Given the trials and tribulations endured by Cavanagh, explored at length when the magazine interviewed Anathema upon the release of their latest album The Optimist (Prog 77), there’s a remarkable consistency to the music on Monochrome, his first album of self-penned solo material. This may not come as a surprise to any Anathema fan, given the band’s remarkably strong run of quality albums, but anyone with an understanding of the consequences of depression will know what a roller coaster of emotions the sufferer can endure.
Centred more around Cavanagh’s emotively delightful piano playing than his guitar work, this is a deep and emotional album. When he sings ‘And I can’t be where you are today…’ at the beginning of opening track The Exorcist, one doesn’t know if he’s referring to a lost love or some far away catharsis. Or both. Then there’s his imploringly heartfelt vocal of ‘Do you believe in where I stand, Because you save me from myself…’. It’s soul-stirring stuff. Longtime friend Anneke van Giersbergen puts in the most soulful of turns on This Music, Soho and Oceans Of Time, meaning that these songs are closest in sound to what you’d hear from Anathema. But that’s hardly surprising given that along with brother Vincent and John Douglas, Daniel is one of the band’s main songwriters. But Monochrome isn’t a carbon copy of his day job.
In places, this is far more of an old school progressive rock record than Anathema’s 21st century progressive sound, albeit one imbued with delicately beautiful harmonies and catchy melodies. Five tracks push well over the six-minute mark, the most epic being the Poe-flavoured The Silent Flight Of The Raven Winged Hours, which, at over nine minutes, sees Cavanagh diving headfirst into the kind of musical exploration Steven Wilson is so feted for. Album closer Some Dreams Come True does that thing that Anathema excel at: lending a listen that sucks you emotionally inside the music and yet also offers you a sense of hope and uplifting respite.
It’s not all demanding stuff, however. The delightfully folky Dawn, with Anna Phoebe supplying some fine violin playing, is as jaunty and upbeat as one can imagine. But given the artist’s own predicament over recent years, this was always going to be an intense ride. It is to Cavanagh’s credit that instead of wallowing in the mire, he’s created something utterly beautiful from something that can be so destructive.
Monochrome will tug on every sinewed heartstring you have. But it’ll ultimately leave you smiling. Quite lovely.