Review Summary: Anathema's Doom Metal peak, and also one of the most depressing albums I've ever heard.
I would love to be there to see the face of any new Anathema fan that likes them for their Radiohead
and Pink Floyd
influenced albums, when they unknowingly picked up this album. They would put the CD on and for the first ten seconds everything would seem normal as a simple keyboard sound fades in, but suddenly there would be these heavy riffs, slow pounding drums and double bass, and after a short spoken word intro, deep, guttural death metal vocals. The look on that poor person’s face would be priceless. What some might not know is that Anathema started out playing doom metal with a vocalist named Darren White. If Darren was a fan of Pink Floyd, his vocals never displayed it. He delivered his lyrics in a harsh growl that conveyed a strong sense of sadness and loss.
As previously stated, the album jumps right in with slow, pounding double bass, heavy guitars, subtle keyboards and guttural death metal vocals accentuated by Vincent Cavanagh’s black metal rasps and clean singing. With few exceptions, the entire album sticks to slow, pounding doom with every song having something to do with dying or coping with death. One of those notable exceptions is the acoustic song, “J'Ai Fait une Promesse” featuring a guest female vocalist singing in French. The song is beautiful and sorrowful at the same time, and is the only one that may appeal to people who didn’t know what they were in for when purchasing this album.
After the beautiful acoustic song comes one of two flawless doom masterpieces on the album; “They (Will Always) Die”. It has a perfect blend of heavy riffs combined with mournful (and slightly sinister) melodies, and Darren’s vocals making it sound as if he could just fall apart at any moment. It is a song about coping with the inevitability of death in the world and Darren wears his pain on his sleeve. While listening to this song I thought that this had to be the peak of the album, but I was wrong. The song that is even more perfect is “Under a Veil (Of Black Lace)”.
“Under a Veil (Of Black Lace)” is quite possibly the most perfect doom song I’ve ever heard. The lyrics deal, once again, with the death of a loved one but in a more direct and personal way than the songs previous. Before this album I never thought that death metal vocals could actually convey such a huge sense of sadness, and nowhere am I proved more wrong than here. When you combine them with Vincent Cavanagh’s clean backing vocals, and heavy, sorrowful riffs you have what would have already been a great song, but half way through they kick the sadness up another notch. At the halfway point all the music stops, and the only thing left is an acoustic guitar and Darren comes in (still in full death metal mode) and says “I loved her and now she’s gone”, and the music kicks back in with one of the most depressing melodies on the album.
I wish that “Under a Veil (Of Black Lace)” was the song that Anathema closed the album with because it would have ended a perfect album, but that isn’t the case. Instead they end with a meandering and formless “song” that is over 20 minutes of keyboard droning. It is a waste of space and should have been left off. Fortunately, the band put it at the end so it is easily avoidable and doesn’t go too far towards ruining the overall experience. If you like doom and were unaware of Anathema’s past then you owe it to yourself to track down this album – an album that I would place in the top three of doom albums, ever.