Now here’s a band that has come a long way. Slowly morphing from doom/death to moody, emotional rock, Anathema has lost some old fans, while gaining some new ones. But for the most part respect for them has been well preserved (and certainly well deserved). After some uncertainty of the band’s future, we’ve come to find a new album is on the way, and being produced by none other than Steve Wilson. Great news, especially if new material is taking the direction of the tracks released, via their website. “Everything” is definitely the most beautiful music I’ve heard in a very long time. And now with Hindsight, we find a collection of revisited older material to tide us over. I’m sure a lot of you are as exited as I was, so let’s dive right in.
The impact of this album is very close and personal. It feels almost like they’re performing right in your living room. Vincent’s voice is natural and fragile, singing only to you. The overall effect of this album is slightly akin to Pain of Salvation’s 12:05 and The Gathering’s Sleepy Buildings, but being live albums they are slightly different. Like I said, this album is mostly acoustic, but not entirely. You’ll still find electric bass, e-bow leads (which are beautiful and blend so well with the cello), and a few clean electric guitar parts. But the acoustic instruments certainly dominate this recording. Piano, Cello (masterfully played by Dave Wesling from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra) and acoustic guitars are the foundation of this album. All in all, it creates a beautiful and profound atmosphere.
So, “Fragile Dreams” is the opener. After the first listen through it, I had to go back to the original version so I could remind myself what it sounded like. All the melodies, progressions and rhythms are still mostly the same, but the result is completely different. Honestly, I prefer this version. It doesn’t rock as hard, but it defines elegance. Like I said before (and will say again before this review is over), cello and e-bowed guitar leads should get married. The complexity in harmonics the e-bow creates makes it a pinnacle of expression. Coupled with the expressive playing of Dave Wesling, the end result is breathtaking.
“Leave No Trace” comes next, and takes me back down to earth. First off, I love that song. I love that album. A Fine Day To Exit is probably my favorite Anathema release. But here’s the thing: Aside from adding some warmth (due to the glorious instrumentation and production), I find this track is not far from the original. In fact I almost prefer the original. The repeated “No future, no warning” lyrics towards the end seemed to be more powerful and effective in the original recording. But that’s not a huge complaint. The grace and genious of the song is still intact. Next comes “Inner Silence”. This track is absolutely beautiful. The original version, of course, but this new vision is completely overwhealming. Remember in the original? “When the silence beckons, and the day draws to a close” and BAM everything hits when he says “close”. I love that part, but they don’t do it here. It comes in very gently, slowly building to the end. And the added lyrics “still love you” are repeated until it (and the e-bow, of course) are the only things playing. It’s breathtaking, let me tell you.
The unmistakable “One Last Goodbye”. Among Anathema’s most tragic songs, now we find it even more fragile and brittle on this record. It’s almost like a faint echo of the original recording. A bittersweet reminiscence. It uses no percussion, just piano, acoustic guitar, cello and that ever welcome e-bow emerging towards the end. This is definitely one of the stand out renditions on this album. “Are You There?” is the next cut, and completely takes a new (and welcome) perspective on an already incredible song. Constant througout the song is a folky finger picked acoustic riff (think Andy Mckee). It has a very cloudy, floating feel to it which works so well. Also a standout track. “Angelica” suffers the a similar fate as “Leave No Trace”. Though still a beautiful track, it sounds pretty much like how the original would except unplugged. Keep in mind I’m being pretty critical, as this is the only complaint I have with this album. Oddly enough, “A Natural Disaster”, again, sounds almost exactly like the album version. There are some subtle changes, yes, but nothing drastic. I think a revision of a track from The Silent Enigma or even Serenades would add some character to this record (as well as giving the band’s creative chops a run for their money). “Temporary Peace”, though still sounding much like the original, is given a lot of dimension just from the added cello. And to change up the pace, “Flying” is given a bit of Mediterranean flair via some spicy tremolo picked acoustic leads.
Now, I’ve saved the best for last. The boys have graced us with a brand new track (which is not listed to be on “Horizons”, the upcomming album). “Unchained (Tales of The Unexpected)” is simply beautiful. A haunting, yearning track, full of tension and grace. This makes me extremely exited for “Horizons”, as every new track I’ve heard has been pure gold. I think a lot of people will consider this an album for fans, but I don’t think that’s true at all. Someone who has never even heard of Anathema could enjoy this album through and through. Despite my few minor gripes, this is a very worthwhile album, and will do well to tide over you who are anxious for the new album.[Visit the band's website]