Reviews Anathema Weather Systems

Anathema

Weather Systems


Liverpool's Anathema are a curious entity. Starting life as a death-infused doom band full of intense lamentation and a deep-seated despair they struck a path that no-one could see coming. Eternity heralded a change in direction for Anathema in 1996 and ultimately led them to the stratospheric height of We're Here Because We're Here in 2010, a record of loss-filled hope and the pinnacle of a career being driven towards a more progressively atmospheric sound and now, to Weather Systems.

Weather Systems is a beautifully natural evolution in a career that began in a completely different place, yet Anathema has always been able to make this change seem organic. Their sound and style developed with each successive record but they never lost that sweet despondency inherent in the music, the core members of the band may have changed a little (and back again) over time but the message has not. Laying the foundation for the tone of the record with "Untouchable Part 1," Weather Systems begins with a sublime acoustic guitar line which ushers in Vincent Cavanagh's unmistakable voice, one that is veiled in darkness and sacrifice. Words such as "I had to let you go...." sound so full of heartbreak and devastation whilst the music climbs towards an antithetic zenith. It's this use of opposing forces that give Anathema their charm; simultaneously cracking your heart in two but never giving the impression that all hope is lost. Giving way to "Untouchable Part 2" the vocal reins are then shared with Lee Douglas - a delight to hear in any Anathema release - here she sings the counter to the first track, giving a second perspective on the dissolution of a relationship. Piano-led and bittersweet, string flourishes touch behind the sadness lifting the gloom.


The most straightforward rock song on the record is the majestic “The Beginning And The End,” that whilst following a formula Anathema have perfected over the years (quiet/loud/quiet/build up etc…) never loses the deep-seated sense of power that feeds through their emotion-led tracks and segues into “The Lost Child” almost perfectly. This is a slow-burning number that errs on the minimal side, rolling in soft cymbal crashes (John Douglas) and impassioned vocal performances. At times though, the record is completely stripped back, Weather Systems using a lack of sound to build a mesmerisingly melancholic atmosphere. "Lightning Song" pushes Lee Douglas's vocals to the fore giving her clean lilt space to breathe around the gentle acoustic guitar lines and sweep towards the inevitable break which arrives in a crushing guitar (Danny and Vincent Cavanagh) driven crescendo. The fuzzy nature of the guitar coils around the synth strings and it's enough to split even the coldest of hearts. Similarly “Sunlight” begins simply; a peaceful beat sits behind the softly sung words before bursting into life and enveloping you with a warmly lit glow of promise.

Weather Systems closes on “Internal Landscapes” and a spoken word introduction; a man talks of his near-death experience in such stark terms that it is both deeply affecting and disarming and his personal account of this builds into the track proper. Swirling melodies wrap themselves around the almost hidden but crunching bass of Jamie Cavanagh and the genuine and euphoric nature of the music spills through the ether. Alas, this record is not perfect. The momentum dips significantly after the first four tracks only to build back up with "The Beginning And The End," and then fall into sweet slumber towards the closing moments. It's a small slight on an otherwise lovely album, and one can only help but wonder what Weather Systems would feel like if the running order was that tiny bit different. Still. Anathema are truly masters of their field. Able to flow through contradictory emotions and switch from calming moments to all-out rock and vice versa (“The Storm Before The Calm”), this is a band at their peak. Weather Systems will captivate and break you. Magnificent.

8.5 / 10Cheryl
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