Anathema: Distant Satellites

Emotional explorers distil their vision

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Anathema's development over nearly 25 years has been so bold, natural and honest that it demands respect, even from the superannuated tape-traders who reckon 1991’s They Die seven-inch was the best thing they ever did. Underground metal bands aren’t often allowed – indeed are seldom even tempted – to expand and explore new horizons as fearlessly and emotively as this sainted Scouse sextet.

Never for them the reversion to mid-90s type that followed the experimental wanderings of Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride; for years this uniquely bonded band of brothers (and a sister) have been inexorably reaching for a radiant and pure melodic apotheosis.

Purity is particularly relevant to Distant Satellites, as it is less dense and layered than 2012’s acclaimed progressive opus Weather Systems, simpler, more intimate, economical and beat-driven (including some tasteful programmed loops in the second half). The sound is crystalline and beautiful, especially Vincent and Lee’s voices, gelling more powerfully than ever on flat-out cracking catchy tearjerkers like Dusk (Dark Is Descending) and Ariel.

Ebbing and flowing, brooding and building, the album’s structural dynamics are masterfully balanced, songcraft is tightened, and the band’s overflowing musical passion gets ever more compelling and infectious.

Chris Chantler

Chris has been writing about heavy metal since 2000, specialising in true/cult/epic/power/trad/NWOBHM and doom metal at now-defunct extreme music magazine Terrorizer. Since joining the Metal Hammer famileh in 2010 he developed a parallel career in kids' TV, winning a Writer's Guild of Great Britain Award for BBC1 series Little Howard's Big Question as well as writing episodes of Danger Mouse, Horrible Histories, Dennis & Gnasher Unleashed and The Furchester Hotel. His hobbies include drumming (slowly), exploring ancient woodland and watching ancient sitcoms.