There was quite a bit of commotion on their official web site. Various fan sites also seemed not to keen on this DVD, primarily because it was going to be released by Century Media, and the band already dissolved/ended/whatever their contract after their previous studio album, "If_Then_Else". However, quickly it became apparent that this DVD was going to cover the most interesting period in The Gathering's existence, during which I had seen (and loved) them several times: The "Mandylion" and "Nighttime Birds" era. Each tour would be represented by one show, the first from Dynamo Open Air (1996) and the second from Katowice (Poland, 1997). So I simply had to check this out.

Now I should perhaps tell you that my, um, appreciation of their vocalist (Anneke van Giersbergen) at the time had something of a goddess-zealot quality. Her coy smiles, her headbanging, her great vocal performance, her jumping around (not necessarily in that exact order) caused my heart to throb for her rather more than perhaps it should have. I was practically in love with her, and she attained in my mind an almost mythical status. Some of my friends and me used to highly cultivate this, and there was probably a little more seriousness in that cultivation than we let on. Or, at any rate, I think that was the case as far as I was concerned. During the "Nighttime Birds" tour, the band played even more excellent songs from that fine album, and goddess Anneke had even longer, more beautiful hair.

Then came "How to Measure a Planet". Apparently Trey Azagtoth of Morbid Angel loves it, but for me the musical magic had disappeared. "If_Then_Else" got from me an even more lukewarm reception. On a strict personal Anneke Adoration Factor level, I noticed that she'd allowed her hair to go crusty (possibly the most blitheringly stupid thing anyone can do to their hair). The sound of Goddess Anneke falling off her pedestal could be heard far and wide.

This DVD allows me to revisit that time when I appreciated The Gathering the most. I may have focused on my Fetish-like Anneke Worship a bit too much just now, but don't think I loved the band merely by dint of the sylph-like nymph at the helm. "Mandylion" and "Nighttime Birds" were their finest albums ever, with the best songs they ever wrote. Obviously it helps that these songs are delivered by a band fronted by the rapturous Ms van Giersbergen.

The two live performances are both professionally shot, though it has to be mentioned that there are a few glitches in the sound here and there, in particular in the Dynamo show where at a certain instant the balance of the instruments is radically out of kilter. Also, the bonus materials that DVD enthusiasts have grown accustomed to are not exactly lavish: Two video clips ("Leaves" and "Liberty Bell") and a discography (which rather callously leaves out their self-published "Black Light District" CD EP).

I don't care if Century Media decided to release this DVD only to make a relatively easy buck. After all, they probably have families to feed as well. They have made me, for one, happy with this release. This is a DVD I will cherish.



Written October 2002


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