While the more angry metal fans were in Islington watching King 810, the prog-metal heroes Anathema were turning Camden upside-down. This is what we learned...
Mother’s Cake gets us off to a good start
A painfully early start time of 6.30pm means that most people are still en route to Koko when the intriguingly-named Mother’s Cake hit the stage. But as the floor slowly fills the three lads from Austria cause a stir with their funky psychedelic persuasions that bristle with raw talent. Combining the other-worldly spacecake rock of Hawkwind with the forthright blues of Monster Truck and a pulsating Chili Peppers vibe they straddle the void between retro rock and new sounds, delivered with a spirit that could be described as carefree. Closing with something straight out of the Hendrix songbook is a nice touch to get us fired up the headliners.
**Anathema have reinvented themselves **
When Anathema returned in 2010 with We’re Here Because We’re Here they challenged all conceived notions of what a band that has its roots in death doom could do. Adopting a softer progressive approach with leadweight emotion and musical themes that transcended the remit of metal they went from shouldering My Dying Bride to being a staple in any prog rocker’s record collection. You’d barely recognise them. It’s also why they are playing to a sold-out crowd at Camden’s Koko.
They focus on the new stuff
With Distant Satellites still fresh in our ears, the new material takes centre stage. They begin with The Lost Song – a glorious, soothing mass propelled by pulsating drumbeats and the dual vocals of Daniel and Lee that reaches for the rafters. Building to a massive emotive crescendo, it’s enough to make a grown man cry. What a way to start the show. And just when you think it can’t get any more weepy they follow with Untouchable, accompanied by a thousand impassioned voices from the floor.
**It’s a different kind of heavy **
While they never stray into their death doom roots there is a sense of the style’s dark leanings that imbues songs like Anathema and the Cult Of Luna-esque strains of Storm Before the Calm. Even You’re Not Alone, their curveball song from the new album that has more in common with a Pendulum ‘hands in the air’ floor filler than typical Anathema, boils over with intensity. Elsewhere, Universal builds with such cataclysmic emotive force that the sky should be raining down droplets of steel.
**Humility reigns **
Let’s face it, Anathema are at the top of their game right now. As the kids say, they are smashing it. They could be arrogant and use the Koko as a platform to spurt self-aggrandising rubbish (and let’s face it, some bands do) but these are straight-up lads (and a lady) from Liverpool who have taken a long and complex journey to get here. Daniel Cavanagh calls out to the balconies, invites us to clap along (not that we need a prompt) and graciously shares the stage chat with his brother Vincent, while Lee Douglas – whose voice is only second to Anneke van Giersbergen – unassumingly belts out a heart-wrenching rendition of A Natural Disaster for an epic finale.