With a career spanning 22 years, like their contemporaries Opeth, Katatonia and the Gathering, Anathema have evolved their sound to a point where their doom/death roots are respected but no longer a part of their sound.
One of the doom pioneers in the early 90s, they later really started to experiment and transform their sound, building a legion of fans who eagerly embraced their melancholic breed of atmospheric, progressive rock.
A hiatus occurred after 2003’s A Natural Disaster with the sudden collapse of their long-standing record label Music for Nations and it was seven long years before the Steven Wilson-mixed We’re Here Because We’re Here surfaced to much rousing critical acclaim.
Almost to make up for the seven-year gap, 2011 featured an orchestral re-working of some early material on Falling Deeper and now less than a year later we have a brand new studio album in Weather Systems to sink our teeth into. It’s fair to assume that the creative juices are indeed flowing within the band.
Weather Systems showcases Anathema stepping things up with the addition of acclaimed Norwegian producer Christer-Andre Cederberg, and a vision to exceed the high bar set by WHBWH. From the opening double header of ‘Untouchable Pt. 1 and 2’ it is evident that the textured and lush production serves to benefit the epic arrangements, the movement from folk-like acoustic finger-picking to sweeping orchestrations is effortless with ‘The Gathering of the Clouds’ being one glorious example – just check out that spine-tingling crescendo.
Lee Douglas’ songbird-like quality perfectly harmonizes with Vincent Cavanagh’s warm tone and is used even more on this album than the previous one with her performance on ‘Lightning Song’ being of particular note. The album moves like seasons or changes in the weather. ‘Sunlight’ feels warm and enveloping in its simplicity whilst the ‘The Storm before the Calm’ is ominous like its title. Melancholic ‘The Lost Child’ feels like it could have been on 1999’s Judgement while standout ‘The Beginning and the End’ could well be Anathema’s greatest songwriting achievement. Similarly to WHBWH’s lyrical themes of existence and mortality, epic closer ‘Internal Landscapes’ features life-affirming spoken word pieces that bring comfort and closure to the journey of the album.
Songwriter Danny Cavanagh has stated that this is not background music for parties. Instead, the music is written to deeply move the listener, to uplift or take the listener to the coldest depths of the soul. While this has always been true of their music, it applies now more than ever. Fans will eat this glorious achievement up, but for the uninitiated; Anathema could well be the best band you have never heard.
1. Untouchable, Pt 1
2. Untouchable, Pt 2
3. The Gathering of the Clouds
4. Lightning Song
6. The Storm Before the Calm
7. The Beginning and the End
8. The Lost Child
9. Internal Landscapes