Anathema's seventh album continues in more or less the same atmospheric rock style they've been practicing since 'Alternative 4,' but is the first release since then to match up in terms of heaviness and melancholia. Anathema haven't been a metal band for a very long time, and indeed nothing on here really harks back to their early days, but the resurgence of some powerful, doomy post-rock in the style of Mogwai as songs build to a crescendo helps to make this a grander, more emotive and more interesting effort than predecessor 'A Fine Day to Exit.'
As usual, the songs are driven along by slow drums, acoustic guitars with occasional harder electric riffs, and soft vocals from brothers Vincent and Daniel Cavanagh that in places remind of Radiohead, Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree respectively. This is a brilliantly atmospheric album to the extent that it will deter those looking for something more in the prog rock vein of 'Judgement,' but for those into Anathema's sound it's a fine return to form, albeit not all the way back. The first two songs set up a tranquil atmosphere that's then toned up a notch in 'Closer' and proceeds all the way to despair in 'Are You There?', an excellent song that brings some much-needed commercial appeal to the album and is handled well by Daniel in one of his two vocal performances, the other being the similar 'Electricity.' The album tends to vary between gloom and harmony, frequently combined, with the only major exception being the surprisingly heavy centrepiece 'Pulled Under at 2000 Metres a Second.'
Vincent spits out his lyrics in anger here before erupting into a yell for the song title, and heavy guitars kick in for the first time in some years. It's an enjoyable song, and one of the best on the album, but I can't help feeling it was written expressly for the band's rock audience, perhaps even with the intention of a single (and we know how those turn out). The main problem with this song is that it loses a lot of steam once the initial excitement is over, and for trying so hard to be different it ends up being the only song that noticeably drags on; most of the others are similarly overlong, but are ambient enough that it's easy not to notice. Other interesting touches on this release include prominent female singing in the title track, which has really been an ingredient of Anathema since right back at the first 'Crestfallen' E.P., and some rare but effective lead guitar performances from Vincent and Daniel in songs like 'Flying.'
While this doesn't break any new ground as far as Anathema is concerned, it's a fortunate resurgence in their melancholic style not really heard since the fourth album. Most of the songs tend to blur together into a general texture of wistful harmony, but this band is one of the better examples of this style around.
4. Are You There?
5. Childhood Dream
6. Pulled Under at 2000 Metres a Second
7. A Natural Disaster
Disc #1 Tracklisting
4 Are You There
5 Childhood Dream
6 Pulled Under At 2000 Metres A Second
7 Natural Disaster