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Anathema - Weather Systems/Universal Album Review

Liverpool’s prog finest reach new heights in the studio and onstage.

Anathema Weather Systems album artwork

It’s a measure of Anathema’s commitment and excellence, that a quarter of a century into their career they are releasing their best and certainly most acclaimed work.

Weather Systems (2012) and the live album/film Universal (2013) are being reissued here with a slight change of packaging and at a new lower price. There is no particular reason for their reappearance now, so soon after their original release (and that of 2014’s Distant Satellites), but music of such substance and emotional heft always deserves to be heard. It’s the emotional quality of Anathema’s music that gets mentioned the most; that and their steady shift from dark to light, from super-heavy doom metal to their current incarnation as purveyors of cathartic rock anthems. Weather Systems is the apotheosis so far of their metamorphosis: the songs taking the listener on a journey, all symphonic surges and crescendos, achieving, via warm melody and virtuoso instrumental performances,
a sort of epic intimacy.

The lyrics (‘And my love will never die…’, ‘fight for what you know…’) might comprise banal tropes (or, if you’re being kind, tap into ancient verities), but in the unreconstructed AOR-prog stakes, Anathema are up there with Blackfield and Porcupine Tree. The Gathering Of The Clouds is mighty and tempestuous, The Storm Before The Calm is a dolorous drone.

Each song is similar in construction, but that helps to create a sense of cohesion. For the full immersive Anathema experience –what one typically effusive fan has described as “the ecstatic maelstrom of common exaltation” – try Universal. Recorded at Bulgaria’s Ancient Theatre of Philippopolis in September 2012, it features a CD of concert audio and a DVD of the show captured by filmmaker Lasse Hoile (whose clients include Opeth and Dream Theater). Backed by the Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra and mixed by Weather Systems producer Christer-André Cederberg, Anathema easily match the pristine power of their studio peaks.

Paul Lester is the editor of Record Collector. He began freelancing for Melody Maker in the late 80s, and was later made Features Editor. He was a member of the team that launched Uncut Magazine, where he became Deputy Editor. In 2006 he went freelance again and has written for The Guardian, The Times, the Sunday Times, the Telegraph, Classic Rock, Q and the Jewish Chronicle. He has also written books on Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Bjork, The Verve, Gang Of Four, Wire, Lady Gaga, Robbie Williams, the Spice Girls, and Pink.