Anathema


Serenades/Crestfallen

Anathema - Serenades/Crestfallen ©1995 Peaceville/Music For Nations
CD one:
1. Lovelorn Rhapsody
2. Sweet Tears
3. J'ai Fait Une Promesse
4. They (will Always) Die
5. Sleepless
6. Sleep In Sanity
7. Scars Of The Old Stream
8. Under A Veil (of Black Lace)
9. Where Shadows Dance
10. Dreaming: The Romance
CD two:
11. ...And I Lust
12. The Sweet Suffering
13. Everwake
14. Crestfallen
15. They Die

Sheer mournful oppression. You can't run around or be active listening to this. It makes you take notice, sit down, and lock you into a suffocating grip of total doom. Heavy guitars* plod mercilessly through your thoughts and crush you with sonic waves of sorrow. Drums are very well done - slow, pounding rhythms embellished with sensible double bass variations*. The songwriting is brilliant - none of tracks sound like they're there just to fill up the record*. Two guitars constitute the main attack, and the bass is more felt than heard. There are some very well executed guitar passages that convey the misery of the creators rather succinctly* - not many notes are used, but each note plays a significant part in creating Anathema's unique atmosphere/mood. Vocalist Darren White - whom the guitarists later cruelly accused of being incompetent, which I think is total bullshit - growls with utmost conviction; you instantly feel that this is no act*, that this man is genuinely telling a tale of his darkest moments. Well, he's just delivering it in a gutteral, dejected growl. Some people think it's inappropriate - I don't.

Special mention must be made of certain tracks: "Crestfallen", "Sweet Tears" and "Loverlorn Rhapsody" are very well constructed, while "Sleepless" has a riff incorporating pinch harmonics that literally screams in your face and a solo that is strangely uplifting. If you buy the double-CD version like I did, you'll also get the 23-minute "Dreaming: The Romance" (which was erased from the American version so that they could destroy the concluding element of Serenades and fit both releases on one CD to save precious ca$h). It is a minimalistic strings-only "experimental" track that - though not musically remarkable in itself - provides a good backdrop to detach yourself from the record and its tight emotional strings. Then there's "J'ai fait une promesse" and "Everwake" which are essentially 2-3 minute songs with just acoustic guitars and vocals. The vocalist on these, Ruth, does some of the best vocals I have ever heard - the tonal clarity and purity of her voice is stunning, and she manages to sound fragile and sad without bringing across the image of a weepy nine-year-old*. The vocal chorus and acoustic guitars ease you into a dreary state of being in a surreal fantasy world - a world of clear streams, of mystical forests (never mind if my description sounds clichéd! dont laugh!), of universal bereavement, of melancholic ambience. The lyrics are amazing, too - honest poetry not intended to sound "!!elite!!" but to put a concrete concept and definite intentions behind the despondent abstraction of Anathema's music. This is way better than later Anathema (Eternity, Alternative 4).

More than somewhat recommended.

* Veiled hints for aspiring doom bands and doom listeners. Tested methods of staying clear of genericism and cliché-dom.

Review by Rahul Joshi

Review date: 01/1999

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Pentecost III

Anathema - Pentecost III ©1995 Peaceville
1. Kingdom
2. Mine Is Yours To Drown In (Ours Is The New Tribe)
3. We, The Gods
4. Pentecost III
5. Memento Mori

Pentecost III is what you get when you combine copious talent with lack of direction - in equal parts, and neither willing to compromise. Made at a time when Darren White was causing some friction in the band - and that is obvious even from how the vocals often sound distinctly out of place in the general dirge - this album is a little uncertain of where it is really heading, while rewarding the listener with some great doom-death along the way. The songs are rather unfocussed, and have no clear climax or resolution: they often just fade away or die down. The content, however, shines of classic Anathema, and is certainly worthy of purchase or theft.

"Kingdom" starts of in that nostalgic, depressing...classic Anathema fashion, sprinkled with somnolent psychedelia and soon builds up to a glorious hammering riff, much reminiscent of the wonderful (other-wordly, godly) Serenades days. Remember the way you felt when you first heard "Sleepless"? Or "Everwake"? Or White whispering "the weeping willow..." in "Sweet Tears"? Prepare to feel that way again. To new music. And then feel disgusted, as a strangely "rockin'" riff - completely out of place - destroys the feeling.

"Mine is Yours To Drown In (Ours Is the New Tribe)" and "We, the Gods", however, are both consistently old-styled, nearly as well-written. "Pentecost III" is less good, but more frightening, and though "Memento Mori" shows a return of form, the album ends there. A few minutes later, there's a short, hidden track with ominous chugging riffage and White screaming "666" over it. Slayer style solo ensues, and there we've had it.

