Sunday, January 27, 2013

Anathema: "Untouchable, Part 1"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

As I look back on it now, there is one massively glaring omission in my "Favorite music of 2012" post from a few weeks ago: Anathema's Weather Systems, an incredible album and certainly one of the best of last year.

Now on the post-prog Kscope label, Anathema started out in the early '90s as a death/doom metal band and only later, particularly with 1999's Judgement, morphed into the prog rock superpower it is today. I first became a fan after the release of A Fine Day to Exit in 2001, but I lost track of them a bit after that. A Natural Disaster (2003) was good, We're Here Because We're Here, mixed by Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson, was better (and their best album up to that time), but it's the amazing Weather Systems that has truly brought me back.

The winner of Prog magazine's 2012 Critics' Choice award for best album (third in the Readers' Poll, with Anathama named Band of the Year), Weather Systems is a challenging and deeply moving album about the inevitability of death and the capacity of love if not to overcome then at least to comfort us in the face of mortality. Some may find it overwrought, I find it glorious, particularly the combination of Vincent Cavanagh and Lee Helen Douglas on vocals.

This is a long way from the Anathema of the '90s -- what with the male/female vocals, the piano and strings alongside the guitars, and the message of hope and optimism as a counter to the bleakness of the human condition. But it may be the best thing they've ever done. (For a good interview about the album, with Vincent Cavanagh, see here.)

Here's the opening track to Weather Systems, "Untouchable, Part 1." Enjoy!


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