By Raymond Westland
With the release of We’re Here Because We’re Here UK-based progressive/alternative rockers Anathema managed to get back on top of their game again after years of stagnation. The album received lots of praise and many critics hailed it as one of the finest records of 2010. Apparently Danny Cavanagh and co. had a bout of inspiration, because they’re back with a brand-new album, entitled Weather Systems. This may very well be their finest release since Judgement (1999).
In my eyes Judgement is still the defining album in Anathema’s impressive back catalogue, because it was their final “metal” album and it also contained lots of signs of things to come. On A Fine Day To Exit (2001) and A Natural Disaster (2003) the band continued exploring their specific branch of melancholic with the aforementioned We’re Here Because We’re Here being the culmination point of that process. Weather Systems pretty much continues where the previous album left of. Melancholy is still at the heart of it all, but luckily it’s no longer the gloomy and bleak kind that haunted the older material. The Cavanagh brother are no still no happy campers, but rays of sunlight are allowed in the Anathema world. The breezy “Sunlight” is a fine examples of this new-found sense of optimism.
Variety and a well-developed eye for detail and rich textures are other key elements that makes Weather Systems such ear candy. Just listen to the multi-layered approach and adventurous nature of compositions, like “Untouchable Part2”, “The Gathering Of The Clouds” and “The Lost Child”. On “The Storm Before The Calm” the band uses electronics to great effect and “Untouchable Part 1” carries some resemblance to Fleetwood Mac’s “Big Love”. Another defining trait of this album is the bigger vocal input by Lee Douglas. A smart move, because her brilliant vocals significantly increases the ethereal nature of the music. In terms of atmosphere “The Beginning And The End” could easily been included on Judgement, next to “One Last Goodbye” and “Parisienne Moonlight”.
I’m still on the fence about Weather Systems sound-wise. The production by Christer-André Cederberg supports the vocals, piano and string sections very well, but sadly the drum and bass parts get somewhat buried in the mix. A little more emphasis on the guitars wouldn’t have hurt either. A mix by Steve Wilson (Porcupine Tree) would have done the album more justice.
Despite the somewhat odd production Weather Systems contains some of the finest song material by Anathema to date. Every musical element on the album simply belongs there and is an indispensable part of the overall superstructure. This album is a mandatory purchase for every soul out there who appreciates honest and soul-stirring music. Weather Systems simply takes your breath away…