Ananthema, the infallible lyricists, are at it well in that department, never a problem have they had there. The way these are delivered, though, is often a problem: Darren White often moans and groans to the music, usually off-key. It's about as annoying as Aaron's moans on mid-era My Dying Bride and they often ruin the soporific, sickly mood of the album. The production has not changed a lot, thankfully, but indicates a slight general looseness and lack of definition - crunch - that would be more marked from here on, and steadily worsen, finally to culminate on the sorry effort called Alternative 4. All in the name of Pink Floyd emulation, or formless, abstract, psychedelia, none of which Anathema should've been about.

Well, anyway, this is quite good, and though it's not near the quality of Serenades, Crestfallen or The Silent Enigma, it is surely a worthy investment. if only to have "Kingdom"'s first minutes seep through your slowing brain, and form images of a distant world full of scarlet fields, forlorn streams, and no people.

Review by Rahul Joshi

Review date: 03/2000


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The Silent Enigma

Anathema - The Silent Enigma ©1995 Mayhem
1. Restless Oblivion
2. Shroud Of Frost
3. ...Alone
4. Sunset Of Age
5. Nocturnal Emission
6. Cerulean Twilight
7. The Silent Enigma
8. A Dying Wish
9. Black Orchid

Word of advice: do not attempt to listen to this album for the first time while on a long road trip. The dirgey nature and slow, plodding songs will either cause you to nod off and drive into a semi-truck or force you to search out something with a little pepper. The Silent Enigma was the first Anathema album without vocalist Darren White and guitarist Vincent Cavanaugh did a credible job of taking over. Much of this album features rough, harsh vocals that occasionally turn into mournful Tom G. Warrior wails circa Into the Pandemonium. With the depressed nature of the music, each successive spin of the disc has heart-wrenching potential. The Silent Enigma is not an easy album to digest and must be reserved for your really bleak days. For those who have heard Anathema's latest couple of albums, the more doom-death approach can potentially be a turn-off, but it also begins creating the foundation of the current band. Simply put, it is nowhere near a great album, rather a look back into the evolution of a band. Just don't expect to play it in your car often.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 10/1998


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Eternity

Anathema - Eternity ©1996 Mayhem/Fierce
1. Sentient
2. Angelica
3. The Beloved
4. Eternity Part I
5. Eternity Part II
6. Hope
7. Suicide Veil
8. Radiance
9. Far Away
10. Eternity Part III
11. Cries On The Wind
12. Ascension

Eternity was my first foray into Anathema's world and turned out to be a great jumping in point as in retrospect, it is the first real starting point for the band in their current Pink Floyd drenched emo-metal (sans sweaters and teary eyed stage performances) with just a smidge of their older doom still nipping at their heels. The album contains remarkable atmosphere, sustained throughout most of the record, melding hope with despair. The first six songs on the album are a great series of perfectly sequenced and threaded songs, taking the listener through washes, climaxes and deep valleys of emotions. Anathema had their thumb on mood, offering some incredible passages of quieter instrumental interludes to enhance the heavier moments. One of the best moments is a cover of David Gilmour's "Hope", which the band nails down nicely. Moreover, the transition from "Eternity (Part II)" is quite superb, from the Enigma-flavored keyboard washes to the spoken word introduction. The second half of the album (essentially everything after "Hope") is a bit harder to sit through. "Suicide Veil" tends to be a bit anticlimatic after the first part of the album, while other songs drag their feet more than they should. The album ends with a great instrumental, "Ascension", which lives up to its title by pulling the listener safely from the depressed mood of the album.

Eternity is a good record, regardless of some its inherent flaws. Vincent Cavanaugh still sounds unsure of himself as a vocalist and hits more than a couple ugly notes. He gets the job done, but he won't receive points for grace. The songwriting still hadn't clicked into high gear as the album suffers on occasion for ideas that don't translate into execution. Nevertheless, the strong songs on the album are more than enough reason to pick this up and witness the growing beauty that is Anathema.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 10/2000

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Alternative 4

Anathema - Alternative 4 ©1998 Mayhem
1. Shroud Of False
2. Fragile Dreams
3. Empty
4. Lost Control
5. Re-connect
6. Inner Silence
7. Alternative 4
8. Regret
9. Feel
10. Destiny

