The Gathering are amongst the Dutch pioneers of alternative rock, but one could also call it female fronted rock and sometimes even gothic rock. The band celebrated their twentieth birthday in 2009 and The West Pole is their ninth studio album. For many years The Gathering were fronted by Anneke van Giersbergen (Agua De Annique), but they had to find a replacement when she decided to leave in 2007. The West Pole is the fruit of new energy, new ideas and a great new talent on vocals, namely the Norwegian singer Silje Wergeland, who also plays grand piano on the album. The first track is an instrumental one, a bit of a surprise with the hammering distorted guitar chords by Hans Rutten. It sounds quite simple but in fact it is the ultimate statement as if they are telling people: we’re not dead, we’re just alive & kicking! In the mid-tempo song Treasure, we can hear Silje being a great singer! There’s much in her singing that reminds me of Van Giersbergen. Still the guitars are distorted and driving until the orchestrations by Frank Boeyen take over, although the final ‘word’ is for the bass guitar of Marjolein Kooijman. In All You Are you'll still hear the distorted guitars but this time mellower and René Rutten is plucking his guitar rather than playing chords as we can hear them play in the more powerful choruses. The title track begins with subtle plucking of one guitar but soon bass, drums and orchestrations are added and there are very symphonic parts in this majestic piece of music. The first part of No Bird Call is almost an ambient piece of music with solely keyboards. Distant rhythm patterns and Silje’s dreamy voice contributes to the mysterious, melancholic atmosphere throughout the track in spite of soft drumming and sliding guitars. Plucking on a clean guitar, the high pitch vocals by guest singer Anne van den Hoogen and the piano all contribute to that same laidback atmosphere in Capitol Of Nowhere. In the second part more distorted and echoing guitars and floating sounds from an organ in the vein of Pink Floyd can be heard. A grand piano accompanies Silje in the beautiful ballad You Promised Me A Symphony. Maybe a bit odd but for me Pale Traces could have been a track by Agua De Annique, so musically this piece is not that different, at least partly. However, not Silje but special guest singer Marcela Bovio (Stream Of Passion) sings the lead vocals here. During the last part of this track you can also hear some violins. After so much laidback and atmospherical music, it’s time for something a bit more up-tempo. In spite of a very nice and quiet interlude, the driving beat and guitars are back in No One Spoke. In A Constant Run great melodies are combined with driving guitars. This song has a very catchy and beautiful chorus. The last part contains again an exquisite symphonic instrumental passage, carried by guitars and a mix of Mellotron-samples and piano. The West Pole is a great comeback and defines alternative rock in the Netherlands at its best. It's not too heavy and it contains great atmosphere and fine melodies. It will surely appeal to a much wider audience than just fans of gothic rock and it will be a real pleasure to go out and see them live. Anneke van Giersbergen will not be forgotten but the band has made an excellent choice with Silje Wergeland as their new singer.