Review Summary: Very high on style, but lacking the substance that made We're Here Because We're Here a fan-favorite.
In theory, this should be Anathema's best release yet. They've literally taken the formula that made We're Here Because We're Here
such an excellent release, and supersized every part of it. The epic, uplifting melodies are back and bigger than ever, Lee Douglas' vocal role has increased exponentially, the orchestral element is more prominent, the tempos are more diverse and Vincent's vocals are more dynamic. On paper, this should easily lead to the same kind of musical leap that We're Here Because We're Here
took when compared to A Natural Disaster
, and it almost did. The increased emphasis on the previous release's biggest elements has allowed Weather Systems
to be easily consumable and instantly memorable. It has also lead to the back-to-back gems of "Untouchable" parts one and two. These two songs are almost literally the embodiment of everything that made the previous album so damn good, and they're undeniably near the top of the band's material. The initial part features an excellent cyclical guitar melody, emotive vocals from Vincent and Lee, an upbeat tempo and a big closing. Part two slows the tempo down and replaces the main guitar melody with piano and keyboards, but otherwise follows the same formula. It, too, is based on a solid melodic foundation, exceptional vocal harmonies and a slow build towards an eventual climax. The problem is that just about every subsequent track follows that exact same formula, eventually causing the album to feel more sterile and less genuine than We're Here Because We're Here
"The Gathering of the Clouds" also begins with a cyclical guitar melody, excellent vocal harmonies and a warm layer of keyboards. It also starts soft so that it can eventually build towards something bigger. It's almost as though the band picked the elements of the previous album that fans gravitated towards the most and then focused on crafting an entire album of those very things. If so, they did a good job but it causes the album to lose the emotional connection and sincerity of We're Here Because We're Here
. Therein lies the main (and only) problem with Weather Systems
– it's so damn good on the surface, but it is rarely able to elicit the same kind of emotional response as its predecessor. Whereas the previous album used certain themes and ideas to accentuate each overall song, this release has pushed them into being the entire focus. Without much deviation, each track is going to start softer than it will eventually end up, each song is going to blanket you with uplifting harmonies and warm melodies and just about every one of them will lose their emotional connection while pushing the methodical formula. The one real exception is "The Storm Before the Calm" which introduces a programmed beat, an electro undercurrent and a dark, almost gothic, atmosphere. Unfortunately, it is also horribly redundant and will probably not be a song that people return to often.
It's tough to listen to Weather Systems
because it's almost an album of two faces. The main face is the most obvious one. It is the fact that this album has somehow improved on all the most endearing parts of We're Here Because We're Here
. The uplifting melodies are stronger, the tempos are more diverse and the vocal harmonies are hard to ignore. These elements, and more, have made Weather Systems
one of the easiest Anathema albums to get into and also one of the most memorable. The problem is that it all feels just a little too formulaic. There are too many times when it feels as though the song is building up only because that's what it's time to do. There is also too many times where any emotional connection is buried under a track's own bloated grandiose ideas. There's no doubt that Weather Systems
should be considered another milestone for Anathema because it is most certainly an improvement on everything they've been working towards, but in all the commotion and attention to the minute details the band may have lost sight of the bigger picture, leaving everything just a bit too sterile and formulaic to truly be considered anything more than excellent.