One can sense with each release by ANATHEMA that the band is moving onto more retrospective territory than Metal can offer them. There is virtually no Metal to be found on "A Fine Day To Exit", instead, we find even more of those reported RADIOHEAD- and PINK FLOYD-influences slithering their way into the compositions. This is a good and bad thing in some ways, but the good faaarrrr outweighs the bad.
"Pressure" comes in with what is, simply put, radio-friendly music. The amount of distortion used in the guitars is just enough to make it "rock and roll" and low enough to not make it Metal. Upon first listen, for me, this was not very captivating, and my expectations for the album were slightly shaken, but that would change with "Release", which begins with what almost sounds like a sequenced acoustic guitar, either that or they play the guitar REALLY clean! Vincent Cavanaugh's vocals, on this song in particular, are simply hypnotic. Some of the most entrancingly beautiful harmonies I have heard in my life, and that is no small statement. This man's vocals are probably half of my reason for loving this band so much, I am speechless. This alone is reason enough to buy the album, I assure you of that much.
While I find the next song "Looking Outside Inside" slightly annoying due to the time change in the middle, which is a bit too Brit-Pop for my liking, this is made up for on the next song, "Leave No Trace", which sends me into an almost meditative state of mind with every listen. Following up with "Underworld", which again is a bit too watered-down with the vintage fuzz-guitar-tone for my tastes, it still isn't a bad song. However, the brilliance of "Barriers" simply puts it to shame, just about the dreamiest ballad one is likely to ever hear, where the vocals are split by a female stand-in (sounds like Lee Douglas who sang on "Parisienne Moonlight" on "Judgment", but it doesn't say in the liner notes) and Cavanaugh. Their voices go together like bread and butter, with the butter already warmed like they do in those high-class restaurants, ohhhh yeah!
"Panic" is slightly out-of-place in a way, but is still an excellent up-tempo number, with some more excellent vocal harmonies from Sir Cavanaugh and "Ms. Female Stand-in". Following that, the title track contains, perhaps, ANATHEMA's finest musical moment to date. So dreamy, so engaging, something to utterly dissolve yourself in. I simply cannot put into words the piercing beauty of this song, but mark my words, it will blow your mind, it is pure ANATHEMA, as only ANATHEMA can do it. Listen.
This all goes without saying that this album contains some of the most superb production techniques I have yet been subject to in my young life, produced by none other than Nick Griffiths, who has worked with (among others) PINK FLOYD. That should suggest something to you! I suppose the few not-so-stellar tracks on the album are made up for by the immeasurable grandeur of the album's strengths, and at the forefront is the production. No aspiring producer should be without this album!
An album to get lost in, one need not look any further than the cover for proof...