Upon intially hearing Alternative 4 in 1998, I was immediately impressed with the improvements in several key areas over its predecessor, Eternity. Vocalist/guitarist Vincent Cavanaugh's delivery had improved immensely over the singing that occasionally lacked confidence and technique on Eternity, sounding relatively close to Paradise Lost's Nick Holmes without the reliance on Sisters of Mercy influence. Alternative 4 did continue the vein of Pink Floyd-as-a-metal-band in the songwriting, creating a blend of doom metal moodiness with a very distinct morose atmosphere complete with those flying guitar lines that Floyd pulled off so well. Moreover, the album's first three tracks (the opening intro, "Fragile Dreams" and "Empty") are some of the best material the band has written. However, after this powerful and gripping opening to the album, things dwindle from that point on. The album wanders aimlessly through quieter passages, songs that lack the arrangement to really pull in the listener and generally less than stellar material. While the music isn't by any means terrible, it lacks a sense of urgency or a real connection to the listener with the emotion the band attempts to convey. It is very easy for attention to wander while listening to the middle section of the album and I very seldom listened to this disc from start to finish. In retrospect, the journey the band officially undertook with Eternity didn't come to fruition until Judgement, which took on the ideas of Alternative 4 and tidied up the mess.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 01/2001

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Judgement

Anathema - Judgement ©1999 Music For Nations
1. Deep
2. Pitiless
3. Forgotten Hopes
4. Destiny Is Dead
5. Make It Right (F.F.S)
6. One Last Goodbye
7. Parisienne Moonlight
8. Judgement
9. Don't Look Too Far
10. Emotional Winter
11. Wings Of God
12. Anyone, Anywhere
13. 2000 & Gone
14. Transacoustic (digipack Bonus)

After the slow, multi-album process of essentially finding themselves as a musical unit, Anathema has completely put all their jigsaw pieces together with Judgement. Easily the best album of their post Darren White era, Judgement is a warm, expressive and lush album that completely puts their last three to shame. Anathema has certainly gone deeply into the realm of a Pink Floydian vibe and atmosphere, which works fabulously well throughout Judgement. Rather than bellowing out their pain, Anathema layers it in finesse and wide fields of warm sound. This is the kind of album that barely lets up on the emtional ride throughout and demands a complete listen.

While their previous album Alternative 4 had only a couple moments early on and then bogged down for the remainder of the album, Judgement starts strong and finishes just as strong. Whether the band is expressing themselves through well structured songwriting or using short instrumental fills such as the well placed "Destiny is Dead", the band never fails to convey the proper mood. Vincent Cavanaugh's voice is definitely the strongest it has ever been, with very little wavering or off key moments. The band uses many approaches from heavier guitars to acoustic, pianos, keyboards and ebbs and flows in intensity, all of which adds up to a complete piece. Needless to say it is a tragedy that Judgement hasn't received proper stateside distribution in the long period of time since its release in 1999, but whatever the cost and effort, Judgement is by far worth the trouble.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 04/2000

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Review #2

What an album. More a maturation than a progression from prior works, Judgement is the realization of a sound that was first heard with Eternity and later with Alternative 4. Anathema's newer sound is often likened to Pink Floyd's, and I suppose the assessment is reasonable, although of course the story does not end there. Anathema are better than Floyd; Anathema's music is much more expressive, more touching, more personal… more melancholy.

Sure, the flattering sketch I gave could be used to describe any of their releases, but what makes Judgement that much more extraordinary is the singular songwriting. Whereas Eternity and Alternative 4 have their fair share of rough moments, with Anathema's newest every subtle melody comes together so seamlessly that one could almost grasp its cohesiveness. An album as focused and as beautifully textured as this one does not come along often, and can only come about when a band's chemistry is at its highest. What is even more remarkable is that the members of Anathema share songwriting duties virtually uniformly between themselves.

Perhaps a metaphor will help me describe this album. Think of Judgement as an uninterrupted succession of waves, undulating between crests and troughs, with moments of lull and storm. Heavier numbers, such as the climactic "Judgement" and the rockier emo-metal song "Pitiless," are tempered by slower, quieter tunes such as the instrumental "Transacoustic" and the piano accompanied "Parisienne Moonlight." Because of the album's coherence, it is probably wiser to think of individual songs not as self-contained entities, but as movements of a symphony, each movement as poignant and indispensable as the next. Not literal symphonies of course, but you get the idea.

