|Review: The Gathering - Moonlight Archer|
Year released: 1991
Review online: July 17, 2009
Reviewed by: Caspian
You could almost liken this to As the Flower Withers. It's really early Death/Doom stuff, musically it's not perfect but the occasional lapse in songwriting is made up by the sheer weirdness of the whole thing; just as there aren't really any bands doing stuff like embryonic My Dying Bride, there aren't heaps of bands doing albums similar to Moonlight Archer. To think this was released in '91! If this stuff was released nowadays it'd still be weird and futuristic.
Overall this is a rather unusual album; full of synths, some melodic Death Metal riffing (not Gothenburg-ish, but certainly quite accessible) and with a noticeable rock influence throughout. Vocals are all over the place; there's terrible semi-clean stuff in "Second Sunrise" (indeed, that whole song is the definite low-point vocal wise) but for the most part things are a solid cavernous growl. It's definitely a bit unfocused and sounds a lot like a band trying to find its feet, and the production is raw, unpolished and way too synth heavy; but since it's a demo all of that's definitely to be expected.
"Subzero" would be my personal favourite; it's probably the heaviest thing these guys have ever done, and if you can block the fairly pointless (and loud) synth line then there's some mean riffing to be found here, and some good songwriting too. Indeed, the moments where the musical ideas match up with things like structure and coherency are really great- it's well heavy, really, there's many a good riff, and throwing out a bass solo and sort of thrash-y bit in the middle of a Death Metal song ("Downfall") remains to this day a rather unexpected move. Obviously I'm fairly happy with the direction these guys took, but you can't help but wonder just how good things could've been if The Gathering had pursued this vision of weird, atmospheric Death Metal instead of taking routes dreamier and airier.
Not to say this is perfect, of course; certainly the synths need a bit of work done to them, the guitars could be a little bit angrier, the songwriting could be sharper, the band as a whole could be a bit more competent (certainly the drums struggle to keep things moving when the tempo is up) but again, that's all to be expected. Not everyone needs this, but if you're a The Gathering completist or are keen on Death/Doom or early Death Metal in general you'll find this fairly interesting; historical artefact value aside this is pretty decent music.
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