Monday, June 11, 2012

Anathema - Weather Systems

Release Date: April 16, 2012
Label: Kscope

Let me tell you about Anathema.  They are a British prog rock band that started off playing doom metal.  Their past alone is probably enough to turn off most prospective listeners ("you want me to check out a doom metal band???), and their present is enough to turn off most doom metal fans, so they are in an interesting position, as far as niche is concerned.

I first heard Anathema several years ago, when I was in my prog metal phase.  The record I heard was A Natural Disaster, which surprised me with its overall mellowness and delicacy.  There really isn't anything metal about Anathema anymore.  I more recently heard We're Here Because We're Here, which I wasn't totally impressed with, despite its relative popularity.  Nevertheless, when I saw that Weather Systems was due, I went ahead and ordered the vinyl.

After a few listens, I was floored.  This might be even better than A Natural Disaster.  The record starts off with a split track, "Untouchables," with a hard first half and a more delicate second half.  This is followed by another pair of songs that flow into each other, "The Gathering of the Clouds," and "Lightning Song."  "Gathering" is a fine specimen of layered vocals and effective buildup, and by the time it climaxes and segues into "Lightning Song," it is difficult to resist the urge to start pumping your fists.

Another highlight is "The Storm Before the Calm," which features one of my favorite prog tropes: tearing down the song after a few verses, and building it back up again with more grandeur than before.

Really, this whole record is solid.  So solid that I decided to purchase the surround sound edition, which I had the chance to spin for the first time today.  The sound is more crisp, with more separation between the concrete musical instruments and more abstract atmospheric elements.  The layered vocal parts especially shine; in "The Gathering of the Clouds," I heard vocal lines I hadn't heard even after a dozen or so listens.

If you're a prog rock or art rock fan, check this out.  If you're not... Well, there still might be cuts you really like.  This music is really difficult to categorize.


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