THE GATHERING - "HOW TO MEASURE A PLANE" (CENTURY MEDIA)
The lovely Anneke van Giersbergen and the fellow members of former doom metal band The Gathering have gone through a long evolution. Their latest album, "How to Measure a Planet", is the latest step in that evolution that has progressed ever further away from doom metal, then metal, then rock, and is now basically pop with nuts. I suppose, if this persists, that this will be the last album of The Gathering to be reviewed here. Any further and it'll be too mainstream to be even faintly related to rock, let alone metal.
The first release of the album is in the form of a double CD with around 100 minutes of music. I wonder which songs will end up on the one-CD version. The album is pretty unbalanced. The first CD is primarily comprised of spacey ballads and love songs (with climaxes in the shapes of "Great Ocean Road" and "Travel", the latter a ballad with substance), whereas the second disc is rather heavier (with the excellent "Illuminating" and "Probably Built in the Fifties") but also containing the title track, 28 minutes that brought to mind "Dreaming: The Romance" on Anathema's full length debut (because they are both a waste of space).
When push comes to shove, "How to Measure a Planet" contains too many mediocre tracks. The ballads might be about nice subjects like aeroplanes and space travel and dreams, but they have no features that make them stand out in any way. There's the two climaxes on the first CD that I mentioned, together with perhaps one or two ballads worth keeping (together with the OK "Liberty Bell", that reminds me of something I've heard before though), and then there's the two really good songs on the second disc. Together that's not even a short album of tracks I'd classify as "any good". The first CD is the kind you could play if your parents are visiting; the second CD contains too few good tracks to ever really play (and I think life is too short to bother listening to that 28 minute track more than once).
Still, it needs to be mentioned that Anneke can still sing beautifully. She remains one of my favourite singers, but I prefer the somewhat ballsier compositions on their previous two albums.
Written November 1998
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