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.
Anathema started as a doom/death band fronted by Darren White. The band managed two EPs and one full-length release with this line-up before Darren left to pursue other interests. In his absence, guitarist Vincent Cavanagh stepped up to fill the vocal role. This album, The Silent Enigma
, holds the distinction of being the first album with Vincent on vocals and also the last release to traverse the doom genre. With the line-up change in the recent past and a huge stylistic leap just around the corner; how did Anathema do on their final doom release?
The Silent Engima
is clearly divided into two different categories. On one side, you have some solid, memorable doom that showcases hints of what was still to come. On the other you’re left with half-hearted doom-by-numbers that feels directionless and meandering – a good portion of the album fits into the latter category. There could be a lot of reasons for this. It’s entirely possible that the band just wasn’t into doom anymore, but that they were too afraid to abandon the genre so soon after losing their vocalist. Of course, it’s also possible that this was simply the best they could come up with at the time, but based on their talent, that seems unlikely.
The Silent Enigma
’s sole redeeming tracks are the first two songs, and they prove that the band were more than capable of crafting some excellent doom if they felt inspired. Both of these songs use doom as their foundation but they contain a lot more 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 well-executed clean guitar sections as well as up-tempo sections where you can almost get your head bobbing to the beat. These new facets help to contrast with the traditional doom elements and take Anathema’s (short-lived) doom style to another level. Of course, the musical changes weren’t the only new elements on The Silent Enigma
– and they weren’t all as welcome.
The biggest difference comes from the change in vocalists. On this release, Vincent Cavanagh has three distinct vocal styles that he uses to varying degrees. 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 okay, 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 undeveloped clean guitar section and/or subtle keyboard sounds, and possibly some spoken word. It seems as if the band didn’t know (or didn’t care) where to take these songs and, as such, they lack the direction required to push through to the next level. It’s also these inarticulate 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 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 hinders 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 that was released around the same time (and especially when compared to their album Serenades
), this one just seems second-tier. For those looking to delve into Anathema’s Doom roots, Serenades
is the only album you need to bother with because this album, along with their two EPs just aren’t up to par.