The Gathering : if_then_else
(Century Media - 2000)
Category : underrated
The reason why I'm writing something about The Gathering here, is because they are completely underrated and overlooked when compared to a somewhat similar band that undeservedly received a lot more attention, namely Within Temptation. The main similarities are that they are both Metal bands with Goth influences, and they have female vocalists who sing the same kind of "heartfelt" melodies (but with different levels of pomp). I have never understood why Within Temptation's Sharon Den Adel received such praise. She's merely competent, whereas The Gathering's Anneke Van Giersbergen is an excellent singer that can be compared to the best.
On the compositional side of things, The Gathering are giants, outdwarfing Within Temptation many times, because, even though The Gathering has a past life as a Death Metal band and they have also released quite a few crawling songs that I would primarily classify as Doom Metal, they actually are first and foremost a Progressive band with a strong urge to experiment. When Within Temptation received such attention all they were doing was to beat the trodden path made by other Gothic Metal bands before them.
The Progressive side of The Gathering already became apparent with the release of 'Mandylion' in 1995, which already took me by surprise with its beautiful and original mixture of Doom, Goth and Prog and with the instrumental Dead Can Dance-like title track. But it's on 'if_then_else' that their Progressive side culminates into a true masterpiece. It's still also of interest to Doom- and Goth Metalheads, but if you are into Progressive Metal, then you owe it to yourself to at least own one Gathering CD (omitting the first two) and I think in that case 'if_then_else' may be the best choice.
It's a pity their next album 'Souvenirs' turned out to be some sort of ambient experiment. Not bad persé, but it degraded them from one of the leaders of the pack in the Metal genre to followers in the Ambient genre.