Anathema continues to move away from their Gothic metal roots. Their last album, We're Here Because We're Here (review) followed producer Steven Wilson into post rock grandeur. Weather Systems hints at a progressive aesthetic, but producer Christer-André Cederberg led Anathema into a more lush, expressive rock space.
The tracks on Weather Systems follow a couple of organizing principals. The opening and closing songs both seem to deal with death and loss. In Untouchable Part 1, the serene vocals hover above a busy, frantic mesh of music. "And my love will never die / And my feelings will always shine." But before long, the vocals are caught in the tension, defensively declaring:
I never betrayed your trustThis reflects the spoken near death experience narrative of Internal Landscapes. Where Untouchable is stressed, this track is calm:
I never betrayed your faith
I'll never forsake your heart
I'll never forget your face
There's a feeling that I can't describe
There's a reason that I cannot hide
To never see the light that's so bright
The light that shines behind your eyes.
I did not have an out of body experience. I did not see my body or anyone about. I just immediately went into this beautiful bright light. It's difficult to describe. As a matter of fact, it's impossible to describe. Verbally, it cannot be expressed. It's something this becomes you and you become it. I could say that I was peace and I was love. I was the brightness; it was part of me.Then Lee Douglas' vocal comes in: Goodbye, my friends. The ambient backing music takes on a heavenly, peaceful tone with a simple beat and simple guitar. The soul of the song remains calm, even as it grows more anthemic.
These themes around soulful connection, love, and moving on imbues Weather System with a satisfying emotional depth.
The other organizing principle is tied to the mini-concept album embedded within Weather Systems. The Gathering of the Clouds leads into Lightning and so on. More like movements of a larger work, there are melodic touchstones that turn up repeatedly. Fans of We're Here will be most satisfied with The Storm Before the Calm, which sets up a delicious tension. The post-rock crunch still allows for some rich dynamics. The louder sections build up to an onslaught of tension and grinding electronic sound over the steady beat. After that climax, the track fades down to a calming interlude that recalls Renaissance before building into a stately procession with flecks of Wish You Were Here-era Pink Floyd.
While Anathema's shift in sound is tied to Cederberg's production, the passion and expressiveness on Weather Systems is the band's own.