Since many years, The Gathering is a well-known Dutch progressive rock band. Starting in the nineties as a metal band, they developed to an excellent studio and live band as well. Unfortunately, their lead singer Anneke van Giersbergen decided to leave the band about three years ago. She wanted to broaden her horizon and change her musical direction. Now sheís successful again with her own band Agua de Annique, playing a kind of modern pop music. After a long search, the band members of The Gathering found singer Silje Wageland, who formerly played in the Norwegian band Octavia Sperati. Interesting to know is the fact that she recorded the vocals in John Mitchellís (Arena, Kino, It Bites) studio. For The West Pole, the ninth album of The Gathering, she wrote the lyrics for seven tracks.
First track When Trust Becomes Sound, is the only up-tempo instrumental track with heavy guitar riffs throughout. The second track Treasure is indeed a real treasure. This is a modern, fresh and happy pop tune with an overwhelming drumbeat and clearly sung by Silje. All You Are also has a fine guitar riff and although itís not a genuine progressive rock song, it has good lyrics and fine musical moments. In a way, it sounds like a U2-song, sung by a female Bono, but with the guitar effects of The Edge. The pace of the title track is slow and a bit boring in the beginning, but the spoken words in the middle section lift this song above average. My personal favourite is No Bird Call. This slow piece reminded me of a fine Cocteau Twins or Anathema-song. In the middle section, violins and synthesizers dominate the sound together with the beautiful, dreamy voice of Silje. This piece ends like a dark Pink Floyd-song with heavy electric guitar riffs.†
The shortest track, You Promised Me A Symphony, is a little jewel reminiscent of Kate Bush. Itís an acoustic song with only piano and the angelic voice of Silje. Another surprise is the guest appearance of Anne van den Hoogen who not only sang, but also wrote Capital of Nowhere, a kind of dreamy ballad in the vein of The Wishing Tree. Pale Traces contains the guest performance of Marcela Bovia (Stream Of Passion). After a short vocal introduction, a fine drumbeat leads to a duet by Marcela and Silje. In the middle, we hear a sudden short break followed by the high and increasing voice of Silje. The last two minutes resemble a Mostly Autumn-song, but without Bryan Josh' guitar. No One Spoke has some heavy guitars and to be honest, this is the only mediocre track on the album. The final song A Constant Run is heavy again in the vein of British alternative rock bands, but ending like a symphony.†
After several spins, I have to conclude that The West Pole is one of the best albums of 2009. If you like music with a lot of variety this album certainly is a good choice.†
†**** Cor Smeets (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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