Anathema – Weather Systems (KScope/The End)
Guitarist, songwriter and co-founder of Liverpool’s Anathema summed up ‘Weather Systems’ best when he said “this is not background music for parties. The music is written to deeply move the listener, to uplift or take the listener to the coldest depths of the soul”.
On the band’s ninth studio album (not to mention multiple EP’s and compilations), Anathema finally soar to heights where previously we always hoped they would. Each of the nine songs are meditations on love and loss and if you’ve experienced loss of any kind, this album is bound to resonant with you and may even bring you to tears.
‘Weather Systems’ sees Anathema further explore the refines of progressive rock with strong inflections of folk beginning with ‘Untouchable, Part 1’, an up-tempo number built around Fleetwood Mac-esque guitar picking, building quickly and peaking at the 3:00 mark with the introduction of distorted guitars culminating with the vocals of Vincent Cavanagh, now up an octave, exclaiming, “I’ve never betrayed your trust, I’ve never betrayed faith”. ‘Untouchable, Part 1’ effortlessly transforms into the sombre and down-tempo ‘Untouchable, Part 2’, which in contrast to Part 1 is built around a simple vocal and piano. As found throughout ‘Weather Systems’, here Vincent exchanges vocal verses with the sublime vocal talents of Lee Douglas, before both intertwining to create rich and mesmerizing, sometimes haunting, sometimes uplifting, vocal harmonies.
What is immediately evident is how incredible Vincent Cavanagh has become as a singer. On previous Anathema recordings, although the music has always been spot on, I felt that the vocal performances lacked the technical aspects to take the songs to the next level; “acceptable” for a former death metal growler but still not quite there yet to play to your non-metal friends. On this record, Vincent is clearly brimming with confidence and his vocal performance and range finally take the songs to the level that we as listeners were hoping all along,
Most of the songs exceed five minutes and although the album is mid-tempo overall, the album never risks plodding; the arrangements being rich and complex enough without being complicated. Each listen to the album becomes more rewarding; melodies and hooks become more present bringing more and more emotion to the surface.
Two other notable points are ‘The Lost Child’, which reminded me of old Anathema in its choice of notes, melodies and vocal production, and ‘The Storm Before The Calm’, which might be the only blemish on an otherwise perfect album. It’s the heaviest song on the album with the first half sounding industrial not unlike newer Katatonia in production before taking a surprise turn in the second half of the song moving into somewhat rock-opera territory. While it’s not a bad song by any means it’s the only song that interrupts the flow of the rest of the album.
The final track ‘Internal Landscapes’, which is dedicated to Vincent and Danny Cavanagh’s late father, features a sampled monologue of somebody who experienced a “near death experience” and through the experience realizes the soul and spirit’s eternity. Just under 9 minutes in duration, ‘Internal Landscapes’ emphasizes the band’s power to build and build until climax. Combined with the beauty of the lyrics, as you listen, you notice your heart starts to race, you feel intensity and emotion building inside you and it’s Vincent’s vocals which go to places and take you to places you are hoping they would; overwhelming the listener with emotion.
This isn’t just the best Anathema album to date but possibly one of best albums of any band hailing from Liverpool.