It’s curious that a respected metal label should wind up instigating Anathema’s firm graduation away from metal. Reissued as an important cornerstone in the revival of Music For Nations (home once to Opeth, Slayer, Metallica…), these prime cuts from mid-era Anathema demonstrate the label’s capacity for progressive sounds.
It’s here that Vincent Cavanagh – initially a reluctant singer, replacing death-growler Darren White in 1995 – really finds his voice, and we generally start to see the full, bold, emotive scope of what Anathema are capable of.
Still, on Judgement especially, one foot remains in their metal roots. Electronics and ethereal soundscapes are also fully embraced, but the crunchy weight and moodiness of certain moments evokes their heavy Peaceville days. The pounding, almost grungy drive and Radiohead-infused atmosphere of Pitiless sounds magnificent here – the once dreadlocked doom-metal Scousers blossoming into altogether more soaring, avant-garde zones.
A Fine Day To Exit comes armed with a largely more mainstream-friendly, melodic core. Tracks like Pressure introduce a mournfully sweet quality, reminiscent of early Coldplay, while Looking Outside Inside calls to mind The Bends-era Radiohead. There are moments where their spell weakens, but one wonders what might have happened if they’d continued in this manner.
The sound of 2003’s A Natural Disaster – still one of their strongest records – proves effective distraction. At once it’s a more assured, compelling work of contemporary rock; by turns fragile and mighty in the likes of Harmonium.
Its seamless movement between rousing rock guitar, beautiful vocals and atmospheric electronics makes it easily their most complete work. Up until then, at least./o:p