Sound: "Weather Systems" is the 9th studio album by atmospheric band Anathema, a band driven by soaring melodies and alt-rock sensibilities. The band's previous effort, "We're Here Because We're Here" (known henceforth as "WHBWH"), is an incredible album and I sincerely suggest that you give a listen to both this album and "WHBWH".
"Weather Systems" sees their female vocalist, Lee Douglas, taking a more prominent role in the band. As a result, this album is much more vocally-driven, with instruments providing a backdrop as opposed to being the focal point of songs. In comparison to "WHBWH", the sound is more atmospheric and less alt-rock, with slide guitar and orchestral accompaniment creating a really full, powerful sound. The music didn't interest me to the same extent "WHBWH" did, as there are a number of picking patterns, especially in the earlier parts of the album, that repeat throughout entire songs. Several of these songs seem to start with a picking section that is then expanded upon by vocal melodies and harmonies. It's a good formula and the album is very beautiful, but quite simply, it doesn't rock as much. They certainly don't disappoint with this album, but it's definitely a different sound from "WHBWH". Anathema writes really beautiful, moving songs and there are definitely certain moments on the album where I would just stop whatever I was doing, close my eyes and listen. Good, but not quite as good as I know they're capable of. High points of the album for me are "Untouchable Pt. 1" and "Pt. 2", as well as "The Beginning And The End". A low point for me is the first half of "The Storm Before The Calm". // 7
Lyrics: As mentioned before, "Weather Systems" is a very moving album, especially when it comes to the lyrics. Like "WHBWH", the lyrics are about life, about living it to the fullest through hardships, through broken hearts and dreams and managing to reconcile yourself with all that you've done and all that you are. They're general enough to be meaningful to anyone that listens to them, which is a very strong point for me. Also, themes of weather are prevalent throughout the album, just as our lives are sometimes stormy and sometimes peaceful. "Weather Systems" is also an album full of opposites and paradoxes (Storm/Calm, Beginning/End, silence is raging, to name a few). Vincent Cavanagh has one of the best voices I've ever heard and when both he and Lee Douglas sing it sounds like musical euphoria. Personally, I can't get the songs "Untouchable Pt. 1" and "Pt. 2" out of my head, it's just such an incredible vocal performance from both of them. Also returning on this album is the metaphysical narration, this time in the form of a man speaking of his near-death-experience on the song "Internal Landscapes". On "WHBWH", there was a similar section where a man delivered a monologue about life and mortality. The narration on "Weather Systems" was less effective for me, as it felt too close to a sermon being delivered for my tastes. The section on "WHBWH" was more about an older man coming to terms with death, and it was really quite life-affirming, whereas "Weather Systems" sees a monologue that is much more religious in nature. // 9
Overall Impression: Overall, "Weather Systems" is an incredible album that I recommend you give a listen to. However, if you're looking for upbeat, jiving music, this is certainly not it. The one thing that gets to me about Anathema is that they tend to write horribly depressing songs, which makes it quite hard to listen to for too long. This is a very relaxed, plodding album that I recommend you listen to while walking or driving for a more intimate experience. Or if your girlfriend just broke up with you, listen to this and then go to the gym. "Weather Systems" was certainly a grower; upon first listen I was actually quite disappointed that it wasn't "WHBWH" part 2, but then I gave it a chance and realized it was good in its own way. It will be interesting to see what Anathema does with future recordings in light of the evolution of their sound on "Weather Systems", but I consider this a logical evolution to their sound, and I approve. // 8