The Gathering - Home
Psychonaut Records
Atmospheric Rock
13 songs (60:25)
Release year: 2006
The Gathering, Psychonaut Records
Reviewed by Ken

The Gathering—if you didn’t already know—began their career as a gothic death band, then on their first full-length releases they progressed to a more doom-death style. Musically they were a slow, plodding doom metal band with a slight progressive lean similar to early Amorphis. The vocals were the typical death growls common to the genre until their second full-length. They released two demo EPs, An Imaginary Symphony and Moonlight Archer, that were more of a gothic death sound, heavier, faster and more aggressive. Then came the two full-length albums, Always… and Almost A Dance, under the prototypical doom-death style—one album with death vocals, the other with clean, more doom-like vocals—before seemingly reinventing themselves on their 1995 breakthrough album, Mandylion.

Musically not a whole lot changed, but with the removal of the male vocals (guttural and clean), and the addition of the godly female vocals of Anneke van Giersbergen, they sounded like a completely different band. Surely fans of the previous releases were dumbfounded, but it was hard to deny the sheer brilliance and beauty of Mandylion. Nighttime Birds followed with much of the same success. Then came yet another twist in the tale of The Gathering, that twist was the two-disc How The Measure A Planet?, an atmospheric rock masterpiece filled with ambience, keyboards, slow-moving guitar rhythms and a myriad of sounds far removed from the band’s previous work and musically more in line with the legendary Pink Floyd; on this album Anneke’s vocals were in full bloom, unlike previous albums where her voice worked within the music, on this album the music works within and throughout her majestic melodies. Then came If_Then_Else and again the band evolved, taking the qualities of How To Measure A Planet? and adding some heavier guitars and more driving rock sound. It’s all relative, though, as it was still a far cry from Mandylion and Nighttime Birds. Skipping the experimental Black Light District EP, Souvenirs was next in line and was a close companion to If_Then_Else. Those hoping that these two heavier, more rock-oriented albums would lead them back to that Mandylion sound will have to continue waiting.

It seems that this band works in pairs: two gothic death demos, two doom-death albums, two gothic doom albums, the two-disc progressive rock opus, and then two atmospheric rock albums.

Welcome Home.

Once again The Gathering has taken their craft, dismantled it and put it back together using a different instructions manual. But like their previous albums, Home may sound a little different, at the end of the day they’ve not traveled too far. Sure, comparing this album to Always… would be like comparing Michael Jackson’s face today to his face in the Seventies, but in the progression of the band this is just a slight nose job, noticeably different, but still a similar face. “Shortest Day” and “In Between” start the album and act as the bridge from Souvenirs with their more rock-oriented sound similar to that album. It isn’t until after these two openers that you notice that slight change on the face of the band. The music box intro of “Alone” is shattered by a throbbing, almost-industrial/electronica-like circus beat accompanied by audio shifts and shapes first heard on the epic title track from the Black Light District EP, noisy and distorted on the surface, but with a lurking beauty beneath; truly one of the strangest, yet most amazing songs the band has written. “Waking Hour” and “Forgotten” are both soaring piano-based jewels that act as platforms for Anneke’s stunning vocals, to not be moved by her voice is virtually impossible. “Fatigue” is a short atmospheric instrumental that leads into “A Noise Severe,” a slight piano piece accompanied by slow, distorted guitars and quiet interludes.

“Solace” then walks through the door, all weird and misshapen and speaking a strange language, but somehow glowing with an eyebrow-raising intrigue. The song begins with Anneke speaking in a non-English tongue, and then enters a pounding, distorted drum beat and a vocal melody that simply shouldn’t fit over such an odd rhythm. Guitars are present in the background, but go unnoticed over the drum beat and the vocals, which carry the song and make it a standout track that defies its own oddball nature. “Your Troubles Are Over” again focuses on that driving drum beat layered with those amazing vocal melodies, while “Box” and the acoustic-based “The Quiet One” follow a more mellow, lilting road. The album closes with “Home” and “Forgotten (Reprise),” the former being a slow, meandering piece that again revolves around the melodies of Anneke’s vocals, the true album closer and a great one at that. The latter track, “Forgotten (Reprise),” adds a little ambient atmosphere where the piano was on the regular track earlier on the CD, a mellow, entrancing counterpoint.

The Gathering have never followed any rules, in fact they seem to make them up as they move steadily along this path they’re constantly reshaping. Home is just another turn in the road for this band. Does it work every time? Damn near. The problem with this album is that after the first two tracks it’s a fairly mellow affair. “Alone” and “Solace” add a nice dynamic to break up the monotony, but overall even at the album’s heaviest point it’s still a low-key collection of songs. The songs are great, but the album is the sort of album that will be enjoyed thoroughly in the right mood. Unfortunately that mood will likely not be as often as you’d hope. Certain tracks will hit home every time, but others will find themselves being skipped over far more often. Again, the songs are very good, something we’ve come to expect from this band, but I don’t feel like they’re the kind of songs that will standout each and every time you play the album. Home is a very solid release in a steady stream of other good to great to amazing releases, but it’s definitely not their best album to date.

If this is home, I can live with that, because it’s a nice place to be for a short period of time, and The Gathering will likely move again soon so I’m not too worried about the scenery getting old. Things are good for now.

An MP3 Journey Through the History of The Gathering:

Six Dead, Three To Go

From the demos An Imaginary Symphony and Moonlight Archer

The Mirror Waters
Like Fountains

From Always… and Almost A Dance

Strange Machines
On Most Surfaces (Inuït)

From Mandylion and Nighttime Birds

Rescue Me
Liberty Bell

From How To Measure A Planet?


From If_Then_Else and Souvenirs

Shortest Day

From Home

Note: In time these links will likely becoming outdated.

Killing Songs :
Shortest Day, Alone, Solace and Home
Ken quoted 75 / 100
Other albums by The Gathering that we have reviewed:
The Gathering - Disclosure reviewed by Goat and quoted 90 / 100
The Gathering - How To Measure A Planet? reviewed by Goat and quoted CLASSIC
The Gathering - Mandylion reviewed by Charles and quoted CLASSIC
The Gathering - The West Pole reviewed by Goat and quoted 70 / 100
The Gathering - Nighttime Birds reviewed by Charles and quoted 91 / 100
To see all 12 reviews click here
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