Published on Saturday, 25 January 2014 22:17
Band: The Gathering
Album title: Afterwords
Release date: 25 October 2013
Label: Psychonaut Records
02. Echoes Keep Growing (remake of I Can See Four Miles)
03. Areas (New Musik cover)
04. Afterwords (featuring Bart Smits)
05. Tuning in, Fading out (remake of Missing Seasons)
06. Gemini III
08. Sleep Paralysis (remake of Paralyzed)
09. Bärenfels (remake of Heroes For Ghosts)
"If you come closer, I'll show you how it feels." Do you recall these words? Of course, it's the lyrics from The Gathering's “Monsters” (from their 2003 album Souvenirs). And that is exactly what their music is. Not meant to be only heard; but also to be felt, to be seen, painted in most obscure tones of vivid colours. It’s not merely a collage of sounds; it’s an experience, a journey. I try not to overuse the terms “ambient” or “atmospheric” when talking about music, but when it comes to The Gathering, a trip-like soothing ambient is their trademark. Creating a palette of feelings and emotions, which can either explode as most vigorous and dynamic mixture of distorted sounds or soothe with gentle and dreary melodies, is what makes their music so special and enjoyable.
Indeed the band’s creativity has been on a decline since Souvenirs, but 2012’s Disclosure (read a review over HERE) was really more than a pleasant surprise. Consistent, eerie, atmospheric and melodic, it was the embodiment of all elements The Gathering incorporates in their sound: alternative and progressive rock, new wave, trip rock and electronic rhythms. It was a bit surprising though; Afterwords came rather swiftly after Disclosure, since usually the band’s releases were two or three years apart. So it was rather clear there were two possible scenarios: whether the band reached another highlight of its creativity or there was material left from previous release. Sadly, the second one came to be true.
Taking the elements from the previous album, the band has rebuilt some of the songs, structurally sounding more or less similar. “Echoes Keep Growing” is just an extension to “I Can See Four Miles”, while “Sleep Paralysis” (“Paralyzed”), “Tuning In, Fading Out” (“Missing Seasons”) and “Bärenfels” (“Heroes For Ghosts”) are more instrumental versions with a lot of emphasis on electronics. There is also some new material, the opening and wonderful “S.I.B.A.L.D.”, “Gemini III” and “Afterlights”, which is a short instrumental intro into “Sleep Paralysis”. It also features a New Musik’s cover of “Areas” and “Afterwords” with Bart Smits (the first vocalist of the band) on the vocals, both songs which are utterly unnecessary as they don’t fit into the dynamics of the album.
And that is what the main downfall of Afterwords is – it severely lacks not only originality, but also consistency. The Gathering’s albums so far have been stories written in music, but Afterwords just doesn’t have anything to say. There is still a lot of experimentation on the album. Distorted guitar riffs, dynamic keyboard tunes (from time to time even reminding of Jean Michel Jarre) and Silje’s beautiful and powerful vocals – everything is there. But it’s out of balance. Silje’s vocal work is minimalistic, which is a huge minus, since her potential seems endless at this point and the band should definitely take more advantage of her vocals. Just listen to her perform on “Gemini III” (which is easily the best track on the album) – you can hear she let loose of everything and just poured her soul into the music. This record doesn’t exploit everything The Gathering has to offer, creating a hollow ambient that has no solid background.
But (yes, there is a “but”) the songs themselves are not bad per se. They’re just not presented properly and not pushed to its maximum. Given the fact The Gathering is known for making astonishing and mesmerizing songs of epic length, with gloomy touch that all of a sudden change the tempo and explode into a whole new sphere (“Sand and Mercury”, “Black Light District” or “How To Measure A Planet?”) they could easily blend “S.I.B.A.L.D.”, “Afterlights”, and “Bärenfels” into one, lengthy song, which would measure up to their standards. The rest should be released as a bonus disc or added to the EP Afterlights (2012).
Nonetheless, if you give it a try more than once, you will hear the album has its amount of depth. But it is an unnecessary full length album. Looking on their entire long and respected discography, Afterwords is their weakest release.
Review written by: Ines