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Anathema - A Natural Disaster CD (album) cover




Experimental/Post Metal

3.92 | 582 ratings

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4 stars Having gone under a momentous shift in approach and presentation during the course of their career, Liverpool's Anathema continue to expand their sonic horizons in search of the ultimate emotional truth through musical expression. Each effort sees the band further developing their sound away from their doom/death roots towards the experimental and harmonious, while remaining faithful to the unparalleled power of their song-writing and introspective melancholy. Indeed, no band in modern music has surpassed Anathema in terms of emotional awareness through climactic song-craft.

"Did you try to reason why? Look yourself in the eye? What you are is all you have been. What will be is all you do. Now spill a tear as your sense of self slowly melts away. Until death's mirror reflects the meaning of our lives, we wander aimless and mesmerized as the fear starts to rise."

The band's seventh full-length recording, A Natural Disaster, is yet another exhibit, as if any more proof were required. Composed entirely by guitarist Daniel Cavangah, the album does not venture far from the course explored on A Fine Day To Exit, yet is an overall darker and more personal work. There is a more prominent ambience to this material that lends the album a deeper sense of self-contemplation. Songs are generally given more of a relaxed position upon which the band's mastery of dynamics operates, occasionally rising to powerful outbursts of metallic root, as in "Closer", "Balance" and the gorgeous and touching closing instrumental, "Violence", which unexpectedly erupts from a plaintive piano/guitar foundation into a fury of breakneck drums and yearning guitars before settling back into its opening theme. Elsewhere, songs such as "Are You There" and "Electricity" hold true to their atmospheric tranquillity in the expression of the band's trademark heartbreaking sadness, while "Pulled Under At 2000 Meters A Second" is the heaviest, fastest, and darkest moment of the disc, a whipping, angry song that can perhaps be viewed as the nihilistic twin of A Fine Day To Exit's "Panic".

"Freedom is only a hallucination that waits at the edge of the distant horizon. And we are all strangers in global illusion, wanting and needing impossible heaven. Chasing the dream as they swim out to sea, the mirage ahead says that they can be free. Become lost in delusion, drowning their reason, swept on by the current of selfish ambition. Frightened, ashamed, and afraid of the blame. The questions are screaming, the answers are hiding. The sickness is growing. Distracted condition. You can feel the disgust and smell the confusion. Lying insane, getting soaked in the rain, draining the sky of the guilt and the shame. The nightmare is coming, the clouds are descending..."

As brilliant as this music is, the album does not attain perfection. The production is uneven, and at times this unfortunately interferes with the overall mood of a particular song, such as the flat drum sound during "Are You There?" and the far too low vocals during "Electricity". The songs are fantastic in their own right, yet should have been allowed more consistency of flow through a suitable sound. The vocal performances by Vincent Cavanagh and Lee Douglas are gripping and spectacular, yet Daniel's singing on "Are You There?" and "Electricity" is simply too restrained for such emotionally penetrating lyrics and music. It is quite understandable that these songs are deeply personal to him, hence his decision to sing them, however, the impact of these songs would no doubt be enhanced by the lead voice of Vincent Cavanagh, or Douglas. Daniel Cavanagh is, to my ears, the finest guitarist in music in regards to pure feeling generated from his instrument in relation to a composition (witness his supreme ascension in the final moments of "Flying" and his excellent subtlety throughout "Violence") , yet his voice is simply not suited to carry an entire song that demands a convincing and powerful vocal performance. Vincent Cavanagh is a highly gifted vocalist who possesses a phenomenal range of expression. He is the band's vocal ticket to achieving the ultimate emotional truth their music aspires to, and he should be utilized to the greatest extent.

A Natural Disaster, in spite of its slight shortcomings, is another fabulous album from this incredible act. Their sound is clearly showing the inspirations of modern art-rock acts such as Mogwai and Radiohead while maintaining the long established Pink Floyd admiration, yet what makes Anathema a more rewarding proposition is the emotional honesty and genuine sincerity that forms the core of everything this band has ever produced. Equally, Anathema are unrivaled in the arena of dynamics. The art of building towards a sweeping climax is mastered only through an understanding of perfect hesitancy and patience, and in this, Anathema know no masters. While 1999's Judgement remains the band's finest hour, A Natural Disaster is a special work that should elevate this band to a higher status of appreciation, beyond it being universally understood as good music.

bleak | 4/5 |


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