Gathering, The - How To Measure A Planet?

Year of Release: 1998
Label: Century Media
Catalog Number: 7968-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 103:12:00

My first exposure to The Gathering was via vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen's appearance on Ayreon's Into The Electric Castle release. Liking her vocals, I thought I'd check out The Gathering. So, having downloaded an MP3 of "Liberty Bell," a track off their most recent release, How To Measure A Planet? and liking what I'd heard, I bought the whole album.

Giersbergen has a great voice - a sound that is a mix of Renaissance's Annie Haslem, Natalie Merchant, Sinead O'Connor, and, well ... on "Liberty" I thought of the Bangles (though not of Susanna Hoffs). Okay, before some of those comparisons put you off, bear with me. The Haslem comparison is the stronger one, and Giersbergen's voice is stronger than Haslem's and a bit higher toned than Merchant's, and smoother than O'Connor's - but there's still that folksy delivery. At times, this could be Celtic except for the music.

Although the Renaissance comparison will give you some idea of their overall sound throughout most of this two disk set, musically, the best comparison is to Landberk ... a heavier, darker, yet less moody Landberk. However, "Great Ocean Road" has a percussive rhythm that recalls U2's "Bullet The Blue" if slightly edgier with a metallic sharpness - it's a cymbal (I'm sure) with a hard, cold, steel like sound. Here, too, keyboards waver and percolate.

"Liberty Bell" is the rockiest track on the first disk, even if it does make you think the Bangles might have regrouped and developed an edge. I really like Giersbergen's delivery here, and the unique sonic textures that bandmates Frank Boeijen (keyboards), Hugo Prinsen Geerligs (bass), Hans Rutten (drums) and René Rutten (guitars) create.

The answer to the titular question is evident throughout the booklet and the songs - satellites, extraterrestrial exploration, internal examination ... just to name a few. "Liberty Bell" is about that moment as one leaves orbit - the g-forces' effect on the body and such. And probably all metaphorical.

"Rescue Me" takes off into very, very heavy orbits indeed - a sonic assault that includes raw guitar and high pitched tones that reach shrieking level.

If there's a criticism, it is that many of the tracks are played at pretty much the same pace, which at times borders on the dirge-like; this is music that requires a great deal of patience. The fact that the music varies in tone, style, instrument choice, etc, is the only way to tell one track from the other, as Giersbergen gives a similar performance on every track ("Liberty Bell" being one exception). Long, drawn out phrases that give the tracks an often ethereal feel, but that only goes so far.

René Rutten has written or co-written most of the music for the album (Giersbergen alone is responsible for the lyrics), and the approach is very textured and varied, if played most at mid-tempo. What's true for disk one is true for disk two; Giersbergen's vocal performance isn't quite as stellar on the grinding, harsh "Locked Away" - not one of my favourites.

Disc two is harsher sounding than disk one, more metallic with chugging guitars, but less really metal than harder-edged progressive rock. The title track, which closes disk two, is a moody instrumental piece underlaid with audio samples of spacecraft to mission control chatter (or so it sounds).

Neo-progressive fans may not be able to get into this - it's punchier than say Marillion, Pendragon, etc., etc., but not quite as melodic. One the one hand, I'd recommend this though, because of the interesting musical textures and Giersbergen's voice - I just wish there'd been more variety between slow, atmospheric tracks and poppier, energetic tracks (moving "Liberty Bell" up in the sequence and "Travel" up a bit as well, for instance - easily solved by programming, of course). On the other hand, I find this hard to recommend because the overall lack of true variety will lead some to find this boring. It's a tough call.

Disc One: Frail (You Might As Well Be Me) (5:04) / Great Ocean Road (6:19) / Rescue Me (6:22) / My Electricity (3:32) / Liberty Bell (6:01) / Red Is A Slow Colour (6:25) / The Big Sleep (5:01) / Marooned (5:55) / Travel (9:06)

Disc Two: South American Ghost Ride (4:25) / Illuminating (5:41) / Locked Away (3:23) / Probably Built In The Fifties (7:26) / How to Measure A Planet? (28:32)

Anneke van Giersbergen - vocals, and guitar (4 (d1), 3 (d2))
Frank Boeijen - keyboards
Hugo Prinsen Geerligs - bass
Hans Rutten - drums
Ren? Rutten - guitars, theremin (3 (d1) 1(d2)), and didgeridoo (1 (d2))
Attie Bauw - programming and some percussion

An Imaginary Symphony (rehersal tape) (1990)
Moonlight Archer (demo) (1991)
Always... (1992/1999)
Almost A Dance (1993/2000)
Mandylion (1995)
Nighttime Birds (1997)
How To Measure A Planet? (1998)
Superheat - A Live Album (2000)
If_Then_Else (2000)
Downfall - The Early Years (2001)
Black Light District (EP) (2002)
Souvenirs (2003)
Sleepy Buildings (A Semi Acoustic Evening) (2004)
Accessories (2005)
Home (2006)
A Noise Severe (2007)
Rise Up (2007)
Sand And Mercury (box set) (2008)
City From Above (EP) (2009)
The West Pole (2009)
A Sound Relief (EP) (2010)
Startled By The Familiar (2011)
Disclosure (2012)
Afterlights (2012)
Afterwords (2013)
TG25: Diving Into The Unknown (2015)
TG25: Live At Doornroosje (2015)
Blueprints (2017)

In Motion (DVD) (2002)
A Sound Relief (DVD) (2005)
A Noise Severe (DVD) (2007)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin DE

Added: October 1st 1999
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 2007
Language: english


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