The Gathering

With Agalloch and November's Doom. Thursday, February 12, at the Agora Theatre.

There are basically two ways to ignore trends: You can dig yourself a rut and move in (see the Ramones, Motörhead, or High on Fire), or you can relentlessly pursue your own brand of perfection, never mind what anybody else is doing (see Opeth, Meshuggah, or the Gathering).

The Gathering started out as a metal band, but that didn't last long. By 1999's How to Measure a Planet, they were already balancing their harder rock moments with tracks that were about as heavy as Stereolab's. And recent albums, such as If_Then_Else and last year's Souvenirs, have been more Kate Bush than Black Sabbath. At this point, the band's entire catalog is worth picking up, not just for the merits of each album, but also to appreciate the distance the Gathering has traversed from, say, 1995's Mandylion to the present. From just about any angle, there's a lot to recommend their music. Vocalist Anneke Van Giersbergen's pipes are genuinely impressive and fit extremely well within the progressive structures the band creates. Their use of programmed rhythms, and rather, um, extensive keyboard deployment may put off some die-hard headbangers, but anybody after a genuinely forward-looking band could do a hell of a lot worse than to catch up.