Daniel Cardoso – Keyboards, drums, bass
Lee Douglas – Vocals
Vincent Cavanagh – Guitars, vocals, keyboards, programming, bass
Danny Cavanagh – Guitars, vocals, keyboards, piano, bass
John Douglas – Drums, percussion, guitars, keyboards, programming
2. Untouchable (part 1)
3. Untouchable (part 2)
4. Thin Air
6. Can’t Let Go
7. Dreaming Light
8. Are You There?
9. J’ai Fait une Promesse
10. Leaving it Behind
12. Distant Satellites
13. Internal Landscapes
I first heard Anathema during the front end of the nineties. My heavy metal tastes were developing and I was curiously reaching out for new and exciting sounds on a journey of discovery that was drifting into heavier, alternative waters. My hunger for new sounds had caught a current that was taking me further and further away from a shoreline represented by Guns N’ Roses and Alice Cooper.
Paradise Lost had just released their seminal Icon album and a friend had recently passed me a copy of My Dying Bride’s Turn Loose The Swans. Both releases had impressed me and whet my appetite for all things gothic and gloomy. It wasn’t long before I had a copy of Anathema’s gloriously doom-laden Pentecost III on my stereo. I’d crank it out from my teenage bedroom while I grew my hair and worked on removing any colour from my wardrobe.
My tastes jumped around a lot back then and for whatever reason, despite maintaining respect for them, Anathema didn’t become a band I followed closely. I did come across them many years later, on a festival bill. I was hungover, laying on my back and letting their music soundtrack my regret at having indulged in an entire weekend of alcoholic sustenance. At the time it seemed like a perfectly matched state of affairs.
Bringing things up to the present day, the band’s newest release: Internal Landscapes 2008 – 2018 has found its way onto my stereo for review. Essentially a retrospective that showcases the band’s output while signed to KScope. It’s the first time in a long time that I’ve consciously listened to Anathema with any degree of focus. The first thing I notice is how dramatically things have changed since my initial, teenage flirtations with them.
As the opening track chimes in on gentle strings and begins a steady crescendo, it is immediately apparent the band have all but lost the gothic lilt of their early career. This is progressive rock. Clearly produced. Steady, assured and measured, the song expands and ascends towards stadium sized guitars but with no heavy riff payoff or death metal counterpoint. It appears at this point, I need to rapidly readjust my expectations.
Untouchable Pt 1 reduces things back down to a finger-picked refrain on an acoustic guitar that rolls along on a similar trajectory to the previous song before simmering into the piano ballad of Untouchable Pt 2.
As things progress, the dual vocals of Lee Douglas and Vincent Cavanagh are working well enough together and their harmonies provide a pleasant dynamic that suits the album’s grand arrangements – but an initial niggle is becoming a large elephant in the room that I can no longer ignore.
Bear in mind I am writing this for The Independent Voice and making a fair assumption that most people reading will have an interest in heavy metal, goth and alternative music. Most aren’t likely to be interested in sounds that conform to the conventions of what’s popular.
Unfortunately, the inconvenient truth here is the selection of songs on Internal Landscapes 2008 – 2018 appears to present the band at their most palatable and overtly commercial. There are moments (more so than not) when I feel like I am listening to Snow Patrol or Coldplay.
All good if you like that sort of thing. In fact, it may be the case if you are an existing fan with a deeper understanding of the band, that you can bypass my review, add a few numbers to my score and may actually find this a worthy collection of your favourite Anathema songs. But for the rest of us, I’d say listening to Internal Landscapes is a bit like meeting up with an old friend – the one who always used to wear the same, tatty Cradle Of Filth long-sleeve and once threw up on your sister’s bedroom floor – only to discover they now have a Renault Espace parked in the driveway of their large house and have their organic produce delivered from local suppliers on a monthly subscription.
Anathema have matured. Which is fine, but I’m struggling not to write this release off as a bit bland.
I can’t fault the musicianship and I admire the craft that has gone in to this. Everyone involved is obviously very talented and I give it points for that, but I’m just not feeling excited by it.
Can’t Let Go has a Cure-esque urgency that momentarily peaks interest, but it’s a minor highlight that unfortunately gets pulled back into sentimentality by Dreaming Light. Ultimately, I’m left thinking this is music intended for a different crowd.
Its better moments aspire to the sort of ecstatic melancholy that Sigur Rós can achieve, but, frustratingly, Anathema don’t quite achieve this level of ascension.
From my point of view, this this disappointing fare from a band who have carved an impressive career with some very worthy material to explore. Anathema are not a band to avoid but I’d advise digging deeper than this safe selection. Good luck!