Released: Jun 21, 1999
Genre: Progressive Rock, Alternative Rock, Gothic Rock
Label: Music For Nations
Number Of Tracks: 13
No doubt the band continues to evolve almost two decades after this release, but this was clearly the zenith of their evolution, everything led to this, their magnum opus.
AllJudasPriest, on may 23, 2016 2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Sound: Anathema are evolution in music more than most other bands, survival of the fittest after all. No one introduced to the band through their early years would have - or could have - envisioned the band becoming this. The metamorphosis is as staggering as it is entertaining. The band proved they belonged by not only unlocking this capacity concealed during the doom metal years, but also managed to collaborate as a commercial entity.
Any artist will state it can be career ending to do an about face with your established identity, there is simply too much connection for the fan to completely disassociate with the change. However, any artist will also state it can be career rejuvenating to do an about face. This is far less likely and is as much a case of luck as it is about the talent or output. Anathema proved to belong to the latter group. No doubt the band continues to evolve almost two decades after this release, but this was clearly the zenith of their evolution, everything led to this, their magnum opus.
The album opens with a four song sequence that, while separated by tracks, could have been a 14 minute song and segues as such. These four tracks set the stage for a very disheartening voyage as the tracks bleed with enough cynicism to fill the wide spectrum of sound encompassing just under an hour. While these tracks are not a concept piece, the overall mood and feeling IS the concept. To go on a poignant ride and be left drained and thoroughly happy despite the subject matter.
The first four tracks set the stage due to an array of perspectives offered towards the same lyrical theme. It shifts from ethereal despondency ("Deep") through acrimonious sorrow ("Pitiless") and then to inclusive defeat ("Forgotten Hopes"), while preserving a balance between those lyrics and music heavy enough to necessitate them. The final song in the epic ("Destiny Is Dead") is instrumental and meant to demonstrate the repetitive ways of an individual in an overly emotive state. // 10
Lyrics: The fifth song ("Make It Right (F.F.S.)") is actually two separate two minute tracks, which do blend together without any notice. The latter half is a repetitive structure with an atmosphere so rich it seems to beg for no conclusion. The first half has amazingly luxuriant keys clashing against a wall of sound not heard much elsewhere on the release. It is clearly about a negative relationship where Vincent's voice is sometimes doubled with that of guest vocalist, Lee Douglas (the wife of drummer extraordinaire John) which is meant to reveal how both of them want the same thing.
The next three tracks are in sequence, starting with the sixth song ("One Last Goodbye"). The bands most popular song, at least of their ballads, and one listen will show why. It clearly reaches its goal but, by default, is also difficult to really enjoy. The band somehow makes such an obviously depressing song pleasant enough to experience where the journey goes. Both the soft and heavy sections, along with the sad lyrics, makes this song the very outlining of sorrow. From the depths of despair, to the crushing wall of uselessness and then to inclusive breakdown. This song was dedicated to Helen Cavanagh, the mother of the brothers who founded the band, and it is impossible to miss - or ignore - that fact. A masterpiece is putting it lightly.
Thinking such a ride could not be matched would be expected but the aforementioned Lee Douglas makes her sole lead performance and if the last song had not unleashed the floodgates this seventh track ("Parisienne Moonlight") should. This concise interlude can be seen as a breather before the next emotional assault, but if that is true, WHY make it just as poignant? Or it could be seen as the answers from the lost soul to the questions posed by the sons on the previous track. No matter your view, it is a definitive highlight of the album and bands career.
The third and final part in the album's second ever flowing conceptual piece is the title track. Just like track five, this sounds like two different songs that clock in at two minutes apiece. The first has emotional singing and a great buildup that segues into a repetitive second section, but due to the sheer unrelenting heaviness here, it is a great climax to the second conceptual piece. // 10
Overall Impression: With no more flowing tracks or concepts to write of, the album should drop off, right? Surely, no band could be this good for this long without a drop-off at some point. If that is how it must be then ("Don't Look Too Far") is one of the lesser tracks, but this is, again, only relative to the rest of the material here. Even "weak" "Judgment" is infinitely superior to the dredge of the band's contemporaries. It also is the final song to feature Lee in another dueling role. A really great addition to the albums overall sound and feel.
Even if that had been the worst song of all time, it still would not blemish the following anthems, ("Emotional Winter") and ("Wings of God"). The former opens with a two minute melancholic piece that is an homage to Gilmour era Pink Floyd, which is about the highest comparison to get. It is even better since the song evolves into a soft mournful piece of brilliantly penned poetry and shifting tension. It works so well that the heavy chorus is unexpected and the vocals match the brilliance.
The latter of the two anthems is, put simply, the best track the band has ever laid down. Amalgamating with the growling keys from the former, this titan quickly slams into an account of the strife in existence that leads to a descent into madness. To be sure, this topic is not new in the lyrical material, but the way its done is exceptionally groundbreaking. Combined with music more emotional than emo, heavier than the heaviest, becomes enough to send a chill shiver down the spine of even the hardest of hearts. Every note in the song bleeds with purpose that it is the apex of what the band had been trying to say all along.
The guitar wizardy is just Godly (pun INTENDED) and shows the band still knew how to rock. One final anecdote about this track is, surprisingly, despite heavy guitar throughout - and the last three minutes being nothing but a guitar solo - the song was written entirely by drummer John Douglas.
Had Anathema chosen to end on the last track, this would be a perfect album, the benchmark for its class. Two final songs remain, however ("Anyone, Anywhere" and "2000 & Gone"), which should have been before the previous one two punch. This misplacing costs "Judgment" just a few precious points, but is not enough to detract from the overall quality, which fills every second of this tremendous album. This is mostly because both tracks are fairly well done. The former features excellent piano playing by guess pianist Dario Patti, a veteran of many years and three bands, including the great Giuntini Project. The latter is an instrumental and, while great itself, was such an odd choice to end the journey, which reiterates the point of song placement.
True highlights of the album are the final forty seconds of "Deep," "One Last Goodbye," "Parisienne Moonlight," and "Wings of God." // 10