CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY (live review)
SEA OF TRANQUILITY
"...it is an hour of the most beautiful pop/rock (with a touch of prog) music I've ever heard."
Most albums can be comfortably sorted on the scale between "terrible" and "fantastic." We enjoy them immensely or not at all. However, there are also those rare albums that transcend such classification because they are too special and too important. They are our favorite albums of all time and nothing short of a gift to our lives. Anathema's latest opus, We're Here Because We're Here, is such an album. In essence, it is an hour of the most beautiful pop/rock (with a touch of prog) music I've ever heard.
Rarely is there band whose discography is as diverse as Anathema. Formed in the UK circa 1990, they went from a doom/death metal band (few fans even acknowledge those albums) to, presently, a progressive (but not in a neo-prog way) rock/pop band. In between they have released several albums, none of which sound anything alike. The late 90s saw a gloomy rock band with classical influences, A Fine Day to Exit was their Beatles album and A Natural Disaster was their Kid A. Now they return six years later with what is unquestionably their finest LP. The combination of matured songwriting, poignant lyrics and production by revered genius Steven Wilson (whose main project, Porcupine Tree, is my favorite band), has resulted in a masterpiece. If Anathema's career has been a dark examination of death, sadness and anger, We're Here Because We're Here sees them finally entering heaven, tranquil and optimistic. If that doesn't seem to make sense, study the album cover as you listen to the music, and it will.
DUTCH PROGRESSIVE ROCK
I had been anticipating this album for a long time. If it was anything like A Natural Disaster I was in for a real treat. The first time I played it was in the car on the way to work. It was one of those sunny mornings that seemed to promise a day full of hope and opportunities in our sometimes troubled lives. And We're Here Because We're Here proved to be the excellent soundtrack for it. Rarely have I heard an album that overflows with so much emotion and this one had a profound effect on me. At times my breath stopped short and it felt like someone had gripped my heart and twisted in 360 degrees. If A Natural Disaster had touched certain edges of my psyche, this new album went straight to its core and ignited it.
9.5 out of 10 (Ed Sander)
Scouse progsters make a spectacular return
AS AN Anathema fan, you have to be a little patient. Not only because they've always been reluctant to repeat themselves, turning from a crushing doom metal outfit into a dreamy prog band over their career, but also because it's been seven long years since their last album A Natural Disaster. Patience is a virtue, though, and Anathema have clearly spent the time wisely, resulting in a staggering record, Distorted guitars barely make their mark, taking a back seat to ethereal melodies and soaring choruses, It may be somewhat lighter - and certainly more uplifting - than their earlier, more metallic output, but it still carries with it a weight of emotion that makes a seven year wait feel entirely worth it.
Few traces of metal remain, but much in the way the awe-inspiring Aereogramme developed, Anathema craft music as light as a feather but that pulls you in with the strength of gravity. 'Dreaming Light' is gorgeous, Ville Vallo crops up on 'Angels Walk Among Us', 'Universal' is a symphonic workout, Lee Douglas (drummer John's sister) adds her vocals to Vincent Cavannagh's (whose vocals have improved considerably) on 'Everything' to double the song's touching grace, and the dynamic build of 'A Simple Mistake' is immense in scale – the crescendo finale stretching out for three minutes and leaving your jaw agape for its entirety.
I usually try to do a 250 word review. To be honest what I should have done with this one is write the word ‘Wow’ 250 times. It’s stunning, simply stunning. Having previously had very little experience of Anathema I listened to the album with zero expectations or preconceptions. What I was rewarded with is an absolute joy of a record. Each track is exquisite, steeped in emotion drawn from personal experiences. Inspirational, uplifting, moving, it’s all these and more. I’d better draw the reins in or I’m going to overcook this one.
4.5 / 5
The Grind that Annoys
Opening We’re Here Because We’re Here is 'Thin Air', a gorgeous, heavily layered and multi faceted lesson is scaling atmospherics, which shifts dramatically into the frantic and entrancing 'Summer Night Horizon', an otherworldly highlight of the record.
More saintly balladry beckons with 'Dreaming Light' and 'Everything', the latter being a shimmering emotively inspirational trek across elegant vocal harmonies and piano led beauty. Meanwhile, the captivatingly evocative 'Angels Walk Among Us' marks somewhat of a change for the record, giving way to slow burning verses which flow gently like a crystalline river into 'A Simple Mistake'.
'Get Off, Get Out' ups the tempo, seething with angular riffs and staccato vocals, all of which are unavoidably reminiscent of Porcupine Tree. Closing two tracks, 'Universal' and the expected instrumental 'Hindsight', plunge the mood into some post rock territory utilising several orchestral synths. 'Hindsight' itself pulls the curtain down in miraculous fashion.
We’re Here Because We’re Here can only be described as a beautiful record, nothing less. It’s a breathtaking opus of wraithlike ambience and abstrusely emotive passages and pinnacles. Utterly engrossing.
Whilst being a long way from their harder metal roots, this album follows the trend set in recent records towards a lighter and more melancholy sound. This definitely is another step closer to “mainstream” than even 'A Natural Disaster', especially with tracks such as the elegant ‘Dreaming Light’, however, listeners shouldn’t see this as a bad thing. This album may be their most accessible (or commercial) album yet; however, it is still just as beautiful and memorable in a way that we have come to know and love of Anathema. Tracks such as the breathtaking ‘Summer Night Horizon’ really stand out with its fast pace and almost panicked rhythm drawing your ear.
Seven years is a damn long time in between albums, but it turns out that it was worth the wait. We’re Here Because We’re Here is a confident step forward for the band – a move that finds them breaking free of the artificial limitations that they had begun to impose on themselves. This is a band that no longer seems hesitant to break from the Floyd-ish atmospheres in favor of something a bit more dissonant, a band that isn’t resistant to occasionally stepping up the energy levels for more than a brief moment. This confident move has lead to the best work of Anathema’s long and diverse career, a move that one can only hope doesn’t take another seven years to follow up on.
Reflections of Darkness
How to sum up the things experienced with ‘We’re Here Because We’re Here’ and how to bring the emotions felt straight to a point? In one word: Impossible! Experiences and emotions coming up with listening to the album are so diverse and overwhelming; one will be lost for words. Just one thing’s set: The long wait for this album has been worthwhile. Some grand musical pieces are on here and balance completely some of the weaknesses I feel in tunes such as ‘Thin Air’ or ‘Get Off, Get Out’. Don’t you overestimate them, but in my eyes they make them fall short of reaching the majesty and magical atmosphere of later efforts on the album. Now I’m eager getting to hear some of these tunes live.
You know when you go round to your friend’s house for a BBQ and they stick on a rudimentary ‘Chillout’ album which batters the airwaves all night, with little interest being shown by guests? I personally think this album would be nothing short of perfect, with a cold drink and a deck chair. Noticing Anathema have a healthy back catalogue, I can already see myself trekking through their work in the following months, trying to catch up on lost time!