Music these days seems to have lost it touch.
Everywhere you look, you see bands all doing the same things, having the exact same sound (unashamedly!), and we are left with the fallout of their blistering, short careers. It’s as if they don’t have any incentive to go beyond boundaries, experiment, create sounds. However, all is not lost...
Anathema has always had the knack for writing good music. They’ve shown it time and time again, from the “Judgement" days, up in to the most recent, “Fine Day" days. They have changed throughout their careers, from the booming Doom Metal pioneers, to something a bit different. They have become the epitome of beautifully depressing music, and none more so than on this album, A Natural Disaster.
A Natural Disaster
A first glance to the album cover gives us the feeling that things have changed a bit since A Fine Day to Exit. Whereas on that album, they displayed their change through good solid songs, on AND, they have gone back to their roots. Their doom roots of course! Not that AFDTE was bad! Not by a long shot! It was just...not their area of expertise.
Two Years down the road, and word of a new album emerges. It can be noticed that some of the band members have changed, most noticeably new member keyboard-player Les Smith (previously of Cradle of Filth). He is a great addition to the band and exactly what the doctor ordered. His atmospheric melodies and background ambience makes the songs so much more interesting, and works well with the lead vibratos on each song. The bassist has also been replaced with another Cavanaugh brother, Jamie.
Now, the album. And what an album it is. First thing you’re likely to notice is the lack of actual...Rock songs (never mind metal!), and find that most songs are turned-down to great a subtleness which is quite magnificent in its approach. The cover will give you a dark, depressing type of feel. And so it should! That’s exactly what the album sounds like! On this record they seemed to have created some of the most beautifully crafted songs you have ever heard. Imagine mixing the gloom of Roger Waters with the more romantic songs of Sigur Ros and you’d be close. Weird combination, but fits it like a glove.
The album starts of with a hypnotising song Harmonium. Les is immediately evident as it starts off with different harmonising keyboards. Vincent’s crooning comes in to remind us of the darkness that lies with him. An almost mechanical drum-beat leads the way as Vincent and Danny harmonise their way along. The song goes on to distort to a build-up, and climaxes with interchangeable voices fading in and out, screams come and go, and so it ends. The next song Balance follows a more up-beat tempo with some gently stomping beats, and a nice little melody from the keyboards which is really reminiscent of Everything in Its Right Place from Radiohead. One thing you’ll realize from this album is the lack of guitars, in place of the keyboard. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as the keyboards really hold their own on the songs. The song distorts and suddenly ends only to begin with the next song, Closer.
Closer seems to me to be a filler type track, but it is truly only experimental. It features Vincent on a vocoder through 95% of the song. Keyboards once again in the front seat, with voice and melody mixing and fading into each other, only serving to prove that Anathema are the masters of experimental sounds. The song is also of build-up nature and crescendos within a flurry of distortion and Vincent screaming the main line “Closer...drawing drawing closer!". An amazingly beautiful song. Childhood Dream is short instrumental of the album, but it never fails to tug on my emotional-strings. It is so beautiful in its composition. It reminds me of For Absent Friends on Deliverance – Opeth. But its more a The Wall type track than an Opeth instrumental. Its starts with children playing in the background, as an acoustic guitar leads the way into your heart, tugging on emotions you never thought you had. Stunning.
Two songs that really stand out in pure magnificence are Are You There?, And Electricity. They both have Les playing a major role with keyboards on AYT, and piano on Electricity. On AYT, Vincent croons softly about the state of his emotional being. Fact is, I’m actually doing this band in-justice. I’ve been focussing too much on the sound of the keyboards, when it’s the rest of the band completing the sound. It is extremely evident in all the songs. A guitar lick plays cleanly through, with a drum-roll type beat following. Electricity is a short, soft song with some gentle vocals and an almost bouncy type piano melody. Imagine the first time you heard Mad World. This song is so beautiful; it makes you drop any mood you’re in, in favour of a romantic, depressingly fuzzy type mood. The song never really takes off, but fact is, it never really has to. It is sung by Danny, which shows off his vocal ability to an amazing extent. A perfect song if there ever was one.
The rock song of the album has to be Pulled Under. It starts almost identical to One of These Days from Pink Floyd with the bass-delay hammering away. The keyboards make a nice backdrop for which Vincent can through us some depressing lyrics. The vocals become emotionally intense fast as the song explodes into a fast, distorted rock-fest. The song has an amazing breakdown where Vincent whispers his lyrics, almost inaudible. The song closes with a climax, but you will wish it never does.
The title-track brings back the gloom with a slow, clean guitar lick. Lee Douglas returns again with her single song effort, but what a song it is. She has an amazing voice, and sings with such conviction; she almost gives Vincent a run for his money....ok almost. The song progresses nicely for all the instruments, and builds-up to a climax for Lee .“No matter what I say, no matter what I do, I can’t changed what happened!". The real money is in where Vincent almost whispers the chorus at the very end in harmony with Lee. Pure emotion. Flying is a similar song, with a great chorus, but it seems to irritate me when done in solo mode such as in the beginning of the song. Another classic in the repertoire.
The album finishes off with a stunning epic called Violence. Its starts of slow and gentle with a walking piano melody, but as soon the drums and guitar vibratos come in, it all goes nuts. The drums beat away like there’s no tomorrow, and the guitars meshes comfortably. It’s not a hard rock song by any means, its just...epic! It ends with a slow piano improvisation.
And so it ends. One of the most emotionally wrought albums I’ve ever encountered, but also one of the most beautiful. This album is true proof that for some, making music is more than just records, money and conformity. They’ve always stood out beyond their peers with their unique approach, but ironically, always never gotten any attention. Even Kerrang! Picked that one up! If their next album moves on with this type of sound, it will almost certainly be a remarkable album.
Their music touches me in many ways.
Just give them a chance will ya! :)
1. Amazing harmonies
2. Beautiful compositions
3. Keyboards a perfect addition
1. Vocals on Flying and Pulled Under get a bit strained
2. Some songs seem a bit bland.
The Flabbit Rides High