Hard Reviews 2
by Martin Popoff

The Gathering - Superheat
(Century Media)

For those who thought the band's previous double CD was one disc too long, The Gathering offer this first live album, recorded over two dates in their Holland homeland, Anneke and crew filling over half of this esoteric love-in with the most realized tracks from How To Measure A Planet? Funny phenom with this one. No band is more of an intimate, individual yoga-like experience than the new trip-hopped Gathering, yet there's a certain magic found in experiencing these tracks with a crowd. Everything's much more organic, electro-tricks are kept to a minimum and ultimately you can get all warm and communal with those wise, almost smug vocals. Highlight is undeniably On Most Surfaces, the band's best song, hailing from '97's Nighttime Birds, one of only four tracks not from the latest album. It's a gallant try, but it can't match the studio version. Elsewhere, the band smartly weave tracks of total similarity (one weirdo exception being the Hawkwind blanga of Liberty Bell). This is a good move, The Gathering being roughly three different bands through their five albums. For here the psychedelic is king, er, queen, and the band picks the hookiest, most emotion-packed titles from this latest incarnation of the band, an incarnation that is infuriating to some, but one that is unarguably at the forefront of this strange offshoot of a genre.
Rating 7.5

Amon Amarth - The Avenger
(Metal Blade/Attic)

Once more recording with Peter Tagtgren at The Abyss Studios, Amon Amarth have made a very similar album, while reducing the death elements and tightening away from thrash. But it's still melodic vaguely towards In Flames, while rocking down a black pathway closer to say a God Dethroned. There's a sustained intensity driven by a torrent of drums, while the band death-growl through straight Viking tales, resulting in what is basically accessible gothic black metal wholly without black metal themes, with the relative Manowar-ness of the lyrics being countered by relentless double-bass speed supporting a wall of guitars. A meeting of three disciplines that works to a point: low on originality, but operating skilfully in a realm where for now, we could use a few more bands. Note: seven tracks, 36 minutes.
Rating 7.5

Hard Reviews Page 3