Souvenirs

The Gathering

The End, 2003

http://www.gathering.nl

REVIEW BY: Benny Balneg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/29/2007

Change is inevitable, as the saying goes. Without delving further into the metaphysical realm, we'll just keep it simple by saying that one is bound to metamorphose regardless of circumstance because one is change in itself.

At the same time, another saying goes, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Even though change has occurred, the more one transforms into someone who he is bound to become.

Confused? Me too. Let's back up a minute.

Actually, let's let the Gathering simplify the meaning of change on “Souvenirs” from the album of the same name: “Brand new paths / In ways to soothe / Never disagree with your youth / Part of your heart / Will separate / It will.” The brooding intensity of the lyrics crawls beneath your skin, but is subdued by the industrial-inspired beats and guitar samples. Such is change for the Netherlands-based outfit that carved themselves a niche under the “doomdeath” metal music category early in their career.

Anneke van Giersbergen is responsible for eliciting the change in the music, since her angelic and uplifting voice towers uncomfortably collides with the monolithic riffing and throbbing percussions that were once the trademark of the band displayed in my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Mandylion. Eventually, The Gathering decided to undress their metal roots, which started with How To Measure A Planet? and perfected in Souvenirs, treaded with substantial compositions and packed performances.

The substantial compositions come in their current form of music, which was dubbed as triprock. And rightfully so, since the beats are reminiscent of, well, trip-hop, while the distorted wall of noise provides the texture and atmosphere in which the rhythms lay. “These Good People” serves up the goods with great effect; there simply is no trace of the former music in their blend of minimal soundscapism that Souvenirs wears on its sleeves.

Performance turns up a notch in their succeeding numbers. “Broken Glass” and “You Learn About It” are certified standout tracks, both of which color heaven with bright pastels. The former breaks the resolute tone of despondency with guitar effects burning with sorrow and loss. On the other hand, Anneke’s crystal-clear voice, along with the fleeting instrumentations, seems to rise up from the deepest and darkest secret to the most exulting high, unburdening the listener from the world.

Other highlights include the single “Monsters,” which seems to be the only track that conjures the fangs of their former sound, but, like the other songs from this album, lets the vocals and instruments coincide with one another. Lastly, “A Life All Mine,” which features out-there music connoisseur Trickster G. Rex (of Borknagar and Ulver fame), is an undeniable powerhouse. Two of the best vocalists in this side of the music scene exchanging despondent lines and morose, yet enlightening melodies are nothing short of captivating.

The only detriment when listening to this album is the density of its tracks. Letting the songs flutter like butterflies in your dark room would allow you to appreciate its beauty, but only a listener would fully understand its essence when prepped in a contemplative mood. That in itself is a difficult task, since the length and the arrangements of some of the songs tend to drag the experience. And can somebody remind me if they remember what “Jelena” sounded like?

Still, Souvenirs stays true to the Gathering name, delivering what could arguably be the most consistent effort in their discography. Even more impressive about this album is that it came from the midst of a change in the band’s music direction. The more things change, the more they stay the same, I guess.

Rating: B

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© 2007 Benny Balneg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of The End, and is used for informational purposes only.