ATF Review: Anathema – Weather Systems

Location: Liverpool, England
Genre: Atmospheric/Prog Rock
Released: April 16, 2012
Format Reviewed: FLAC
Feature: All Time Favorite Reviews

By: Kris Kotlarik

As I have mentioned before, Anathema is a tour de force in the modern world of progressive rock when it comes to making emotional, well-produced music. While previous albums, such as We’re Here Because We’re Here and, to a stronger degree, A Natural Disaster, are solid, the diversity on Weather Systems is unparalleled in Anathema’s discography. And it’s not just the diversity; this is extremely precise in its production, and boasts a wide array of orchestral elements that add so much to the core instrumentation. This is not a metal album in the traditional sense; there are no “screams” or “growls” or any of that stuff. Guitarist Danny Cavanaugh said on the band’s official website that “this is not background music for parties. The music is written to deeply move the listener, to uplift or take the listener to the coldest depths of the soul.”  I love this remark; given my current location, a party that has this album playing in the background would probably be empty, while the house next door is blasting “Turn Down For What” or whatever bullshit wankboxing club song happens to be popular right now. This is the kind of album you would want to take with you if you were to walk around in Finnish Lapland in the dead of winter, or on a desolate beach during sunset. And that’s the kind of music I like.

Given that there are nine songs, the easiest way for me to break this thing down is to divide it into thirds and go from there. The beginning third is very good, but isn’t the best segment. The two parts of “Untouchable” are moving to say the least, although the second part wallows a little bit too long in its somber state. Beneath all of the layers and soaring vocals, particularly in the first part, is an acoustic rhythm guitar that acts as the bass. “The Gathering Of The Clouds” follows with an extremely lively melody and multi-layered vocals. This is one of the more consistent songs from start to finish, as there is no buildup that spans several minutes at times as there is on, for example, “Untouchable Part 1.”

The middle segment features some of the best music I have ever come across and is therefore my favorite on this album. “Lightning Song” is a start-to-finish highlight for Lee Douglas on vocals and becomes heavier towards the end, with a string arrangement in the background throughout. “Sunlight” is very similar to the previous track, with the exception being Danny Cavanaugh taking over lead vocal duties and doing a spectacular job of it. “The Storm Before The Calm” is the most notable exploration into an electronic-oriented sound prior to this year’s Distant Satellites. Even the vocals are saturated with electronic effects during the first half. Another notable aspect is the section immediately before “the calm” kicks in, which boasts two minutes of electronic “jamming.” Up until about the five-minute mark (the official length is 9:24), this is completely different from anything I heard from Anathema’s prior releases. After that, it morphs into a similar feel to that of “Untouchable Part 2.”

The final three songs are much more melancholic in nature compared to their earlier counterparts. “The Beginning And The End,” which kicks off this unofficial segment, is the best of this group with an extremely powerful buildup. “The Lost Child” and especially “Internal Landscapes” are rather hard to listen to at times because of how crestfallen (pun intended) they are. The latter track starts with a spoken-word segment that lasts over two minutes, explaining how a man saw death, and ends with another quote from the same passage. Both tracks require the listener to be in a certain state of mind in order to truly “enjoy” them. But if you’re feeling existential and/or temporarily nihilistic, they are just the right tracks to go to.

One aspect I have not touched on yet is the lyrics, which are stellar. To post them here wouldn’t do them much justice as they are best listened to, not read. If anything, they would look cheesy on paper (especially on songs like “Untouchable Part 1”). Regardless, the music is relatable to real human situations and should be regarded as a must-listen for anyone with an appreciation for emotional, captivating music.

Overall:  This would probably be a top-three all-time album if not for the last two songs, which are good but are best reserved for listening to at specific times.

Rating: 4.5*

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