ANATHEMA first re-recorded unplugged versions of their existing music with the album “Hindsight”. Contrary to my expectations, I not only loved that album, but it became one of my favourite albums from this former Doom, now-Atmospheric Rock group. Like most of my most loved modern artists, this is a band that keeps doing brilliant new things, and the second 'unplugged' release from these Liverpudlians proves that they have nowhere near exhausted their passion for making some of the most emotive music in recent times. Instead of merely doing a sequel to “Hindsight”, “Falling Deeper” does something rather different. ANATHEMA's latest sees them mellow out their music like never before, now to the point of being rightfully called Ambient music. Although the turbulence of these Doom classics has been squeezed out of them, they are now more beautiful and touching than ever.
In place of guitars or drums, ANATHEMA rely mostly on gentle piano, and a fully realized string section to bring these new renditions to life. “Hindsight” certainly changed most of its songs up into something new, but they were always recognizable in relation to the core material. “Falling Deeper” is such a radical departure from the Death-Doom Metal style that most of the songs here bear only a slight resemblance to the originals, to the point where one could even call this album a set of fresh material that pays homage to their early work over anything else. To call “Falling Deeper” 'unplugged' would be misleading, seeing as the arrangements here are generally more complex than the originals, which were mostly led on by one or two guitars. The strings and piano instantly create a template with which to create some beautiful music, and ANATHEMA do not disappoint. Each track here is very moving in a cinematic sense, and there is even a running flow to the music that assures the listener that once they fall into the trance of the music, they won't be roused out of it by some out-of-place track break.
There are vocals here as well from the Cavanagh brothers, as well as well-known Dutch vocalist Anneke Van Giersbergen, who coincidentally ranks among my favourite female singers. As opposed to letting the vocals take run with melodies, they are instead used almost as if the voices were no more an instrument than the violins or piano. The highlight “Kingdom” is perfectly indicative of this, with soothing vocals doing more for the texture of the music, rather than taking hold of the listener's attention. This is most definitely ambient music, and that can also mean it is not something that is necessarily going to mesh with every whim and occasion. This is romantic, beautiful, soothing music to put on while either relaxing and reflecting, and to that extent, I may not like the homogeneity of this release over something like “Hindsight”, or one of the brilliant full-lengths they have done recently. For what it lacks in dynamic or variety though, ANATHEMA nails down the one angle they aim for here, and once again, I have fallen in love with the music this group makes.
(Online January 17, 2012)