It's been easy for lifelong THE GATHERING fans to dish on the band's trundling ball of confusion. A large consensus rolled out on the Dutch expressionistic group in the shadow of Anneke van Giersbergen's heels out of sheer loyalty, those who'd stuck with THE GATHERING's transition from ambient metal as of 2006's "Home". It might even be said the transformation had its origins an album prior with "Souvenirs".
Faced with an unenviable task at filling revered shoes as Mark Tornillo endured taking over for Udo Dirkschneider in ACCEPT, Silje Wergeland takes her second stab in van Giersbergen's stead. While Tornillo has enjoyed surprise success, THE GATHERING's last outing, "West Pole", did more than send purists running backwards for "Mandylion" and "Nighttime Birds" like sanctuaries. It flopped before it ever had a chance to take off. To her credit, Wergeland comes off like she's nearly unflappable as the target of many haters, yet cast in the midst of continuous redirection, it's going to remain difficult for the lady to win over naysayers on THE GATHERING's latest soup-du-what? "Disclosure".
Talented in her own right, Silje Wergeland has the capacity to turn open-minded listeners into puddles of goo (especially on the climax of "Heroes for Ghosts"), blasphemous as it may be for van Giersbergen's fan camp to endure. The difference, however, is that while Wergeland possesses much of Anneke van Giersbergen's ranges and pitches, the latter is far more reflexive and extensive. Her successor has yet to be tested in a different dynamic beyond electro grooving and rainy day alt pastures.
This is where THE GATHERING as artists appears to be content and frankly, "Disclosure" is perplexing beyond the obvious. They're strangely agreeable with the Celtic-kissed, CRANBERRIES-esque alt drive of the opening number "Paper Waves". They're grandiose on the superb folk-meets-chillout-alt epic, "Heroes for Ghosts". In-between and thereafter are subdued templates of moody electro pop ala IVY and ZERO 7 ("Meltdown" and "Paralyzed", for instance) and Moog-aided dirge-lounge on "Missing Seasons". Keyboardist Frank Boeijen even takes a crack at vocalized verses on "Meltdown" to mix up what already has more than a few broths in stir: trumpets, Moog and fuzzy distortion furrows to name a few.
The sprawling "I Can See Four Miles" has zilch to do with THE WHO and more to do with an attempt to recreate THE GATHERING's luxuriant past with somewhat new variances. It has classy, rich tones with some of the album's rare moments of unchained guitar lines amidst the omnipresent organs and portioned, swooning high altos. Rene Rutten sounds nearly liberated from all of the synthetic showers "Disclosure" succumbs itself in, even as the composition gradually dunks itself into an outpouring of coldwave and CURE-esque key and chamber string geysers. Hans Rutten supplies hypnotic tribal rhythms as he does on "Heroes for Ghosts" and you have to think THE GATHERING might've done better by sticking in this mind frame of songwriting. Yet the fact that Silje Wergeland is pushed as far away from the primary instrumentation of "I Can See Four Miles" indicates THE GATHERING is still only breaking her in.
Instead, Wergeland bolsters the electronic lullaby textures of the "Gemini" couplet with sensuousness and conviction. In a way, however, THE GATHERING's full-on abandonment of their metal roots feels not so much like a short change but evidence of artisans who have a new, potentially powerful muse and too many tempting canvasses at their disposal with which to translate her effulgent aura. Repeated listens reveals many deep-packaged pleasure pills and "Disclosure" feels like THE GATHERING is onto something in many places. In others, they're like stray stallions and fillies still in search of purer pastures to sire their future mien.
- Ray Van Horn, Jr.