Subtle layering of acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, and Vincent Cavanagh's emotive singing and whispering, coupled with beautifully crafted minor mode melodies, create an atmosphere that quite literally stirs the soul, as clichéd as that may sound. As for Vincent, he no longer growls, and his singing has improved dramatically since Eternity. On "Parisienne Moonlight" and "Don't Look Too Far," a female voice courtesy of Lee Douglas can also be heard. The lyrics, which are bursting with angst and anguish, may seem superficial at first, but upon closer inspection they too reveal cleverly hidden profundities.

Of all the albums released in 1999, I've probably listened to Judgement more often than any other CD, excepting the Gathering's How to Measure a Planet?. Better than the newest Katatonia, better than the newest My Dying Bride, and (gasp) even better than the newest Opeth opus, Anathema's Judgement is one of the finest releases of the past year and decade.

Review by Jeffrey Shyu

Review date: 06/2000

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Resonance

Anathema - Resonance ©2001 Peaceville
1. Scars of The Old Stream
2. Everwake
3. J'ai Fait Une Promesse
4. ...Alone
5. Far Away (acoustic)
6. Eternity Part II
7. Eternity Part III (acoustic)
8. Better Off Dead
9. One Of The Few
10. Inner Silence
11. Goodbye Cruel World
12. Destiny
13. The Silent Enigma (orchestral)
14. Angelica (live Budapest 1997)
15. Horses

In 2001, Anathema released the first part of a somewhat unusual "best-of/compilation" pair. The two digipacks each featured the two personalities of the band: the softer material and the heavier music, each given its own package. The first Resonance finds Anathema in their pensive, somber, softer moods, collecting a variety of album tracks, cover tunes and unreleased tracks for the release. The nice thing for fans is that there is plenty of hard to find material or otherwise unreleased stuff, so it's not a money-grabbing rehash of easily available music.

The material, despite being organized by general mood, is still somewhat haphazard and disjointed, but not in a bad way. The band had progressed through the 90s from a doom/death band to something that was equal parts metal, Pink Floyd, and quality alternative rock (yes, there is such a thing, despite being as rare as a white tiger in the wild). Music culled from the Eternity era finds the band in a rougher state than some of the more recent material. One of the more notable songs on this album is the truly unusual cover of Bad Religion's "Better Off Dead", which reinterprets the music over orchestral tones and piano with a female singer. If you're going to remake someone else's song, why not completely reinvent it? There's also a couple takes on Pink Floyd tunes, providing the necessary tip of the hat to their influential countrymen.

Perhaps the only track that is a waste of disc space is the bootlegged "Angelica", which is obviously an audience recording and really low quality. Maybe it's the British sense of humor at work, but it's nearly impossible to sit through due to the horrible sound.

Unlike many compilations, Resonance gives its money's worth in hard to find material. Any fan of Anathema can improve his or her collection by including this.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2008

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A Fine Day To Exit

Anathema - A Fine Day To Exit ©2001 Music For Nations
1. Pressure
2. Release
3. Looking Outside Inside
4. Leave No Trace
5. Underworld
6. Barriers
7. Panic
8. A Fine Day To Exit
9. Temporary Peace

No doubt, the name Anathema has become synonymous with quality, emotive, and certainly underrated music. Nodding obviously to Radiohead and Jeff Buckley, two of their oft-mentioned and admitted muses, Anathema's latest, A Fine Day to Exit, is a richly textured work of subtle, rather complex moods. The methodically paced, hesitant "Pressure" bears the closest resemblance to Radiohead's work, while Vincent Cavanagh's singing has a Buckley-esque manner to it. Following the lead of others perhaps, Anathema have taken up an interest in electronics, although the extent of its penetration amounts merely to adding a subtle textural dimension to the music and bridging songs with synthesized ambience.

One should not misjudge A Fine Day to Exit as an aping of the post-rock works of others; rather Anathema have always had a voice of their own, an expression of eloquent, sincere melancholy manifested in their music and lyrics. This album is slightly more optimistic lyrically than previous releases however, and song titles such as "Barriers", "Panic", and "Pressure" suggest that more complex themes are addressed here. Musically, subtle vocal rises, such as the ones at the ends of the choruses in "Looking Outside Inside", suggest an hopefulness that often belies the dismalness their lyrics evoke.

Rousing, soaring tracks like "Underworld" are usually tempered by mellower, more introspective works such as "Barriers". This is often the case within songs as well. "Panic", with the electric guitar and Cavanagh's voice harmonizing, soaring in unison, reminds us of the meticulous craftsmanship that underlies their work. Like their previous album Judgement, we have here a nicely balanced, cohesive, poignant work of art. Anathema's music may no longer be as emotionally polarized but it is, as always, psychologically exhausting.

Review by Jeffrey Shyu

Review date: 12/2001

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