Review: Anathema—Distant Satellites

coverAnathema have been one of my favourite bands for a while now, principally because they seem intent on pumping out masterpiece after masterpiece, especially counting from A Natural Disaster onwards. After Weather Systems, probably my favourite album of the past two years, the expectations on what the new album would be like were mixed. On the one hand, their winning streak suggested it was going to be similarly brilliant. On the other, I was quite ready to be spectacularly let down by a slip up. Hey, even great musicians make mistakes.

Like Septicflesh’s preview of Titan, I wasn’t overwhelmed with This is going to be another perfect release. Like Titan, their choice of single to preview, in this case ‘The Lost Song, Pt. 3’, felt odd. Unlike Titan, however, once you listen to the whole album, the song makes a lot more sense. It fits. Admittedly, it’s still not the greatest track on the album, but it works very well within the mood of the album as a whole.

To get it out of the way, I’m not sure it’s quite as good as Weather Systems, but it is still VERY. GODDAMN. GOOD. It’s more of a moodier piece; lots of piano, more of a reliance on subtlety and nuance than the more obvious contrasts on Weather Systems. That’s not to say you don’t get the big guitars and soaring vocals (and, as always, the vocals are faultless; I could listen to Lee Douglas for the rest of my days and never tire of her voice), but the album as a whole has a more melancholic tone. It doesn’t beat you over the head with it, it’s more a poetic exploration; I think the track ‘Ariel’ makes for a nice summary of the album.

Distant Satellites is very noticably an Anathema album, using the style they’ve grown into over the past couple of albums since their ‘comeback’, though I think it’s most comfortably recognised as the spiritual successor to A Natural Disaster. The tracks ‘Firelight’ & ‘Distant Satellites’ remind me a lot of ‘Are You There?’, though I’m not entirely sure why. The album generally would have really suited the venue they played in their recent live release, Universal, come to think of it; an ampitheatre beneath the stars (surely playing live anywhere else after doing playing in that sort of environment would just feel like a comedown?).

Despite the mood being more focused than their previous release, it never gets dull or repetitive. Their lyrics can get a little … not clichéd, more simple; they won’t blow anyone away is what I’m getting at. They’re not terrible, it’s just that if you were going to find a fault in the album, that would be the most obvious area to come under fire. But I never got the sense of ‘Haven’t I heard this song earlier?’, or ‘Really, another piano then guitar kicks in job?’, which is always the risk you run when you go for one over-arching mood; it’s difficult to stretch out an emotion for an hour or so without it seeming gratiuitous.

Anathema’s latest is a fine addition to their catalogue, and one that I will undoubtedly be listening to a lot this year, as well as shoving it in my Top 10 for this year in December.


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