Along with Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride, Anathema were England's pioneers of doom-death, releasing a string of amazing albums before they realized it was time to expand and experiment. While My Dying Bride is still carrying the doom-death torch, pretty much any band from the early 90's, from Katatonia to Ulver to Tiamat to Moonspell, has changed, updating their sounds and dropping the growls in favour of crystal clean vocals.
Anathema's transition began with Eternity, the album after the amazing The Silent Enigma, and blossomed with Alternative 4, perhaps their finest work from their post-doom period. With Judgement, however, the band became a completely different act, with polished production and tight arrangements defining their compositions. The songs focus heavier on Vincent Cavanagh's vocals and melancholic lyrics, and while there is plenty of guitar work, the melodies are mostly guided by Cavanagh's harmonies along with John Doughlas' straightforward yet very fitting drumming. Danny Cavanagh, on the other hand, provides the album's intense instrumentation. This is some of his finest playing, not only acoustic guitars but also fierce electric leads and stunning synth textures that lend the pieces a more Floydian touch overall.
Judgement isn't as radical a change from Alternative 4 as Eternity was from The Silent Enigma. It is important, however, that a key member, bassist Duncan Patterson, parted ways with the band before they started writing this album. Patterson was an integral part of the Anathema sound, supplying the band's rock-solid rhythms along with long-time drummer John Douglas, who, ironically, would also leave after this disc. Patterson is replaced by Dave Pybus, another competent bass player. And while there isn't much room to showcase his talents, songs like "Pitiless" and "Wings of God" both feature his signature style. "Pitiless" is already a welcome change after the extremely dark and moving opener "Deep". It weaves heavier guitar work by the Cavanagh brothers, some spoken poetry and hummed harmonies, and a great lead solo drenched in sound effects. The band was still trying to inject new elements into their sound, as they had never released the same album twice. Whether you are a fan of the band or not, you have to give it to them that they always tried to break new ground without being afraid of putting their influences on display. Speaking of influences, traces of Radiohead can be heard in the intro and effect-laden guitars on "Don't Look Too Far", something which they would expand on in the future; and on the Floydian album finale "2000 & Gone", a strong piece to close the record on a somewhat psychedelic note. It is a beautiful instrumental that proudly boasts lush keyboard textures, spatial ambiances, and guitar feedback.
The best songs are scattered around on the disc. From the mood-setter "Deep" to the desperate "One Last Goodbye", with great soloing and powerful vocals, Judgement still manages to be as varied as its predecessors. On an emotional level, the way the beautiful female vocals (by drummer John Douglas' sister) over delicate piano on "Parisienne Moonlight" bleed into the moving title track, which boasts plaintive synths blanketing textured acoustic guitars is simply intense. This is one of their most well-crafted songs, especially the way the guitar riffs build to that killer crescendo amidst rapid-fire drumming. "Emotional Winter" also deserves a mention. Very melancholic in its essence, the keyboards and guitar effects establish a thick soundscape through its course, with mirage-like guitar lines heard ringing distantly, thus providing added atmosphere.
This album was dedicated to Helen Cavanagh, the Cavanagh brothers' mother, who passed away during the writing stages of these songs. I feel it's a very fitting release dedicated to her memory.
- Forgotten Hopes
- Destiny Is Dead
- Make It Right (F.F.S.)
- One Last Goodbye
- Parisienne Moonlight
- Don't Look Too Far
- Emotional Winter
- Wings of God
- Anyone, Anywhere
- 2000 & Gone