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The Gathering- Mandylion (Album Review)
Band: The Gathering
The Gathering isn’t a band that I can honestly say that I love. They have their moments, but a lot of their work is too subdued for my tastes. Mandylion is an important album for many reasons, and is often considered one of the best gothic doom metal albums. The interesting thing is that it’s really not all that ‘gothic’ sounding, and it’s simply not as good as what other bands were doing at the time (Anathema, Paradise Lost, Theatre of Tragedy, anyone?). Nevertheless, Mandylion is a good album that’s a bit of a grower.
The music video for "Leaves".
Obviously, the standout performer is the vocalist: Anneke van Giersbergen. She’s really an amazing singer and deserves the credit she gets. Unfortunately, the vocals are the only element that is absolutely great about the release. The guitars are fine, but not memorable. In fact, I can only remember a few of the riffs on the album as I write this review. They mostly provide atmosphere, and they should serve more of a purpose than that. The drums are weak and plodding, which would not be much of an issue if the guitars were better. The keys are important to the sound but, again, they are just not that great. Finally, the bass is solid and mostly follows the guitars.
The song "Strange Machines".
Something intriguing that I have noticed is that a lot of people consider Mandylion a gothic metal album. For me it’s definitely dark and beautiful sounding, but not in a gothic way. This gives the release a distinctive feel, thus adding some replay value. In fact, the individuality of the album is one of its redeeming factors. It’s what, in the end, makes the album worth hearing.
A riveting live performance of "Sand & Mercury".
There are two songs on Mandylion that stand out as absolute masterpieces. The first is the famous song, “Leaves”, which is incredibly beautiful. The guitars could have been better, but for some reason the song just works. The second song is the nearly ten minutes long “Sand & Mercury”, which is better than “Leaves” and actually one of the best songs I’ve ever heard. The vast majority of this song is instrumental, which creates a beautiful droning effect. A little over halfway through, however, the vocals come in. These vocals are stunning. I could use a lot of big words to describe the way they sound, but the truth is that you should just listen to the song and figure it out for yourself.
The song "Fear the Sea".
The Songs (Continued)
The other songs range from being good to mediocre, and there are also songs that seem promising but just become irritating as they progress. In fact, this is where the album falls short for me. Every song on the album could have benefitted from being a little shorter, or at least having more variety. Even the two that I love could have been trimmed; the shortened music video version of “Leaves” is just as delightful as the long one. “Strange Machines” is another good example of this flaw. The vocals come in, and the song suddenly rocks… but then the novelty wears off and the whole thing just becomes annoying. Still, “Strange Machines” is one of the songs that I listen to more often. “Fear the Sea” is another, and it’s a decent enough track. “In Motion #1”, its sequel, and “Eleanor” have cool stuff going on, but they are just not memorable enough to warrant obsessive listening or praise. There’s also an instrumental, “Mandylion”, that is fairly monotonous and anticlimactic.
What is your favorite song from Mandylion?
In the end, Mandylion is not a bad album. It’s just not that great. A lot of people seem to enjoy it however, so give the songs a shot and don’t completely write it off. When I first heard it, I completely disliked it. Clearly, it has grown on me. Perhaps it will continue to do so, at which point I will gladly rewrite this review to reflect my changed opinion. Until then, Mandylion is a decent album by a decent band that is extremely overrated. 8/10 is, truthfully, more than fair.
Best songs: “Leaves”, “Sand & Mercury”.
If you feel the same way I do about this release but want to try something similar (and more interesting), then check out Tears Laid in Earth by The 3rd and the Mortal. It’s not exactly like Mandylion, but the sound is along the same lines and they have similar atmospheres. I found myself pleasantly surprised.
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