01. The Mirror Waters 02. Subzero 03. In Sickness And Health 04. King For A Day 05. Second Sunrise 06. Stonegarden 07. Always... 08. Gaya's Dream
"Always..." was the first full-length release by the wondrous Dutch band The Gathering. The album came out in 1992 and experienced quite a success. The group was practicing doom death metal combined with their own special characteristics while making this album. After two earlier demos "Always..." was an important level to be completed in the long evolution of this particular band.
"Always..." belongs to The Gathering's pre-Anneke period. The lead vocals are sung by Bart Smits along with the supporting female vocals by Marike Groot. The tracks are rather long and complex with lots of shades and musical developments in different directions. The album is opened by "The Mirror Waters" with calm keyboard tunes accompanied by heavier guitar use and subsequent thoughtful melody. Shortly afterwards, the grunts of Bart Smits are introduced. The man's voice is not aggressive but calm and warm. One may compare it with the earlier albums by the Swedish gothic metal act Beseech who also had their roots in doom death metal. The male vocals by Jörgen Sjöberg of Beseech and of Bart Smits belong approximately to the same range. Same can be said about the use of melodies and the structure of songs.
The female vocal sequences performed by Marike Groot are not bad. They are just slightly too ordinary. Especially when compared to the later works of the band with Anneke van Giersbergen as the lead singer. On this album Marike is just providing backing-vocals. Even at the moments where she sings on her own, she doesn't seem to have the full capacity of carrying on the whole musical idea. On the other hand, since the band didn't have Anneke yet, the level of Marike was fairly good for the time being. Similarities with the first release of Beseech emerge again. The latter used similar female vocals as well while recruited a woman with a stronger and more original voice later.
The atmosphere of the album is very calm. The riffs and melodic movements are smooth and progress easily. One can notice the influences of the movements of the eighties. The key characteristics of The Gathering do emerge but they will start to fully flourish when the gathering of music around Anneke takes places some years later.
The outstanding pieces of "Always..." are "Subzero" with the fascinating flowing music, "King For A Day" being one of the best tracks where the best qualities of both lead singers are displayed and the catchy "Second Sunrise". "Gaya's Dream" is a good song which closes the album and leaves a positive impression of the whole work in general.
"Always..." is a good album of doom-death but compared to a similar album of Beseech "From A Bleeding Heart" it is unfortunately weaker. Another thing to pull down the grade in my opinion is that the albums recorded with Anneke are on a higher level. Nevertheless, this is after all the band's first full-length album and serves as a fine soil for Anneke to later enrich it with her vocal power and create a perfect garden of music into it.