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The Gathering - How to Measure a Planet?

Rating - 3.5/5

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By Greg Northrup

            This is a double CD, hour and a half plus marathon of The Gathering. I've listened to it about 5 or 6 times since I got it and I still haven't really grasped the all the depth and nuance of this album. There are a lot of meandering, unneccesary "ambient" parts that take up way to much time, so it's more their fault than mine that I haven't been able to sit through the whole thing. Still, including both CDs, there is probably at least an hour's worth of incredible music. The fact that this is being sold for the price of single CD makes this an excellent buy. I don't mind that they waste about 30 minutes on nonsense, as long as the CD they use to waste it on is free.

            Musically, this album is just a moody as "Nighttime Birds" but features some tasteful indulgence in electronic textures and sampling. Most of it is very well done, but for some reason this album doesn't affect me the way "Nighttime Birds" did. Alot of the great material is diluted by the unfocused, sprawling approach and even some of the more condensed "single" songs are pretty lame, "Liberty Bell" especially. The band's best moments come when they manage to balance their obvious progressive tendencies with the emotional weight that they are so capable of evoking. Such moments come during "My Electricity" and the excellent "Illuminating".

            Despite all my misgivings, this is really a great album, it just takes a little effort to get into. Alot of people will undoubtedly crown this album The Gathering's "magnum opus", but I think "Nighttime Birds" is the better album. A good analogy for you to chew on when comparing this to it's precedessor comes in comparing Genesis' "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway" to "Selling England By The Pound", it's pretty much an identical situtation. If you are familiar with Genesis' groundbreaking 70's music and you like "The Lamb..." better than "Selling England..." you will probably like "How To Measure A Planet?" more than "Nighttime Birds", and vice versa.

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