(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Friday, June 24, 2011

CD review - Anathema, We're Here Because We're Here (2011)

With roots in Gothic metal, Anathema shed that image (if not the name) and moved into a more progressive space. We're Here Because We're Here continues the band's exploration of post rock grandeur. Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) puts his occasional imprint on the music, but the album largely feels like Anathema has used the seven year hiatus to hone in on a clear direction. While We're Here Because We're Here is not really a concept album, the smooth flow between songs and the clear intent behind each track imbues the album with meaning.

And that meaning seems rooted in a spiritual positivism. In the spoken word piece Presence organ swells support the theme of searching and a philosophical revelation:
Life is not the opposite of Death
Death is the opposite of Birth
Life is eternal
The introspective groove is perfect to shut your eyes and sway slowly to the drag beat. Later, in Hindsight, the voiceover sets the hook, "intangible, eternal, without beginning nor end". The mildly psychedelic groove is supported by a richly evocative bass line and ringing guitars. It's a affirmation that resolves itself: "If you can love enough, you will be the happiest and most powerful person in the world."

Still for all that, it was the lead off song, Thin Air, that sold We're Here Because We're Here. The simple guitar line (later to be paired with a fuzzed reiteration) and kicking beat combine to vector off into Trail of Dead style prog. As the song unfurls into an expansive sonic wave, the simple starting motif remains in focus, gaining power. The transition into a looser bridge builds back into the groove that leads into the driven piano arpeggios of Summer Night Horizon.

The third track, Dreaming Light, shifts the feel of the album into a more reflective, mellow space. With a sound like wide open vistas, the piano and strings create a ballad vibe that persists through the next several tracks.

Aside from Thin Air, another standout moment comes with the firm return to a post rock feel in A Simple Mistake. Steven Wilson's hand is heavier here, but there are also elements of Yes and Synchronicity era Police. The song is formulaic as it flows through a predictable post rock structure: it leads off with an arpeggiated guitar with emphasis from the bass line, it drifts into a fuller sound, and builds into a crunchy intensity. For all of that, it's incredibly satisfying as the jam weaves in on itself until swelling to an emotional wail.

Anathema still has little bits of their down tempo Pink Floyd vibe tempered with touches of Radiohead, but plenty of fresh elements, including some nice tempo changes signal a sea change in the band's direction. The vocal interaction between Vincent Cavanagh and new member Lee Douglas are also a fine touch as her vocals add a new diversity to Anathema's sound.

Seven years is a long time to wait, but Anathema clearly used the time to polish their evolved sense of themselves. Sip an artisanal brandy and enjoy We're Here Because We're Here.

No comments:

Post a Comment