Review Summary: Keep the tissues ready, because this is one hell of an emotional ride...
Imagine you're in your bedroom. You've half closed the curtains, in some hopeless attempt to dim the light, but the rays of a dying moon still enter your room. You lay hopelessly on your bed, looking at the fake stars a lost friend gave you for a long forgotten birthday. The waning visions of the world wash over you as the batteries of your lamp die. The magazines you loved to read lay abandoned and scattered across a floor you once could be bothered to keep clean. And the pictures, the pictures on the wall, all they serve as is a reminder of days you wish you could return to, but are now beyond your grasp.
You turn to your cd player now. You want the comfort of slow, moody music, without abrasiveness but with a slow, downkey melody, expressive and emotional vocals and a feeling that radiates the emptiness which equates with your life. What record should you now turn to? The answer should come as no suprise, for it is Anathema's Judgement.
As one of the progenitors of the doom/death sound, Anathema's music has always revolved around a sober, downkey vibe, slow atmospheres and drawing on loss for inspiration. It's always been a muddy sodden ride through the minds of the Cavanaugh brothers. This album is no different (and I don't think Anathema will ever change that, or at least I hope so), as it revels in that side of life listeners usually like to keep veiled or wallow in: sorrow, misery, and bleakness.
Anathema, though a metal band formerly, however, have kind of shifted their sound to what may be called atmospheric doom rock, in a sense. Instead of using grunted vocals and looming walls of guitar, they have taken a sense of melancholia atmosphere over it instead. Drawing heavily from bands such as Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree on this album, they instead take a moody approach. Danny Cavanagh's sometimes eerily resembles that of Gilmour, with long, sustained notes, and haunting acoustic picking which so subtly underlines the keyboard atmospheres.
However, instead of opting for long and drawn-out orchestrations, Anathema keep it short and concise. Every song features different things and melodies, but all share a similar sense of gloominess. One Last Goodbye is possibly the most touching lament ever written, with expressive vocals from Vinny Cavanagh as his brother's lyrics reflect the passing of their mother. The solo at the end is simple, but instead of going for technical flashes, the supremely placed melody gives the song exactly that extra punch and vibe of despair the band so desperately wants to give off.
In other places, Deep is a more uptempo track featuring layered guitars and a more direct approach, giving it some extra punch as the lyrics take you straight into the world of bleakness Anathema create. Parisienne Moonlight opts for a cliche female/male vocal duet, but the melody interwoven throughout the song is such a masterpiece that the absurd cheesiness of actually going through with it hardly even matters anymore. And the meticulously placed instrumental Destiny is Dead opts for an atmospheric approach rather than needless technical ostentatiousness.
Sometimes, it may seem as if Anathema are only too eager to let you wallow in their sorrow, but the poignant introspective lyrics and the intoxicating atmosphere prevent the listener from drifting off into a state of boredom. The most interesting thing about this record is not that it is depressive (as many other records are), nor that it is atmospheric (as many other records are), but that its poignancy seems completely genuine. Even if the melody would be crafted through a computer or by some other technical means, it sounds organic and true; and it still invokes pathos and emotion, and that is truly where the strength of the album lies, as without it the only depression a listener would get would be the utter timidity and vapidity of the record.
Anathema sure may not have reinvented the wheel or done anything specifically musically interesting, apart from crafting some supreme melodies. However, if you're looking into some downkey music for the sadder moments of life, this is the most genuine record you're going to be likely to find. And that emotion in the end is what music listeners have sought in the past, and many still seek. It's what keeps people going, and what keeps a band like Anathema going. Long may it continue.
One Last Goodbye (!!!!)