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Having almost single-handedly (not to mention blindly) shattered the extreme metal paradigm with the recruiting of songstress, Anneke van Giersbergen back in 1994, THE GATHERING set the groundwork for the LACUNA COILs and EVANESCENCEs of the world. Since their groundbreaking Mandylion album, the band have continued to plod forward showing no signs of looking back to their death metal roots. Their latest album, Souvenirs, displays more of their stripped-down, less-is-more approach they began tinkering with on If_Then_Else. Utilizing more textures and less riffs, THE GATHERING now have more in common with IN THE WOODS… and STAR OF ASH than LACUNA COIL. Fortunately, the band’s two defining characterstics, the atmospherics and Anneke’s beautiful vocals, remain intact. Despite all the ambition and promise, Souvenirs finds THE GATHERING experimenting/progressing as a band musically…but Anneke’s singing unfortunately hasn’t. Her vocal parts are virtually interchangable with parts from past albums. Save for the gorgeous hook in “You Learn About It” that would sit pretty on a Sarah McLachlan record, the vocal parts don’t stand out and have very little variation. Fortunately, THE GATHERING redeem themselves with a unique collaboration with ULVER’s Garm on the closing track “A Life All Mine,” which sounds very ULVER-esque…beats and minimalism. While a rarity these days, Garm’s singing is always a treat, but perhaps Anneke will pick up a few pointers from Garm’s often compelling vocal craft. (Psychonaut/The End Records)