ARTICLE: Starter’s Guide to… Anathema

anathema-band-photo

Anathema

Liverpool, UK

Years Active: 1990 – present

Genre: Death / doom (1990 – 1995), gothic metal (1995 – 1998), progressive rock (1996 – present), alternative rock (2001 – present)

Anathema formed in 1990 under the name Pagan Angel by the three Cavanagh brothers, Vincent, Daniel and Jamie, drummer John Douglas and vocalist Darren White. A part of the ‘Peaceville Three’, together with My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost, Anathema helped to define the death/doom/gothic genre. After releasing the classic albums Serenades and The Silent Enigma, the band began to move away from their doom roots and away from the metal genre entirely. With each subsequent album beginning with 1996’s Eternity, we’ve seen the band mature and evolve with each release. From the gothic metal sound of Alternative 4 to the alternative rock sound of A Fine Day To Exit and the symphonic and electronic influences creeping into Distant Satellites, Anathema’s genre is ever-changing but the bands passion and emotion has always been their driving force.

Anathema’s most recent album Distant Satellites was released in mid-2014, their 10th album overall. Since its release, the band has embarked on numerous tours around the world to promote the album, including a stellar show in Dublin back in September. 2015 marks the band’s 25th anniversary and they celebrated in style; they have played an acoustic tour in several churches and cathedrals across the UK, and after that started their ‘Resonance’ tour, a 3 hour career spanning show with present and past members celebrating Anathema’s longevity. In 2016 the band went into the studio to record the follow up to Distant Satellites, some of which was recorded here in Ireland, with a tentative release set for spring 2017.

ALBUM GUIDE

anathema_alternative_4Essential: Alternative 4 (1998)
The band’s fourth album continues the musical evolution started on the previous album 1996’s Eternity, adopting a gothic rock/metal sound and shedding the last remnants of their doom influences. This is the last album to feature bassist Duncan Patterson, one of the main songwriters of the album together with Daniel Cavanagh. The overall sound can be described as dark, experimental and depressing, yet retains a sense of calm which strongly resonates with the listener.

anathema_the_silent_enigmaFollow-Up: The Silent Enigma (1995)
Often praised by fans and critics alike, The Silent Enigma is generally considered one of Anathema’s best releases. The first to feature Vincent Cavanagh as lead vocalist, replacing Darren White, it marks the start of the band’s musical shift in focus. The music is much more atmospheric and starts to show off their progressive leanings with many music styles at play here including doom, gothic, progressive and rock.

anathema_were_here_because_were_hereAlso Recommended: We’re Here Because We’re Here (2010)
We’re Here Because We’re Here is the band’s eighth album and the first after a 7 year hiatus following the release of A Natural Disaster. The positive, uplifting sound is a far cry from the band’s dark past. This is also the first album to mark female vocalist Lee Douglas as a full-time member having worked with the band since 1999. The vocal harmonies between Lee and Vincent have since become a staple of the band’s sound, with them being tweaked and perfected with each release.

anathema_serenadesWild Card: Serenades (1993)
The band’s debut album Serenades could be considered both a good and bad place to start listening to band. This is the only full-length to feature vocalist Darren White, who boasts a gruffer growl than Vincent. The music is rougher and less polished than the band’s other efforts, which to a new fan might throw them off the band completely is they aren’t a fan of older death/doom. The album is, however, still a classic in its own right and should still be considered after listening to a couple of other albums first.

anathema_a_fine_day_to_exitAvoid: A Fine Day to Exit (2001)
A Fine Day to Exit was Anathema’s first venture into the polished alternative/progressive rock sound which they continue to use to this day. While no means a bad album, it simply suffered from being sandwiched between two of the bands more prominent albums (namely Judgement and A Natural Disaster). It does itself no favors either that there aren’t as many standout tracks as other albums, causing it to be overlooked by many.

LIVE PERFORMANCES

ESSENTIAL PLAYLIST

  1. ‘Lovelorn Rhapsody’ from Serenades, 1993
  2. ‘Kingdom’ from Pentecost III, 1995
  3. ‘Restless Oblivion’ from The Silent Enigma, 1995
  4. ‘A Dying Wish’ from The Silent Enigma, 1995
  5. ‘Eternity Part I’ from Eternity, 1996
  6. ‘Suicide Veil’ from Eternity, 1996
  7. ‘Fragile Dreams’ from Alternative 4, 1998
  8. ‘Empty’ from Alternative 4, 1998
  9. ‘Alternative 4’ from Alternative 4, 1998
  10. ‘Deep’ from Judgement, 1999
  11. ‘One Last Goodbye’ from Judgement, 1999
  12. ‘Release’ from A Fine Day to Exit, 2001
  13. ‘Closer’ from A Natural Disaster, 2003
  14. ‘A Natural Disaster’ from A Natural Disaster, 2003
  15. ‘Thin Air’ from We’re Here Because We’re Here, 2010
  16. ‘A Simple Mistake’ from We’re Here Because We’re Here, 2010
  17. ‘Untouchable (Part 1 & 2)’ from Weather Systems, 2012
  18. ‘The Storm Before the Calm’ from Weather Systems, 2012
  19. ‘Anathema’ from Distant Satellites, 2014
  20. ‘Distant Satellites’ from Distant Satellites, 2014
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