Review Summary: Vincent's first album after taking over the vocal duties. This album doesn't nearly show what a great vocalist he would eventually become.
When Anathema started they had a Death Metal vocalist by the name of Darren White who managed to stay with the band through two EPs and one full length album before leaving. After his departure guitar player Vincent Cavanagh stepped up to do vocals and guitars. This album, The Silent Enigma
, holds the distinction of being Vincent’s first album that he handled vocals for as well as for being Anathema’s last Doom album. So, based on that, how did Anathema do on their final Doom album?
Unfortunately, this album is clearly divided into two different categories. On the one side you have the songs that are good, solid and seem well thought out, but on the other side you have the songs that seem directionless and meandering. In fact, a good portion of this CD is more devoted to the second category, unfortunately. I’m not sure if that is due to the fact that the band just wasn’t into Doom anymore but were afraid to take their Pink Floyd
inspired genre leap or if maybe this was the best they could come up with at the time… based on their talent, I’m more inclined to think that it’s the first reason.
The category that contains the good songs is a lonely place to be as it only contains the first two tracks of the album. Both songs are Doom at heart, but they contain a lot more musical ideas then anything from Anathema’s past. They both contain the slow sections including the prerequisite Doom melodies and heavy riffs, but the songs are also dynamically varied. They have quieter clean guitar sections as well as slightly faster sections where you can almost get your head bobbing to the beat. The biggest difference comes from the obvious change in vocalists to Vincent Cavanagh (who is still their vocalist to this day). Vincent has three distinct vocal styles on this album. The first style is a slight mid-range growl which he uses in more of the heavy sections. The second style is almost a spoken word rasp, and the final style is a clean Gothic moan similar to what he’d further develop on the next few albums. None of his styles are very strong, unfortunately, and they don’t do nearly the great job of conveying emotion that Darren White did.
The second category is where the rest of the album dwells. These songs are all Ok, and all have interesting moments, but they just seem to lack direction. They are all filled with too many quiet moments that rarely contain more then an uninteresting clean guitar and occasionally subtle keyboards and possibly some spoken words. It seems as if the band didn’t know where to take these songs and as such they lack any real memorable moments. It’s these indistinct songs that really show off how weak Vincent’s vocals are. In the good songs the music is able to carry his vocals, but in the rest of these songs he’s just too one-dimensional to do anything other then drag them down farther. His inability to convey any type of emotion is the first thing that hurts these songs, but the main thing that hurts them is his inability to vary his vocals beyond those three distinct styles mentioned earlier. That inability starts to make all the songs sound repetitive and stale, especially by the end of the disc.
I like Anathema and I think this is the last decent album they ever did until Judgement
brought about a new era in quality, but it’s still just barely passable. When compared to other Doom around at the time of this release and especially when compared to their album Serenades
this one just seems second-tier. For those looking to delve into Anathema’s Doom roots, then Serenades
is the only album you need to bother with because this album, along with their two EPs just aren’t up to par.