Thursday, June 12, 2014

Anathema - Distant Satellites (2014)
Since Anathema's return to the music world with 2010's "We're Here Because We're Here" and 2012's stunning "Weather Systems," the band have carved out a well-defined sound that, while similar to that of their older albums, marks a distinct chapter in the band's history. On "Distant Satellites" this sound has been altered slightly to evoke a darker, more brooding mood but the changes are certainly less subtle than one would expect simply based on the beautifully dark album cover. Things are a bit more stripped down on this album with an emphasis on simplicity, catchiness, and directness. This is most apparent on songs like "The Lost Song Pt. 1" and "The Lost Song Pt. 3," both of which are structurally straightforward with a constantly repeating drum beat and crescendo at the end. Yet even though this album is more minimalistic than the band's past releases there's still a whole lot of variety, perhaps more so than in the past. Take the difference between "You're Not Alone," for example, with its repetitive, almost garage rock sound and the ethereal, Radiohead-esque "Take Shelter." Here we see a band that's a little less restrained than before in terms of reaching into other genres while still retaining their trademark sound. While others may disagree, to me the way the album transitions into electronic territory on the last three songs is a brilliant move. One could think of the first portion of the album as signifying one's relations with people whereas the last part of the album takes a more introspective turn and examines our own consciousness and psyche. In any case though, the last three songs certainly give the album breathing space and allow it to end gracefully. If I had to pick some highlights from "Distant Satellites," mine would be "The Lost Song Pt. 2" and "Ariel." These two tracks are to me some of Anathema's greatest artistic achievements even if they sound like they could easily been on the previous two albums. In all, this is an album that's focused on trimming whatever fat was present on "Weather Systems" and further perfecting the band's atmospheric sound. The lyrics may be pretty cheesy but that's they've almost always been for Anathema and since they're coming from a genuine place it's hard to fault the band for that. I'll close by saying that "Distant Satellites" is another fantastic release from one of my favorite bands and it can stand tall in Anathema's discography.

(Special thanks to Kscope for the promo copy.)

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