An Ode To… Anathema

An Ode To logo

Welcome to the first edition of An Ode To! Music has been a huge part of my life for a long time. But after leaving my music journalism gig last May, I’ve struggled to find a fresh and inspiring way to continue talking about music without committing myself to a routine meme. Now I have, and I’m very excited to share the music I love in a brand new way.

What can you expect from this and future Odes? Readers will learn a little bit about the highlighted artist and who they sound similar to (in case readers haven’t heard of them before). Then comes the best part: songs! I’ll pick out some of my favorite songs by said artist, briefly explain why I love them, and include YouTube clips so you can watch / listen for yourself.

So, without further ado…

Who Is Anathema?

Anathema

Anathema is a progressive rock band from Liverpool, United Kingdom. They’ve actually been around for a long time, forming in 1990 as a doom metal band with Vincent Cavanagh as the sole vocalist. They gradually shifted to heavy melodic rock in the late ‘90s before evolving to their current sound, a more atmospheric progressive rock with three singers (Vincent, female vocalist Lee Douglas, and Vincent’s older brother Danny).

Anathema Albums I Own:

  • Alternative 4 (1998)
  • We’re Here Because We’re Here (2010)
  • Weather Systems (2012)
  • Universal Live CD/DVD (2013)
  • Distant Satellites (2014)

You Might Like Anathema’s Music If You’re a Fan Of: Other progressive rock bands like Porcupine Tree, Rush, or 3; or more widely known rock bands like U2, Coldplay, Radiohead, or Mumford and Sons

My Introduction to Anathema: “Thin Air”

I first heard of Anathema in 2011, when my younger brother let me borrow his copy of We’re Here Because We’re Here. At that point, I’d heard of Anathema before but hadn’t made time to check out their music, and Younger Brother said, “You should. I think you’d like them.” He was wrong: I didn’t end up liking my first Anathema song – I adored it.

“Thin Air” is a great introduction for any Anathema newbie. It shows off the band’s trademark rhythmic guitarwork, swelling string arrangements, and expertly crafted, layered arrangements. It’s also a fantastic example of how a great song doesn’t have to follow a traditional song structure. No verse-chorus format, in other words. Instead, “Thin Air” relies on evoking emotion and taking listeners on a journey. For example, when I listen to “Thin Air,” I feel weightless and euphoric, as if I’m swooping and soaring through the heights of love and utter bliss. It’s exhilarating, and a feeling that comes back no matter how many times I listen to this track.

Click here for the studio version of “Thin Air.” Otherwise, you’re in for a treat with the above live version from the Universal DVD. It’s proof that, when done right, amazing songs can be even more amazing when performed live. I’ve had the privilege of seeing Anathema in concert myself – and what a night! They gave their all one of the most enthralling and impassioned music shows I’ve ever attended. I hope they come back to the States for another headlining tour!

Favorite Song from We’re Here Because We’re Here: “A Simple Mistake”

This is actually my second-favorite song from We’re Here Because We’re Here (“Thin Air” is my tops there), but I didn’t want to list the same song twice. 😉

“A Simple Mistake” is the epitome of a slow-burn track. It takes its time to build, so don’t be fooled by its forlorn, “calm-before-the-storm” first half. The second half explodes in an Anathema sort of way: oceanic, desperate, and urgent. Like a storm barrels over a body of water, whipping up waves with its gale-force winds. This is another reason why Anathema’s music fascinates me: Even though the lyrics may be about something specific, the bed of music itself has this abstract quality that takes on a life of its own.

Favorite Song from Weather Systems: “Lightning Song”

Time for Lee Douglas to take the lead! “Lightning Song” is the perfect showcase for Lee’s clear, pristine vocals, and one of the most uplifting songs in Anathema’s repertoire. It’s like “Thin Air” and “A Simple Mistake” in that it starts off gentle, then steadily climbs and gathers more instruments and details, and then – BANG! I like to think of it as an aesthetic “lightning strike.” It works from a lyrical perspective, too; it’s about the moment when a person’s life changes forever, and for the better. This song moved me to tears the first time I heard it – and it still does sometimes.

Favorite Song from Universal Concert DVD: “Closer”

“Closer” originally appeared on Anathema’s 2003 album A Natural Disaster; and with the opening notes, you can tell this track is different from anything you’ve heard from the band so far. It’s more electronic, with synthesizers, Vincent distorting his vocals using a vocoder, and only bass drums and cymbals for percussion. And after the second chorus, it’s also more METAL than the first three songs I shared. The stark musical contrasts fit the lyrics, though. Not to mention it sounds So. Freakishly. AWESOME. This really is a fun song to experience live, and it’s easy to hear why. Just listen to the fans!

Click here to listen to the studio version of “Closer” from A Natural Disaster.

Favorite Song from Distant Satellites: “Ariel”

I’ll just refer you to this post I wrote last “Ariel” last year. It still captures what this ballad does to me. I do have one new comment to add about “Ariel,” though: I want this to be my wedding song. 🙂

Favorite Ballad Not Listed Above: “The Beginning and the End”

A very simple composition compared to the others. Listen closely, and you’ll realize that the initial piano and guitar chords never change. But as the song continues, the music grows in intensity and swells under Vincent’s anguish. “The Beginning and the End” may not be a happy song, but it sure is beautiful in its sorrow and longing.

Favorite Uptempo Track Not Listed Above: “Untouchable Part 1”

This is about as close as Anathema gets to writing a “traditional” song. It’s more simplistic and immediate than the other tracks highlighted above. That said, “Untouchable Part 1” coasts smoothly from beginning to end while maintaining Anathema’s signature, a gradual build in intensity and nuance. Is there anything that this band can’t do well? 🙂

An Anathema Song with Special Meaning to Me: “Internal Landscapes”

If you’re keeping track, this is the fourth song from Weather Systems that I’m sharing here. There’s a reason for this: Weather Systems came to me when I was suffering from a bout of situational depression. The album became a sort of wake-up call. Sometimes it would cheer me up. Other times, it would echo my despair, or crackle with a joy that I wished I could feel so badly yet couldn’t reach. I can’t attribute my turnaround solely to Weather Systems, since a few other things happened around that same time to help pull me out. However, Weather Systems made me realize that if a music album could prompt such an emotional swing from me, I needed to get help. And I did.

Why share “Internal Landscapes” when the entire album it comes from is so special to me? Because it would break me wide open in a way the other tracks couldn’t. This is the only song I know of that has made me cry so I could simultaneously acknowledge my sadness and be utterly grateful that such a song exists. I could tell you more about “Internal Landscapes”… But at this point, I’ll let you listen, absorb, and be swept away.

Are you a fan of Anathema’s music? If so, what are your favorite songs or albums by them? If you’re checking our their songs for the first time, what do you think? Let me know by commenting on this post.

16 thoughts on “An Ode To… Anathema

  1. Okay, first of all I love this post and I can’t wait to see more of them. Second of all, I hadn’t heard of Anathema before but I listened to parts of all the songs you shared and now I have to go look them up on Spotify so I can listen to more! Basically, I like what I’ve heard. It sounds to me like they’d be a good band to have on in the background while writing. =)

    Thanks for bringing this band to my attention.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome, Alex! 😀 I’m going to limit myself to one Ode each month, or every two months. It will all depend on how much time I have. But I already know who I’ll cover for the next two Odes. 😉

      And YAY for another new Anathema fan!! *does happy dance*

      Like

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