hoping for more of the same after Disclosure are likely to be disappointed, so I’ll make it clear from the outset that the majority of this album are experimental, simplified versions of some former tracks, focusing perhaps on a particular single motif or idea, and giving it an electronic, ambient overhaul – most of these tracks are unrecognizable when compared with their counterparts. I’d say that this is one for the die-hard fans, while more casual fans may be left frustrated.
‘SIBALD’ opens the album, a fine ambient track which could have made the same impact at 1 or even two minutes shorter. There isn’t much to say about it – it’s a peaceful, ethereal piece with some fine trumpet work and melodic pieces.
‘Echoes Keep Growing’ opens well with whispered, distorted string based sounds before familiar vocals from I Can See Four Miles come in. Again, there isn’t any need for this to be almost 7 minutes, when much of the introduction could have been condensed, and when a bulk of the song is basic repetition. After the halfway mark, the song takes on a heavier sound, with heavily distorted guitar sounds taking control, but again this swirls, builds, and repeats until the end.
‘Areas’ is the first new, non-experimental track, a cool little track which will grow on you with subsequent listens. With the repetitive cricket-like (the insect, not the sport) sounds, flickering guitars, and simple melodies and lyrics, it’s a pleasant listen which doesn’t tax the listener. This isn’t a track which sounds much like other Gathering songs, so it probably fits well here. Being a cover of an early 80s synth song by New Musik, it works well alongside the other more experimental tracks.
‘Afterwords’ is easily the best song on offer, with wonderful, clean vocals from original Gathering singer Bart Smits. Sounding like a lost Depeche Mode track, this one has a great, dark tone to it, searing verse melodies, and a fine chorus once it erupts. Again, it may not be one which will capture you upon first listen, but it didn’t take long before it grew on me. It’s another song which doesn’t sound like what we expect from The Gathering, but as any Gathering fan knows – you shouldn’t expect anything from the band except brilliance.
‘Tuning In, Fading Out’ is a reworking of Missing Seasons, taking one of the more prominent lyrics from that song, and repeating them through a new electronic landscape. It’s a decent enough track, but difficult to recommend it as something you’ll wish to listen to frequently, though it is one of the stronger edits on offer here.
‘Gemini III’ – is another piece to the Gemini puzzle, using a lot of the same ideas, melodies, and lyrics from part 1 and 2. This one is a stripped down piece, with some chugging guitars added, and less of a focus on backing noise to let the vocals soar. Incidentally, someone on YouTube has added all 3 parts together for an interesting 14 minute listen. Another decent track, but again not essential if you already have Disclosure, more of a nice cult addition.
‘Afterlights’ is a short 2 minute track, a keyboard and organ led instrumental piece which is fine by itself, but works as introduction for the next track.
‘Sleep Paralysis’ is a distorted, vibrating remake of Paralyzed. It starts well enough, with a steady beat and angelic backing vocals. This basic idea gets stretched out over the next few minutes, but rather than acting as a distinct piece, it will have you wanting to put on the original instead. There is quite a racket caused by the end of the song, depending on my mood I take this as annoying, or pretty damn groovy. Again, only one for the hardcore fans.
‘Barenfels’ is a remake of the brilliant Heroes For Ghosts, but greatly condenses the many ideas, sounds, and emotions from that song into a more simplified, yet still epic piece. At over 8 minutes, it’s shorter than the original, and has a number of notable changes – the addition of spoken pieces, the stripping away of most of the music, vocals, and melodies of the original, and switches around the structure quite a bit – for example, the glorious opening trumpet piece from Heroes For Ghosts comes at the halfway point here. From that point, the song collapses into an unusual mixture of repeated riffs and rumbling drums, with some varied vocals thrown in to make something unique. A shorter length may have made this one a bit stronger as I’m less inclined to listen to an 8 minute track when there is so much repetition.
Like most of The Gathering’s Eps or bonus type albums, this one isn’t as essential as the ‘main’ albums. Areas and Afterwords are strong tracks, but the other songs range from one-off curios to average. Each one has some good moments, but the experimental nature means that most fans will be put off and will prefer to listen to something more mainstream, for lack of a better term. The band wanted to create a distinct atmosphere with this collection, and they succeed, but as a collection of songs that the listener will wish to listen to on repeat, it doesn’t work.