The Gathering

Accessories: Rarities & B-Sides

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Dutch originals the Gathering have built a rabid following over the years, meaning there's every reason to justify a release such as 2005's Accessories: Rarities & B-Sides, which compiles a total of 27 non-album cuts from all stages of the group's remarkably consistent career. However, even the greatest of the band's B-sides, outtakes, and leftovers are still just that: secondary, possibly even substandard goods -- meaning that protracted exposure to a full two discs' worth of them could leave even the most devout followers a little disappointed. Just a warning. Now to the contents: disc one focuses on the Gathering's B-sides, including several live versions of album favorites performed both with ("Strange Machines," "Leaves") and without ("In Motion #1," "Amity," "Leaves" again) the exotic backing of a symphony orchestra; revealing, but hardly life-altering cover versions (of Dead Can Dance, Talk Talk, and Slowdive); and varying degrees of the aforementioned album outtakes, the most satisfying being the aptly named "Adrenaline," an energetic early take of "Third Chance," a rare and wonderfully morose concert performance of "Frail," and vocalist Anneke Van Giersbergen's solo acoustic guitar recording of the hauntingly beautiful "Shrink." Disc two is labeled "The Rarities" and obviously conjures all sorts of expectation for never before heard gems among its 13 selections; but abandoned instrumentals "Diamond Box" and "Hjelmar" (as well as a still wordless early take on "Kevin's Telescope") prove to be the only such cases in an otherwise familiar batch of album material -- all culled from the Nighttime Birds and How to Measure a Planet? pre-production sessions. Thankfully, both of these records were such undeniable classics that one could never tire of revisiting the majestic grandeur of cuts like "The Earth Is My Witness," "On Most Surfaces," and "My Electricity" -- no matter that their guises here are not so distant from the final album versions, aside from being generally sparser from the lush end results. Which brings along the final verdict for this collection that remains promising, but far from guaranteed. Pre-converted believers shouldn't expect the be-all, end-all lest they come away let down by songs that didn't make the final cut for a reason, while first-time listeners will quite likely be almost as awed by Accessories as any of the Gathering's typically high-quality efforts.

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