Saturday, 26 May 2012

Review: Anathema - Weather Systems

 Generally, whenever a metal band moves away from their core sound when recording new material, the fans will be absolutely unforgiving towards them if the change is too radical and the album becomes a flop. There's always the classic case of Metallica releasing St. Anger, there's the recent case of death metal legends Morbid Angel going industrial on Illud Divinum Insanus, there's the fury that was aimed towards Celtic Frost after they switched their highly respectable black metal sound on Cold Lake so that they could become Mötley Crüe, and as good as last year's Heritage was, Opeth's decision to drop the element of death metal from their new music was not one that was met with much warmth. However, Anathema are none of these bands.

 When the Liverpudlian quintet released We're Here Because We're Here in 2010, it marked a change in the band's overall style, introducing an extra shade of light onto their previously doom-laden progressive metal. However, We're Here Because We're Here proved itself to be an exception amongst the general rule of metal fans' reactions to bands changing their style, as the reaction was as positive as the tone of music they were presenting. The album even received the title of "Prog Album of the Year" by Classic Rock magazine, who referred to it as "a flawless life-affirming comeback and a gold-plated contender for album of the year." Clearly, Anathema have the ability to shine even out of the darkness.
 So, once more on their ninth album Weather Systems, the group have continued to move their sound from sounding like My Dying Bride to Pink Floyd. It's not an album for listeners to headbang and throw up their devil horns to, although it's debatable as to wether Anathema were ever that kind of band or not. Either way, this is an album in which listeners are absorbed into the sweeping world of firm melodies to gripping prog rock epics, supported by grand orchestral soundscapes, which combines with the stellar vocal and guitar performances from Vincent and Daniel Cavanagh to make tracks like The Gathering of the Clouds and Sunlight so beautiful and goosebump-inducing.
 From the opening moments of atmospheric wonder on Untouchable, Part 1 to the epic closing of Internal Landscape, a song which without going into totally soppy religious mode is most likely to be the best musical representation of heaven, the album plays with a delicacy that is also indestructible and while the performances on the likes of The Beginning and the End are the kind where listeners are immersed within the emotional power of the creative soundscapes, moments in the likes of Lightning Song and The Storm Before the Calm also have the sheer musical strength to give the album an extra touch of metallic intensity, creating something of a perfect balance.
 So, I suppose as I gradually turn into a mellower and more emotional person, I've been getting more immersed by bands that add an extra artful sophistication and grace to their metallic crunch, since this year I've already fallen in love with offerings from Alcest and Les Discrets. Anathema, being a more established act in the world of artful metal are still finding the ability to turn heads with their listeners with their newfound sense of light. Weather Systems is definitely an album which will shock, delight and immerse fans of their recent display of progressive metal with a more dappled dreamy edge to no end. It's a good thing that Anathema have managed to keep onto their fanbase with their change of style in a genre of music where other bands will find themselves losing fans for that very same reason. It means that all fans are sticking around for something special.

 Anathema's Weather Systems is out now via Kscope.

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