Most of you may already know that ANATHEMA formed in the early nineties as a primarily Death-Doom oriented band. They, along with cohorts PARADISE LOST and MY DYING BRIDE helped define the genre that many of us now take for granted. Over the years and with various personnel changes came big stylistic changes as the band gradually evolved into a primarily Modern/Atmospheric Rock group with little musical connections to their heavier past other than a continued following of devoted fans. This compilation of re-recorded older songs is at once emotional, melancholic and ambient, speaking more to the works of bands such as RADIOHEAD and COLDPLAY as they invoke Classical, Folk, and Art Rock influences into a very pleasant sound.
Listen a little closer and fans of heavier music might still find strong similarities with the quieter musical passages of OPETH, the haunting music, evoking many of the same feelings. Lyrically, most of the songs in this collection deal with themes of lost love and regret, the music being appropriately mournful and primarily using piano and acoustic guitars as the melodic instruments, with some accompanying cello (played by Dave Wesling of the ROYAL LIVERPOOL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA). Other instruments like accordion and irish mandolin also make their appearance on various tracks. Vincent Cavanaugh’s breathy voice perfectly suits the somber nature of the music, while Lee Douglas adds her soulful voice to a few tracks.
From weepy ballads like “One Last Goodbye” to the slightly more uptempo track “Are You There” with it’s Folky acoustic guitar and atmospheric backing vocals, the band treads along a relatively narrow band of emotions always maintaining a melancholic feel. The song “Temporary Peace” with its intro of ocean waves and electric piano perfectly captures the atmosphere of a bittersweet longing, with Lee's voice adding her side to the story. The new track “Unchained (Tales Of The Unexpected)” creates a dreamlike mood with cello, reverberating piano, and whispered background voices as an acoustic guitar leads the way.
When I first listened to this album I was surprised by how soft the music was, but it gradually grew on me and is certainly one of the more pleasant surprises that I’ve recently had. It may not qualify as Metal or barely even as Rock, but the music is still perfect for those days when you don’t need any more anger in your life and just want to reflect on things a little.
(Online August 17, 2008)