Twenty-five years ago, a band entered my life and changed everything forever. Completely under the radar, they arrived and opened my eyes to a whole world of sonic capabilities, which I never knew possible. Since then, I have become somewhat of a super fan, and watched the bands evolution, from the founding seedlings, through to the full flourish of where they are now.
That band, my friends, is The Gathering.
Beautiful Distortion is their latest release, and It’s an album so wonderfully deep, and textured, yet heartfelt and poignant, that if you aren’t moved by it, then you have to wonder what it is you look for in music. It was released a couple of months back on CD and streaming services, but I held off giving it my full attention until the vinyl release, which came a couple of weeks ago. Now that I have it in my possession, I can give a full and frank review of it, as both a fan, and as a reviewing critic, so here it is…
Yes, the review, and the album, won’t be for everyone, but then The Gathering has always been more for an elite audience anyway. It’s for kindred spirits, and like minded souls, who value the importance of emotionally powerful, evocative soundscapes, and beautiful storytelling.
This is why I love this band. I could go on for hours about The Gathering, their doom roots, and how they’ve evolved into where we are now. It’s 2022, and without droning on, the easiest way to simplify the timeline would be to say as they have grown, so too has their music. Gone are the angry, dark outpourings, which, through time, progressed into long emotional soundscapes, a mix of shoegaze and prog sensibilities, and guitar driven trip rock. These have then evolved into more sullen, matured, and ambient works, which stripped back on the noise, without losing any of the intensity.
At this point, The Gathering is still the core of brothers René and Hans Rutten, founders of the band, alongside Frank Boeijen. With Hugo Prinsen Geerligs returning to bass duties, and the epic Silje Wergeland providing all the vocal goodness, proving that even now, when all of the elements come together, they can create something truly magical.
Beautiful Distortion is eight tracks, and another step forward for a band who work meticulously and capture every sound so exquisitely. It’s a listening experience that’s so much more than ‘just an album’, it’s a lovingly crafted work of art.
From the first moments of opener In Colour, we are instantly pulled into The Gathering’s world and cast under their spell. All the trademarks and the richness of sound is here. Again, it feels like an evolution and has a more mature, adult feel to it all. By the time it closes, any concerns have well and truly dissipated, and what’s left is a warmness and the knowledge that the band have committed 110% to their craft.
When We Fall takes the baton and picks up where In Colour left off. It opens with a more intense electronic feel, but Silje’s vocal brings a sense of calm. The sound is completely intoxicating, as much as it is overwhelming, every note is considered, and the layering is phenomenal.
The sound is completely intoxicating, as much as it is overwhelming, every note is considered, and the layering is phenomenal…
Black Is Magnified is where the true emotional power of the album takes on a life of its own. The subject matter of the piece is about the final moments and the passing of a loved one. The sheer beauty, especially the poignancy of the lyrics, leave me quite breathless and emotional. I am completely overwhelmed by it all if I’m honest. Euphoric and powerful, it’s a masterpiece and is a work that only The Gathering can produce so skillfully.
Grounded opens and shows its true The Gathering sound. René’s trademark guitar work finally emerges from the background, and it’s uncompromising. It’s here especially, where you can feel the evolution from their previous album, 2012’s Disclosure. This feeling continues with We Rise, and here all the parts come together, to reveal a more mature, adult The Gathering. At its core it’s still the same band it’s always been, but the angst has dropped back. It isn’t as heavy as those earlier albums, but it gives the opportunity for each element to shine.
Weightless hones in on that trip rock aesthetic which The Gathering excel at, and it’s absolutely inspirational. This piece is the plateau that they’ve been working toward for their whole career. It all falls into place and feels like coming home after a long journey.
Pulse Of Life sees Hugo jumping in on the music writing, and feels different for it. There’s an urgency that is unparalleled on the rest of the album. It’s a difference in style, but it’s wonderful. Somewhat soundscape-y, the juxtaposition of ambience and heavier passages is inspired. As it reaches its climax and breaks down to just keys and vocal, it is breathtaking.
On Delay closes the album, and again, the subject matter is about departure. As it progresses, it builds into a signature 21st century The Gathering jewel. It’s completely enthralling. An emotional roller-coaster, it’s so poignant, and heartfelt, that it leaves me quite emotional.
Ultimately, I know this album won’t be for everyone, and that’s fine. We all look for different things in our music, and while I have a vast library of music, for every mood and setting, there’s only one band who hits me like The Gathering do, and that’s The Gathering. Long since removed from their doomy infancy, and more evolved than when they were at their commercial highest, The Gathering of 2022 are the perfect embodiment for a band of their heritage.
Progressing as they mature, and far from just replicating past glories over and over, The Gathering is as much now, as they have always been, loved by all who know them, for their legitimacy, and open-mindedness to thinking outside the box, and evolve as their music does.
Scribed by: Lee Beamish