Anathema - Weather Systems
Record Label: Kscope
Release Date: April 30, 2012
Anathema has been around since 1990 when they released their Illiad of Woes demo. Since then they have released 8 LP's, 3 EP's, 2 demos and 4 compilation albums. Their music has undergone such changes as from doom metal to depressive rock and metal to the very bright, atmospheric, and upbeat rock that they are today. Unlike other bands that change so dramatically, Anathema have always brought something new and fresh to the table, outdoing others in both musicianship and quality of writing. Their last album We're Here Because We're Here is to this day one of my favorite albums of all time.
The follow up to WHBWH was thankfully only 2 years in the making compared to the 6-7 that was between A Natural Disaster and WHBWH. WHBWH surpassed everyone's expectations of the group so a lot was riding on their newest release, Weather Systems. So how does it stack up? Let me start off with this. Weather Systems is a very cohesive album. You will notice that the first 4 tracks could easily have been only 2. The first track "Untouchable Part 1" is easily one of the finest *Anathema *songs ever written. Since acquiring the album, I have listened to this song more than any other track on the album combined. It has a wonderful mix of the tone of WHBWH and the mood of Judgement. Daniel Cavanagh's lyrics are among the best ever penned alongside One Last Goodbye and Universal. "Untouchable (Part 1)" tells of the heartbreaking story of letting your true love go. Where "Untouchable (Part 1)" feels like Vincent Cavanagh pouring his heart and soul out, "Untouchable (Part 2)" feels like the calm aftermath of the situation where he finally comes to terms with his decision. Brilliant. Both songs have expertly crafted and very emotional vocal delivery. You can feel the pain in his voice. The harmonies he displays throughout the album are even better than his previous work. They are almost angelic on "Untouchable (Part 1)", coming in at perfect moments and lifting the song to new heights.
"The Gathering of the Clouds" and "Lightning Song" are also two tracks that belong together, "Lightning Song" feeling like part 2 of Clouds. "The Gathering of the Clouds" is a more upbeat track with bouncy vocals and a heavy use of harmonies making it a very catchy (for Anathema) track. "Lightning Song", on the other hand, is a little bit slower with almost all vocals being sung by Lee Douglas. Lee Douglas's vocals are heavily used throughout the whole album. I know some of you out there dislike Lee Douglas's vocals but I do not understand how you could. Her vocals are right at home on Weather Systems and has always been a perfect fit for Anathema. Listen to "Lightning Song" and "Untouchable (Part 2)" and tell me I'm wrong.
"The Beginning and the End" which I'm sure all of you have heard by now, is a classic piano driven song that as a whole feels like a giant buildup. Just like Untouchable it starts off quiet and slow then slowly builds up to an explosion of Vincent Cavanagh's higher, more emotional vocal delivery with electric guitars carrying the listener to the end.
For the remaining 4 songs, and don't get me wrong I do like them, but they are difficult to discern from each other. WHBWH felt like individual songs that all had an identity, the final 4 tracks (except "The Beginning and the End") on Weather Systems feel like passive music for the listener compared to the rest of the album. The first half of "The Storm Before the Calm" is very progressive feeling and a little on the repetitive side whereas the second half is where the song truly starts to shine. During the first half of "Internal Landscapes" we hear a man speaking dialogue over some light music. It would have been a welcomed addition (like in "Presence" off of WHBWH) but it lasts for half of the song, leaving it frustrating and annoying.
This is yet another quality release from Anathema but also a step down from their previous albums. Overall I enjoyed Weather Systems, but still find myself yearning to listen to WHBWH (their finest work yet). The quality of sound achieved on this album is huge and gives the listener excellent imagery while listening. It's the type of album that needs to be heard 4 or 5 times to truly appreciate everything. It is not their most solid release but with tracks like "Untouchable (Part 1)", "Gathering of the Clouds", and "Beginning and the End", Weather Systems will keep fans interested and coming back for more.
8/31/2012 UPDATE: I am editing this review's score. The album has grown on me immensely. One of the best of the year.