The Gathering - Nighttime Birds

edited November 2022 in Year-1997

ARTIST: The Gathering
ALBUM: Nighttime Birds
LABEL: Century Media
SERIAL: 77168-2
YEAR: 1997
CD REISSUE: 2007, Century Media, 8394-2

LINEUP: Anneke van Giersbergen - lead vocals, guitars * Ren‚ Rutten - guitars, flute * Jelmer Wiersma - guitars * Frank Boeijen - keyboards * Hugo Prinsen Geerligs - bass * Hans Rutten - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 On Most Surfaces (Inu‹t) * 02 Confusion * 03 The May Song * 04 The Earth Is My Witness * 05 New Moon, Different Day * 06 Third Chance * 07 Kevin's Telescope * 08 Nighttime Birds * 09 Shrink

RATING: image


Have you ever loved an album that everyone else horribly overlooked? Have you ever wanted to scream 'sure, album such-and-such is in a way a companion piece or a transition album, but dammit, it surely has more merit than being a notch in the band's discography' or am I the only crazy person in here?

'Nighttime Birds' is such an album for me - always overlooked because of the fact it came out just a few years after the genre-defining piece, 'Mandylion', that launched these Dutchies to superstardom - an album that is worth more than a footnote that it is usually reduced to.

The Songs

The album has a recurring theme of exposing you to winter's gusts of wind before leaving you right in the middle of a springtime valley full of flowers - but even then, the gusts may be purifying and the smell of flowers may be more bitter than sweet.

'On Most Surfaces (Inu‹t)' captures the 'wind' theme quite vividly - and literally too, starting with 'the frost hits me in the eye, and wakes me' - and 'Confusion' defines slow, doomy groove, just in case we forgot about what it was that they do best.

'The May Song', on the contrary, is a warm and far-reaching love song that makes an impact on me every time. The following two songs take you in a bittersweet elation, while demonstrating the strength a woman's rage sometimes, evident in undertones of Anneke's torrentially mighty voice.

'Third Chance' is my favourite, however, since it displays the art of that sweet, sweet tempo change while not sacrificing a strong start of the song, and everyone who's ever had a panic attack should find the lyrics meaningful. 'Kevin's Telescope' is a most gentle, uplifting, fantasy-fueled glide to realms where childhood dreams do come true.

'Nighttime Birds' and 'Shrink' present an odd couple, because one would suggest that the meticulously crafted, never too painfully slow title track would conclude the album, and that the lovelorn minimal ballad would serve as a breather before it, but here it is not the case. I have definitely desired it to be so, because I find 'Shrink' even more emotionally harrowing than 'Nighttime Birds', and so this album always leaves me more than a little sad.

In Summary

Yes, 1995's 'Mandylion' was awesome, and yes, 1998's 'How To Measure A Planet' was more experimental than any other The Gathering album, but do not ignore the radiant beauty of the one in between.

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