The Gathering - Nighttime Birds
Century Media
Gothic Doom
9 songs (49:14)
Release year: 1997
The Gathering, Century Media
Reviewed by Charles
Archive review
I almost think of this as the second The Gathering album, when in fact it’s the fourth. But really, what other band has metamorphasised quite so comprehensively? They went from Paradise Lost worship, of the average (Always) or utterly godawful variety (Almost a Dance), to the defining and timeless classic of the “female-fronted melodic gothic doom” genre, however you want to call it, in the form of Mandylion. I’d imagine that I’m not the only person for whom the duet of that record and this one will always be “the albums that make you realise how rubbish Lacuna Coil are”.

The addition of Anneke’s vocals has a lot to do with that, of course, but the songwriting deserves as much credit. Swooping vocal lines that leap octaves in the duration of a two-syllable word are married perfectly to a band that knows exactly how to balance euphoric tonal constructions with doomy heaviness. If anything, in this regard, Nighttime Birds is a step up from its predecessor.

The compositional ambition and variety here is immense, and happily the band has the resources to pull it off. The opener, On Most Surfaces starts you off with a vocal line that could not come from any other band. “The frost hits me in the eye, and wakes me. And wakes me”, except those last two words span such a breadth of rhythm and tone that it’s as if Meatloaf had become a woman and joined a metal band. So operatic and unsubtle, and yet inexplicably so elegant at the same time. At times the band almost seems to want to transmogrify into a stadium rock act, as on the anthemic Third Chance. Maybe the reason they get away with all this bravura is because we know they can do sublety so well anyway. In fact, this side is developed with greater attention here than on Mandylion, with New Moon, Different Day being a particularly effective exercise in contrasting gothic darkness with radiant light. Then you have quieter moments such as The May Song, and even something of a piano ballad in Shrink.

For me, whilst Mandylion is more definitive and later records such as the excellent How to Measure a Planet… are more experimental, this is the band’s best. It is such an enduring record that tackles so many different musical ideas, and with such charisma. It certainly gave them a lot to live up to, so, no pressure, Silje.

Killing Songs :
On Most Surfaces, New moon, Different Day, Nighttime Birds
Charles quoted 91 / 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 - Home reviewed by Ken and quoted 75 / 100
To see all 12 reviews click here
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