Friday, May 12, 2006
Home (The End)
It doesn’t start well. The sultry come-hither vocal melody that anchors “Shortest Day” contains more than a dash of saccharine, making one wonder if The Gathering have taken their sound too far into the realm of Cranberries-flavoured commercial pop. Happily, it’s a false alarm, as the band expertly steers the rest of the album through a brace of stellar songs interspersed with some interesting diversions. The sly melody and familiar chorus-time surge of “In Between” signal that all is well—if not better than ever—with The Gathering. By the third track, “Alone,” we hear the full potential of the band’s current direction unleashed—fluid, ingeniously arranged, and even a little menacing. Especially impressive is how they both employ and subvert verse/chorus/verse conventions by creating constant, nearly imperceptible momentum during the course of a song. The album’s highlight arrives with the fourth track, “Waking Hour,” itself highlighted by Anneke’s spine-tingling mid-song vocal excursion against a spare piano backdrop. Her voice is in full flight here, singing with a grace and control only hinted at when she belted out the tunes on Mandylion over ten years ago. The album gradually settles down via the abstract deep-space strangeness of “Fatigue,” the downcast beauty of “A Noise Severe,” and the tender “Forgotten,” only to rise to another peak with the title track, which strings the listener along with some compelling atmospheric guitar work before resolving itself in yet another standout chorus. Having lost track of The Gathering since 2000’s if_then_else, it’s great to rediscover the band working in such a confident, comfortable way. Home is the perfect place for them to be right now.