Originally written by Ramar Pittance
Perhaps a more fitting title to The Gathering’s Accessories would be, An alternative History of The Gathering, as it offers a comprehensive compilation of never before released tracks and rare versions of their more popular numbers. It’s a rewarding trip down the back alleys and side roads for those who’ve already traveled down The Gathering’s memory lane. And while Mandylion or How to Measure a Planet are probably more fitting introductions to this band, fans of dark atmospheric rock who are for whatever unfamiliar with The Gathering will probably find plenty to enjoy on this double disc.
I’ll admit right off the bat that my familiarity with this band begins and ends with the two albums mentioned in the introduction. So, I’m probably not the best person to scrutinize the track selection here. However, I can say that the live versions of “In Motion # 1”, and “Strange Machines” are very solid renditions that do a good job in knocking some of the dust off of these familiar tracks. There are also two live cuts of “Leaves,” one is a straight forward take and the other an orchestral adaption. While it was neat to hear this song in all its layered pomp and majesty, I much preferred the more faithful run through, which doesn’t skimp on René Rutten’s crystalline guitar solo. What all these live tracks, and indeed this entire compilation prove, is that Anneke van Giersbergen’s voice is essentially bulletproof. Regardless of the circumstance, this woman is nearly flawless. I didn’t hear a single sour note on any one of the live tunes or demo tracks. What’s more commendable, is that for all her polish, van Giersbergen still puts on a soulful and captivating performance. Other disc one highlights include a cover of Dead Can Dance’s “In Power We Trust the Love Advocated,” and a demo version of “Confusion” that captures the song in a raw and intimate light.
Disc two consists exclusively of demo material off of Nighttime Birds and How to Measure a Planet, as well as a couple never before released instrumentals, “Diamond Box” and “Hjelmar’s.” Hearing these songs in their nascent forms coupled with spot on performances by van Gjersbergen should be a treat for The Gathering’s diehard fans. Even not so fervent followers of the band can get into the jarringly heavy conclusion to “Probably Built in the Fifties” or the masterful transitions between dissonant build up and melodic crescendo’s found on “Red is a Slow Colour.”
As far as compilations go, Accessories is a real winner. Classic material is rendered in a refreshing light while previously hard to find tracks are given some well-deserved exposure. If I could offer one complaint though, it is that The Gathering’s pre-von Gjersbergen days as a more traditional doom-death band aren’t represented on this compilation. A minor gripe, as most any fan of the band would admit with little hesitation that this band didn’t begin in earnest until von G joined the group. This is one of the rare compilations that I actually look forward to listening to again. Recommended to fans of both the band and the genre they helped create.