Nighttime Birds

The Gathering

Century, 1995

http://www.gathering.nl

REVIEW BY: Benny Balneg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/24/2007

Mandylion was a watershed in the Gathering’s musical career. Not only was the album responsible for elevating the band into an up-and-coming powerhouse in the metal scene, it also defined the sound that would serve as a basis for all of their future releases.

However, such a crucial album puts a particular band in a difficult position for a follow-up, and fans wondered if the Gathering would continue to tread the same territory of sound or pursue a different direction. With Nighttime Birds, the Gathering finds themselves doing the former, with mostly good results.

Nighttime Birds retains the band’s approach to music, which is to continue weaving a tapestry of colliding guitar riffs and thriving drumbeats, coupled with the rich sound of keyboards and the touch of amazing female vocals in order to create a dreamy and mesmerizing atmosphere that inhabits the beautiful secret that is the Gathering.

The main difference of this album is that most of the tracks rock harder, courtesy of the production's emphasis on thick guitars and an upbeat percussion sound. Opener “On Most Surfaces” and “Third Chance” display their rock chops, as it clearly shows the band intent on carrying what was established in the previous release.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

However, the decision to continue trudging the path of heaviness seemed to have damned the flow of natural progression. Mandylion hinted that the Gathering would break through from their metal roots, as the melodies and haunting passages of the album's songs clearly rise above the heaviness of the band's sound. The pressure of coming up with a better follow-up might have led the band into writing songs with similar aesthetics and feel as their previous release, but the idea seemed to have gone against their favor.

As a result, one cannot help to feel Anneke’s voice not completely comfortable with some of the hard-edged tracks on the album. Unlike their previous output, where even the heavy instrumentations gracefully pirouette with Anneke’s vocals, the heavy tracks somehow limit the vocals into long howls of “oooooh-aaaaahhhhs.” Although not bad by any means (we are talking about one of the most capable singers in the underground,) the magic found in songs like “In Motion #1” and “Leaves” is obviously wearing thin on this album.

With that out of the way, the album redeems itself with its softer songs, exhibiting further the band’s talent for coming up with catchy hooks and memorable passages. “The May Song” is a moving, yearning song that may have its verses a little too lovelorn, but eventually redeems itself come chorus time.

The title track is a sprawling masterwork, building the song with heavy percussions and Anneke’s searing vocals, before crushing the listener with the sonic deluge of emotion of the rhythm and the keyboard's drowning effects. Plus, the lyrics “When they fly / Through the night as beautiful / Nighttime birds” are sung in passion and contemplation, elevating the song into greater heights.

“Shrink” closes out the album with a feeling of desolate relief that only the Gathering can pull off. The sparse arrangement of the song, with Anneke’s haunting vocal performance and the doom-inspired keyboards, makes for a fine exit.

On immediate listen, Nighttime Birds will always be haunted by the monolithic shadow of its stunning predecessor. However, repeated listens will reveal that this album is still worthy of the Gathering name.

 

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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