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Anathema: We're here because we're here

06/08/10  ||  Altmer

It’s been seven bloody years. Seven. And that is without breakups, internal fights or the like. Label struggles and such have seen this band working tirelessly on new material, but never being able to release it. A shame, since I hold this band in very high regard – but for most of you, you won’t care because this band doesn’t exactly sound like “Serenades” anymore. And most likely they never will, because that’s not where the hearts of the band members lie anymore.

“We’re here because we’re here” only furthers that musical view. On this album they have officially shed their last traces of metal music, and the couple distorted guitars cropping up are just power-chorded alterna-rock fare. But, by doing this, they have finally come into their own as the band with musical promise they have been over the last 15 years. They feel at home, they feel happy, and a sort of quiet hope, a quiet dream floats over this album, as if the internal chaos that ravaged inside of the members has been tempered and replaced with love. It might seem a bit lame to some of you, because a lot of the depression and melancholy in the album has faded, but trust me, the music is as much worth listening to as it ever was (if not even more).

In fact, this may be the best album they have ever released. It’s certainly the most diverse one – the influences here are all over the place, but there are a few bands that tie the album together. Pink Floyd is their most obvious influence and they always will be, there is no question about that – Radiohead is another that eternally crops up and for good reason. Porcupine Tree is a band that jumps to mind on “A Simple Mistake”. “Dreaming Light” features crescendos that wouldn’t be out of place in Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Ros. “Universal”‘s strings and obscure trip-hop rhythm refer back to Bristol greats Portishead. And it’s all underscored by vocal melodies that soar and float, male and female vocals traded to great effect (new official member Lee Douglas finally managing to properly stamp her mark on this album. It’s the most complete album they’ve recorded thus far and therefore marks their place on the map as one not afraid to experiment with different forms of music within the boundaries of their defined sound.

The production is crystal clear too, courtesy of Steven Wilson’s mixing job and their own production skills, making everything sound fresh and pristine. Anathema really benefits from the spacious mixing job that SW has provided – the clarity allows all the elements that could otherwise come across as congested and stifling the space and room to breathe in the mix. With a band where often a lot of layers feature, such a wide production is essential and credit must go to the band and their mixer (and masterer Jon Astley) for this excellent endeavor.

But what amazes me most is the watershed moment in their emotional attitude – despite playing a rather complex branch of rock, at least arrangement-wise, they have always professed to play with emotion, heart and conviction, and that is what shines through most on this album. The melodies are strong, not just because they know which hooks work, but because the vocal delivery is stellar and emotional. Vincent doesn’t have the biggest range but he has an inimitable character in his voice that makes you realise what he is singing about is real. As much as “Panic” conveyed a spastic mental confusion and true anxiety, so does “Dreaming Light” sound like a floating dirge upon a rolling sea, mixing Coldplay, Snow Patrol and Sigur Ros into the most accessible song they might have ever written, but also the strongest musically and on top of that its message of love also feels honest. I think that’s what appeals to me most – this band is HONEST to the last degree and what they do feels real and not prepackaged. They love what they do. It makes for much better albums and it makes for a very respectful and healthy attitude towards them.

This is probably the album you need to purchase this year. This is the album you need to get. This is the record that should be in your player, if you are a music fan. I don’t care that the band is barely metal anymore, I’m better than that, and so should you. Everyone should listen to this and admire it. It’s truly breathtaking what a band with conviction, vigor, and love for the craft can achieve when they set their minds to it. An essential purchase for lovers of music. Possibly the album of the year? A bit too early to say this in June, but I sure as hell think this is going to be my top contender. Stunning record.

Recommendation: Release albums like this more often. The world is a better place now.

9,5

  • Information
  • Released: 2010
  • Label: KScope
  • Website: www.anathema.ws
  • Band
  • Danny Cavanagh: backing vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, keyboards
  • Vincent Cavanagh: vocals, guitars
  • Jamie Cavanagh: bass
  • Les Smith: keyboards
  • John Douglas: drums
  • Lee Douglas: female vocals
  • Tracklist
  • 01. Thin Air
  • 02. Summernight Horizon
  • 03. Dreaming Light
  • 04. Everything
  • 05. Angels Walk Among Us
  • 06. Presence
  • 07. A Simple Mistake
  • 08. Get Off, Get Out
  • 09. Universal
  • 10. Hindsight