Tucked away in a small Midtown club, Sky White of Foxy Shazam sinisterly grins through his overgrown mutton chops and slams a sneaker down on his keyboard. Vocalist Eric Nally responds to this cacophony by reciting, a cappella, a poem about a lost bar of soap, while his bandmates wait to chime in with offbeat rock riffs. The Foxy Shazam experience resembles riding on a rock ‘n’ roll rollercoaster after eating a couple of hotdogs, some fried dough and a spool of cotton candy. Twisted and eclectic, original and heavy—Foxy Shazam is just the kind of nerve-rattling act for The End Records to invite as an opener.

The End specializes in bizarre prog metal with a roster that includes Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Tub Ring and Unexpect. To balance out all these musical beasts, the label signed a sole beauty, Dutch-bred band The Gathering. Instead of corpse paint, death howls and shredding guitars, The Gathering offers all the musical proficiency of a typical End Records band without the brutality. Singer Anneke Van Giersbergen, sounds like an angel with pitch-perfect pipes that spill over with emotion. Despite her sentimental outpouring, Van Giersbergen maintains control over her voice, which matches the patiently uncoiling arrangements of her instrumental counterparts.

At first, the venue, with its mediocre sound system, failed to capture the awe-inspiring richness of The Gathering’s ambient rock. Van Giersbergen sounded as though she were singing through a vocal processor, an unnecessary accessory for someone with such superlative chanteuse tools. By the time the sprawling atmosphere of “Alone” gave rise to the reverb-saturated chords of “Shortest Day,” (both from the group’s latest album, Home), the engineer got a handle on the balance of the band’s delicate sonic textures. For the remainder of the evening, The Gathering presented a professional show, giving as much weight to tracks released in 1995 as 2005.

The band members seemed excited about the song selection, showing more energy during their appearance than last year at the Knitting Factory. The Gathering tours the States infrequently, a consequence of the piss-poor American music industry. Although the group has transitioned from a male-fronted death metal band in the early ‘90s to a rock ensemble with an intelligent pop feel over the years, the sound still doesn’t fit in the Billboard paradigm of radio-friendly tunage. South of the U.S./Mexican border, however, fans travel far and wide just for nosebleed seats.

In March, The Gathering took its intricate compositions to Chile to film A Noise Severe, a follow up DVD to 2005’s A Sound Relief. The new video, expected this year, focuses on The Gathering’s more metal musings. As a result, the Rebel set included heavier tracks from 1995’s Mandylion (Van Giersbergen’s first album with the band), through last year’s Home. From “In Between” to “Strange Machines,” The Gathering hit all the right spots. The group shunned an encore; however, leaving fans that rarely get to see the group in a state of disappointment. Maybe the members were warming up for their upcoming support tour with Lacuna Coil or maybe they were warming down from their rabid South American dates. In any case, The Gathering was hot sans the wacky theatrics, a beauty in a room full of beasts. –Julie Pinsonneault