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Sunday Old School: The Gathering

Photo of The Gathering

Band Photo: The Gathering (?)

The Netherlands has a long history of love for rock and metal music. The Eindhoven Open Air festival was once one of the main highlights of the calendar and the country also gave us one of the greatest driving anthems ever in the form of "Radar Love" by Golden Earring. They've also contributed to a wide range of metal, including death metal groups like Pestilence and God Dethroned, as well as symphonic metal outfit Within Temptation. Today we're taking a look at one of Holland's other cult names, The Gathering.

The Gathering were formed in North Brabant city of Oss in the south of the Netherlands in 1989 by Nijmegen born brothers Hans and René Rutten on drums and guitars respectively along with local vocalist Bart Smits, taking their name from the cult favourite movie, "Highlander." They soon completed their lineup with the additions of bassist Hugo Prinsen Geerligs, guitarist Jelmer Wiersma and Frank Boeijen on keyboards and started out performing doom metal, with some death metal influences, not unlike contemporaries such as Paradise Lost and Katatonia. This lineup recorded their first demo, "An Imaginary Symphony" in 1990 and followed it a year later with, "Moonlight Archer," which caught the attention of the metal underground and allowed them to open for such groups as Morbid Angel and Death, before being snapped up by Foundation 2000 Records.

After signing with Foundation 2000, the group began recording the debut album, "Always," which was released in 1992 and for which they brought in a female vocalist named Marike Groot. The record received a mixed response from critics but was a minor success, selling well in continental Europe, though it would be the only album to feature the combination of Smits and Groot, as both would leave in 1993, being replaced by another male/female duo, Niels Duffhues and Martine van Loon.

Duffhues and van Droon would also only record one album with The Gathering, the 1993 effort, "Almost A Dance," which was considered to be a disappointment not just by fans and critics, but by the group themselves, with much of the criticism being aimed at Duffhues for his punk styled delivery and as a result, the band more or less disowned the album in the following years. After their perceived failure, the band decided to stick with only female vocals and recruited Anneke van Giersbergen, who made her recording debut with the group on the album, "Mandylion," their first for Century Media. The record saw The Gathering move closer to Gothic metal and helped to launch them into the spotlight thanks to strong sales, propelled by the singles, "Leaves" and "Strange Machines," eventually helping the band to reach number 20 on the Dutch albums chart.

With their popularity on the rise, The Gathering stuck with the "Mandylion" sound for their fourth album, "Nighttime Birds," which also sold very well, leading them to enter the charts outside their home country for the first time, entering the top 100 in Germany. The album also saw them begin to introduce elements of alternative rock, which was expanded upon with the release of a double album, "How to Measure a Planet?" in 1998. It was their first release as a quintet following the departure of Jelmer Wiersma and included a title track which clocked in at nearly half an hour long and the album as a whole saw them experiment with trip hop and shoegaze music.

Though the album received critical acclaim, the band nonetheless received a backlash from fans for the lessening of their metal roots and as a result, "How to Measure a Planet?" didn't sell as well as the preceding two albums, owing also to the more expensive package. This was their last studio album for Century Media, as the group decided to form their own label, Psychonaut Records in 1999, though they released a live album, "Superheat" through Century Media in 2000 to fulfill contractual obligations.

That same year, The Gathering released their sixth studio album, "if_then_else," which featured even less metal sounds and a further increase in alternative rock and trip hop. Praise was once more heaped upon the group for their intelligent songwriting and sales began to pick up, while touring took them all across Europe, as well as continued performances in North America. They took a short break after these shows before releasing a three track EP, "Black Light District," which was initially only available online, before a physical release followed three months later.

In 2003, the band released their first album solely through Psychonaut, "Souvenirs." Though they once again garnered highly positive reviews, it was their final studio album to feature bassist Hugo Prinsen Geerligs, though he did appear on the live album, "Sleepy Buildings" the following year. In his place came Marjolein Kooijman, who first worked with the band when they recorded music for the CD-ROM, "Passengers in Time: The Musical History Tour" which was made to accompany the work of Professor Wim Kratsborn in 2005, with a DVD entitled, "A Sound Relief" also hitting the shelves that same year.

Finally, The Gathering returned to the studio to record a new album, which surfaced in 2006 under the title, "Home." The album led them to embark on perhaps their most extensive tour yet, performing in South America first before heading back to Europe for a string of festival dates and a headlining tour, before returning over the pond to North America for a trek with Lacuna Coil. The album and the tours marked an important time for the group, who announced in 2007 that Anneke van Giersbergen would be leaving the band to spend more time with her family and other musical projects, though she stayed with The Gathering for a little while longer in order to say goodbye to fans, with her final performance with the band taking place at the Ankkarock Festival.

Following the departure of van Giersbergen, the band released some compilations, including a limited edition ten disc box set, "Sand and Mercury - The Complete Century Media Years," as well as a two disc compilation from the Bart Smits era, which included a cover of the Celtic Frost classic, "Dethroned Emperor" in addition to demos and live tracks. The band assured fans that they had been working on a new album which would be released in 2009 and also stated that their new singer was also female, which led to speculation that it would be Silje Wergeland of Octavia Sperati as early as September 2008, though her confirmation was not made public or official until March 2009.

Her first album with the band came later that year under the name, "The West Pole." Fans who were concerned about how The Gathering would sound without van Giersbergen need not have worried, as it was another critical success, though it didn't fare quite as well commercially, becoming their first album not to chart outside of The Netherlands since "Mandylion." The record also featured guest appearances from singers Anne van den Hoogen and Marcela Bovio of The Netherlands and Mexico respectively and spawned music videos for "All You Are" and "No Bird Call."

A new single, "Heroes For Ghosts" was released via BandCamp in 2011, before their next album, "Disclosure" came in 2012. The album failed to chart in their home country but did make a dent in their neighbouring nation, Belgium, reaching 146 there. Only a year later, the band released "Afterwords" an album which contained reworkings of five old songs, before another compilation, "TG25: Diving into the Unknown," was released in 2014, featuring a CD of singles and another CD of album tracks. It was also in 2014 that Marjolein Kooijman quit the group and they announced that they were to go on hiatus, which is still in place, despite the release of a new compilation, "Blueprints," which contains outtakes and unreleased songs from the "Souvenirs" and "Home" albums only ten days ago. When, or even if, The Gathering will return remains to be seen, though it could take a while after the Rutten brothers formed a new group named Habitants, but whatever the case, The Gathering has surely cemented their legacy as one of their country's most revered and respected rock and metal bands.

The Gathering - "The Mirror Waters"

The Gathering - "Leaves"

The Gathering - "On Most Surfaces"

The Gathering - "Liberty Bell"

The Gathering - "Rollercoaster"

The Gathering - "Monsters"

The Gathering - "Home"

The Gathering - "No Bird Call"

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.

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