How To Measure A Planet?
Century Media, 1998
REVIEW BY: Benny Balneg
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/27/2006
This album is The Gathering's Rust In Peace or Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness in that it charts new musical territories and progressive ideas while expanding on the band's signature sound. It's also a double disc, but that's hardly the most striking similarity to Megadeth or the Smashing Pumpkins.
How to Measure a Planet? is a tour-de-force. It is the album where The Gathering finds their visions fulfilled, where they sounded the way they could and should sound. They did away with the metal and gothic posings they fostered with their previous albums in order to create music that transcends boundaries. Toning down the guitars and focusing on the dreamy atmospherics and beautiful vocals, courtesy of Anneke van Giersbergen, who proves time and time again she is one of the finest female vocalists of all time. With this album, she solidifies that claim because her emotive voice fits better with this kind of music, where she can just focus on channeling emotions through her singing without having to coexist with distorted guitars.
The album deals with distance, where the songs talk about yearning for someone ("Rescue Me"), the feeling of witnessing the vastness of an endless horizon ("Great Ocean Road"), or the exhilaration of flight ("Liberty Bell"). Even the sound sympathizes with the theme of the album, embellished with the verdant and vivid instrumentations the band is known for.
"Great Ocean Road" is (IMHO) one of the best songs ever recorded. The main riff just washes the listener off your feet and engulfs you in the unknown deep, where dreams are forged into reality. The powerful tapestry of sound is realized though the affecting singing of Anneke. This song is just powerful, amazing, superb and wonderful.
"Rescue Me" contains the great love song line "All I want is to be where you are." It's made more powerful by the yearning music and the wall of sound in the middle, creating a feeling of desire in a lost world. The song could have gone head to head with "Great Ocean Road" as the best track of the album if not for it being slightly under-produced, which leaves it a little dry. "My Electricity" is another winner, a lovelorn, sentimental song with a simple arrangement, carried by the spacious and jangling guitars.
Also, "Liberty Bell" is an upbeat, ascending pop song that invokes a feeling of flying with the uplifting, soaring music blasting through the speakers. "Travel" feels like a dream sequence, a collection of riffs from previous songs serving as a culmination of the first disc. "Locked Away" is similar to "My Electricity," only this time, the guitar blasts in during the chorus.
There are many other great songs, though they tend to come in short supply on the second disc, which is more daring but too indulgent, especially coming after an amazing first disc. But that first disc is so strong it makes How To Measure A Planet?, as a whole, a masterpiece.