What Ever Good Has Come?
Take music, for example. Has Liverpool ever produced a quartet of young, long haired musicians, tuned to the popular scene and groove and rut, taking the genre of the zeitgeist of their time, and running hard and fast with it, rewriting it, redefining it? Then matured and developed their creativity and technical excellence in their separate, individual ways? Ever enjoyed international success and fandom, created endlessly in the studio, woven orchestral arrangements into their highly contemporary compositions? Lost the brashness of their younger songwriting and performing sensibilities and selves? Had a member's female relative provide vocals?
Well yes, actually. Liverpool has in fact delivered such a band, and they are the originally doom metal progsters, lately post-prog poets, Anathema.
I recently bought Angry Metal Guy a pitcher of beer, for having introduced me to this band. Yeah, of course I'd already heard of them: they'd toured with Porcupine Tree, for fox ache, although we'd never arrived in time to catch their act. I also knew Steven Wilson had mixed their latest album, the one with the WWI trenchsong-inspired, philosophical handle, We're Here Because We're Here (repeat ad infinitum, to Auld Lang Syne). But there seem to be so few new albums that aren't mixed or otherwise caressed by SW nowadays! And there's nothing like good old fashioned word-of-mouth, or a favourable and well-written review, to turn you on to a new band, unheard and sight unseen.
Today's Anathema are significantly bigger than a quartet, and their most recent concert DVD, 2006's A Moment In Time, sees them sharing the stage with another such, the Bacchus String of that ilk. We're Here... is the band's first all-new studio release for seven years, and while I'm obviously not the newbie best placed to compare it to their back catalog, I'd have to express my frank disbelief that this so beautifully intricate, original and masterly album, plays - in the view of many a longtime fan - a resolutely second fiddle to certain named earlier works, viz. Judgement and A Fine Day To Exit. I have still to discover those, but now I can't wait.
These are some marvellous songs of beauty, light and melancholy. Their compositional style occasionally echoes Sigur Rós or Radiohead, working repetitive themes and simple figures into great structures with emotion and resolution, while their overall timbre evokes none so readily as Pink Floyd. The passages of female vocals provided by (drummer John's sister) Lee Douglas have a particularly forlorn beauty, whilst another (male) spoken word section is guaranteed to hold you spellbound. Elsewhere heavy, progressive, 8-minute epics lie in wait saying: Anathema mean business.
Let's leave the penultimate word to the inimitable Angry Metal Guy: "A music of Zen one could say. In fact, there is a hippiesque patchouli stank to this album that is so strong I have to plug my ear-nose™."
Well done Liverpool, always knew you'd come up with the goods eventually.