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Nighttime Birds

1 rating: 5.0
An album by ?????? and The Gathering

The Gathering no longer really sounds like a traditional death metal band on this 1997 release, the music is mostly melodic (yet tinged with sorrow), slow to midtempo progressive metal, with Van Giersbergen's distinctive voice soaring above the band's … see full wiki

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1 review about Nighttime Birds

Beautiful, heavy...in a class of its own.

  • Feb 24, 2003
A long time ago this was my first purchase of The Gathering's catalogue because the general consensus seemed to indicate it was their best. I have all of their albums now and often feel torn about which album of theirs I like the most. However, it's easy to make a case for _Nighttime Birds_ as top of the line.

The Gathering left the whole doom metal thing behind before _Mandylion_, and with _Nighttime Birds_ they continue their exploration of beautiful female vocals with the heavier backdrop. _Nighttime Birds_ shows the lighter, more ethereal side of the band taking hold more strongly as well. "On Most Surfaces" opens the album surging through heavy riffs and moody atmospheres, and it has a soaring vocal that would probably be dismissed as bombastic were Anneke van Giersbergen's voice not so incredible. Hers is a voice of diamond and ice, beautiful but chilling. It is not surprising that when she sings, "I am the snow falling down on you," the spine-tingling kiss of her words are as soft and light as falling snowflakes. Songs like "Kevin's Telescope" and the later parts of "Confusion" climb to great heights, heaved up by powerful epic billows of keyboards and electric distortion. Cryptic lyrics go well with the aura of mystery painted by ethereal guitar lines and penetrating vocal melodies of the title track, as well as the inconspicuous layer of stark percussion which hides behind guitar and keys. "The May Song" is interesting, juxtaposing the warmth of a mellow Hammond organ (love that sound) and softly strummed guitars with a confrontational vocal backed by a more aggressive arrangement on the chorus. "Shrink" is a haunting piano ballad with van Giersbergen's voice bleeding onto the floor in the prettiest way. "I shrink and shrink until I'm gone," she sings sadly as an understated eighth-rock beat enters with a vaporous guitar line snaking through the arrangement. Beautiful.

Although I think I prefer the experimentation and atmosphere on _How to Measure a Planet?_, _Nighttime Birds_ is an excellent work. I probably listen to it more anyway since it's not as long, also (it can be hard to squeeze in a double-album sometimes). Really though, you can't go wrong with any album of The Gathering's that involves Anneke van Giersbergen. That voice is the audio equivalent of Tropicana orange juice: pure, rich in vitamins, and tasty.

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Nighttime Birds
Label: Century Media
Release Date: August 12, 1997

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