The Gathering - Mandylion Deluxe Edition (Century Media Records)
By: Justin Donnelly
The final release in Century Media Records’ deluxe reissue series (Which also included re-releases from Samael and Sentenced) is the landmark release from Dutch gothic/progressive rock act The Gathering.
Ten years on from it’s original release, The Gathering’s third album Mandylion still sounds as fresh, innovative and genre defying as it did back in 1995, and still remains the benchmark by which many female fronted progressive/gothic groups are measured by today.
After two previous doom based releases (1992’s Always and 1993’s Almost A Dance), The Gathering (Who at the time consisted of guitarist/flutist René Rutten, guitarist Jelmer Wiersma, bassist Hugo Prinsen Geerligs, keyboardist Frank Boeijen and drummer Hans Rutten) decided to change direction with the addition of new vocalist Anneke Van Giersbergen (Who replaced Niels Duffhues), and while many anticipated big things from the band after a lengthy year away, few anticipated the sheer magic the band managed to conjure up with the stunning Mandylion.
The album’s lead off single ‘Strange Machines’ was the first to show off The Gathering’s new sound, and although somewhat simplistic and straightforward in structure, the song garnished the band a position in the charts, along with a whole new audience.
Another important feature is the use of various instruments to help flesh out the cinematic experience of The Gathering’s new sound, with ‘Eléanor’, the Eastern flavoured instrumental title track ‘Mandylion’ and the epic ‘Sand & Mercury’ prime examples of the bands adventurous mindset of the time, while the sweeping two-part ‘In Motion #1’ and ‘In Motion # 2’ showcased the extraordinary emotion laden and poetic vocal abilities of Van Giersbergen.
The progressively tinged ‘Leaves’ almost takes on a symphonic stance with its subtle keyboard backing, while the riff heavy ‘Fear The Sea’ bridges the bands past with their then present.
Apart from the album Mandylion itself, Century Media Records have also managed to finally wipe the vaults clean with an additional disc of previously unreleased demos, making the package a companion piece of sorts to the Accessories: Rarities & B-Sides compilation released earlier this year.
Making up the seven tracks on the disc are three songs recorded in June 1994 (‘In Motion #1’, ‘Mandylion’ and the previous unheard guitar/keyboard driven instrumental ‘Solar Glider’), and four songs from the band’s demo sessions in early 2005 (‘Eléanor’, the spoken word/doom enhanced ‘In Motion #2’, the work in progress piece ‘Third Chance’ and ‘Fear The Sea’).
Packaged in a tasteful gold slipcase and an expanded sixteen page booklet (Featuring previously unpublished photos and liner notes from the band and producer Siggi Bemm), Century Media Records have certainly done justice to what can only described as one of The Gathering’s truly underrated masterpieces.