ANATHEMA – ‘Distant Satellites’
(Out Now on KScope)
WHEN 16 YEAR OLD X-FACTOR CONTESTANTS talk about having been on a ‘journey’, during their transient moments in the entertainment programme poorly disguised as a talent show, you wonder what they would make of Anathema’s musical journey. At their inception in 1990, the ultra-detuned heavily distorted guitars and Darren White’s vocals were no different from your average doom band. White sounded like the impression your X-Factor-watching-work-colleagues do, when they find out you like heavy metal. Only female vocal fronted acoustic track ‘J’ai Fait une Promesse’ from 1993 album Serenades provided a beautiful inkling of what was to come.
White departed in 1995 when guitarist Vincent Cavanagh decided he could do a better job and the band’s style slowly started to take shape. Gradually, the guitars were tuned up, the distortion was backed-off and a more orchestral soundtrack was introduced. Nearly 25 years after they started, their sonic journey has brought us to ‘Distant Satellites’, an album full of serene keyboards, piano, clean guitars and Vincent’s overly sustained oral notes that alternate with female co-vocalist Lee Douglas’ tranquil choral expression. It’s chill-out symphonic metal at its best.
It’s not without its drawbacks though and has a patent lack of contrast between the tracks. Chock full of new heavenly white melodies, when a couple of retrospective hellish black tracks would be better placed to liven up proceedings and shock you out of that slumber you’ve probably drifted into. It’s crying out for an upbeat ‘Fragile Dreams’ or a ‘Deep’ but instead, damn near loses itself in its own pomposity. Three tracks are aptly named ‘The Lost Song’. But ‘Distant Satellites’ is unique when compared to everything else on the market, despite its lack of internal singularity from an obvious stubbornness, to never deviate from their chosen orbit. (8)