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Anathema: Weather Systems

I must confess that I was apprehensive to hear Weather Systems. Considering the magnificence of Anathema's last studio album, We're Here Because We're Here, as well as last year's collection of marvelously reworked material, Falling Deeper, it seemed impossible for Anathema to outdo itself. Oh, how wrong I was. Not only does Weather Systems exponentially enhance every element that made the previous two albums so special, but it rises to another level entirely. It captures our rawest emotions, our greatest fears, and our most sacred hopes and channels them into melodies, harmonies, lyrics, orchestration, performances, and arrangements that are unsurpassed in modern music. Its poignancy, honesty, fragility, and beauty are overwhelming, and the way it flows like one affective journey is incredible. It's a one-of-a-kind experience that can change lives.

Lyrically, musically, and even visually, Weather Systems feels like the next chapter in the thematic saga that Anathema began with We're Here Because We're Here and continued with Falling Deeper. Similar topics (death, love, loss, dreams, togetherness, etc) are explored, and the same sort of introspective writing and heavenly production is present. Naturally, as many of the titles relate to weather, Weather Systems is also full of symbolism and metaphors, which greatly increase the work's impact and help it feel like singular statement.

Of the album, main songwriter Daniel Cavanagh is spot on when he proclaims, "Everything from the production to the writing to the performances are a step up from our last album…This is not background music for parties. The music is written to deeply move the listener, to uplift or take the listener to the coldest depths of the soul." The first time I heard this album, I was driving on an empty highway after midnight, alone with my thoughts. Weather Systems provided the perfect soundtrack; in fact, I've never had such a visceral reaction to music before. My jaw dropped and my breath shortened several times as I listened, and by the end, I was exhausted. I've never heard such complex and intangible sentiments expressed with such precision and grace. I'm not ashamed to admit that Weather Systems is the only album that's ever brought me to tears.

The genius of Weather Systems is revealed when listened to all at once; the songs act as complements to an overall grand vision (rather than as separate ideas), demonstrating Anathema's ambition to craft a profound masterwork. Just about every track features several vocal sections and stunning orchestration, and they never fail to overlap into angelic serenity. From the gripping arpeggios of "Untouchable Part I" to the reprised melodies of "Untouchable Part 2," from the intricate harmonies of "The Gathering of the Clouds" (which, in a brilliant display of conceptual cohesion, features the sole female member, Lee Douglas, announcing, "But we're here because we're here") to the elegant "Lightning Song," and from the majestic optimism of "Sunlight" to the enthralling, multilayered vocals that conclude "The Storm Before the Calm," this album radiates luscious sounds and haunting words. Lead singer Vincent Cavanagh has never sounded as impassioned as he does on"The Beginning and the End, " and the way the orchestrated strings match the singing on "The Lost Child" is utterly superb.

Weather Systems concluding song, "Internal Landscapes," simultaneously represents uplifting closure and unflinching heartache. Much like "Presence" on We're Here Because We're Here, this song combines spoken passages (this time about a man's journey into the afterlife) and musical retrospect. Together, Cavanagh and Lee consider all that the situation implies before reaching a final consensus. The way they sing lyrics like "Goodbye, my friend. Life will never end. And I feel you…For I was always there. I will always be there" with such delicate power is wonderful. Simply put, every note, word, and timbre of Weather Systems should be treasured.

As a music journalist, it's often too easy to write with superlatives and unrestricted enthusiasm; however, there isn't an ounce of hesitation or hyperbole in declaring Weather Systems the most beautiful, meaningful, and emotionally piercing record I've ever heard. I've listened to it dozens of times, and its power has yet to diminish. Beyond appealing to lovers of exceptional music, the album provides solace and guidance for the broken-hearted and spiritually resilient. Weather Systems transcends the boundaries of its form by capturing the essence of humanity. I cannot emphasize enough just how special and important this record is. It's nothing less of a precious work of art, and it's guaranteed to dominate many "Best Of" lists at the end of the year.

Track Listing
1. Untouchable Part 1
2. Untouchable Part 2
3. The Gathering Of The Clouds
4. Lightning Song
5. Sunlight
6. The Storm Before The Calm
7. The Beginning And The End
8. The Lost Child
9. Internal Landscapes

Added: May 2nd 2012
Reviewer: Jordan Blum
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 4454
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Anathema: Weather Systems
Posted by Mark Davies, SoT Staff Writer on 2012-05-02 18:46:50
My Score:

Having had the luxury of time to spend absorbing the many layers and multitude of levels Anathema albums seem to have, it's time to finally break radio silence and throw my hat in the ring! Since the absorbing release of We're Here Because We're Here Anathema have become genuine contenders as the Pioneers of Modern Progressive Music for the new century. Their albums make you laugh, cry, rejoice and have the ability to heal wounds at a time when the world seems the worse place to be. Weather Systems is quite simply a monumental piece of multilayered modern music; it has the sweeping vocals of Danny Cavanagh complemented by some truly blistering guitar work. This is a collection of songs with a complex and emotive sound, they build layer upon layer of atmosphere which surrounds you in swirling passages of emotions and presence. Certainly not an album with many stand alone tracks apart from possibly 'The Beginning And The End' which comprises of a haunting passage of piano. This album is quite simply an event; you require setting time aside to completely immerse yourself in its rich texture that it wants to reward you with. Weather Systems has proven yet again that Anathema have their finger right on the pulse of what they excel at and what is expected of them. For them to come close to their last album is an achievement in itself, however, to surpass it and receive mass critical admiration is no mean feat. An absolutely stunning piece of modern music that deserves all the accolades bestowed upon it…..Anathema still discover ways to rip out my heart and replace it with mush and still have the ability to make grown men cry.

Anathema: Weather Systems
Posted by Simon Bray, SoT Staff Writer on 2012-05-02 06:23:35
My Score:

Anathema's newest album appears to be one of the most critically loved albums in the history of the universe and certainly my colleague Jordan Blum lavished praise on it recently. It's not difficult to see why as I shall explain but whilst I have enjoyed Weather Systems much more than I thought I would, it is only with the passage of time that we shall really be able to judge just how good/great this album is.

I'd certainly agree with Jordan when he suggests that this record needs to be listened to as a whole and in an age of instant gratification it is fabulous to have a product which suggests that somebody has their eye on the bigger picture rather than merely compiling an album which has as much filler as good stuff. I can't begin to tell you how beautiful Lee Douglas' voice is and she plays a more prominent role than may have expected. The opening salvo of "Untouchable Part One" and "Untouchable Part two" is achingly gorgeous.

One thing that Weather Systems is most certainly not is metal, it is questionable whether it is really rock as at times it borders on pop music but that doesn't stop it from being highly atmospheric and affecting piece of work that ploughs its own furlough much like, I would suggest, Kate Bush. I was given this to review just before it was released here in the UK and during the time I was working out what to say it charted at No. 50 in the album chart which frankly I find astonishing but somehow uplifting.

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