During the second half of the nineties The Gathering enjoyed a good bit of success with their Mandylion album. It was a landmark record in the doom/death area and essentially a blueprint for the blossoming gothic metal scene. Although their fan base loved Nighttime Birds the band grew tired of their old musical format and decided to broaden their sound. Enter How To Measure A Planet.
The musical direction has certainly shifted on How To Measure A Planet. Change is an understatement here. Gone are the massive guitar walls of Mandylion and Nighttime Birds. The band looked to Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Massive Attack and Portishead instead. This translated into rather mellow songs with layer upon layer of psychedelic effects, string sections and subtle electronics.
How To Measure A Planet is very adventurous, progressive and epic in scope. There is a lot going on musically speaking and that makes this record quite hard to digest. It takes several attempts before you get to the essence and enigmatic beauty of songs like Great Ocean Road, Rescue Me, Liberty Bell, Travel, South American Ghost Ride and the 30 minute behemoth that is the title track.
The soothing vocals by Anneke van Giersbergen act as a tour guide through this musical survival of the fittest. Her voice is basically the glue that holds this experimental masterpiece together. Sound wise this album borders near perfection, perhaps a little bit too polished for my liking.
Many still view Mandylion as the quintessential album by The Gathering. I must admit it has its merits, however when it comes to experimentation, musical progression and sheer sonic adventure How To Measure A Planet is the band’s ultimate statement. A classic album indeed.
written by Raymond Westland