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Anathema: Distant Satellites

It is by no means unfair to suggest that Liverpudlian proggers Anathema are one of the unheralded treasures of the British music industry, almost under the radar they have built up a strong body of work and even dip their feet into the waters of national charts. Distant Satellites is the follow up to 2012's Weather Systems which reached No.50 in the UK album charts and an impressive No.14 in Germany. The album was recorded at Cederberg Studios in Oslo, with producer Christer-André Cederberg again behind the desk, with some songs also mixed by Steven Wilson. The band describe the album is, "the culmination of everything Anathema has been working up to so far in our musical path, "and they're now on their tenth album!

If I had a criticism of Distant Satellites it would be that occasionally it suggests the terminal blandness of Coldplay (heaven forbid) but only occasionally because the songs lack the lyrical platitudes of that particular monster selling band. As you can see from the song lengths below the band doesn't often deal in single length tracks either and as is their wont grandeur mixes with simplicity for the most part. If you need proof listen to their eponymously titled track which, apart from a Gilmour-esque solo delivers emotionally charged yet ethereal joy. As with Weather Systems it is slightly too unmetal/ not hard rocking enough for my personal tastes but this is another great record from a vastly underrated band.

See more about this release on our recent YouTube show!

Track Listing:

  1. "The Lost Song, Part 1" - 5:53
  2. "The Lost Song, Part 2" - 5:47
  3. "Dusk (Dark Is Descending)"- 5:59
  4. "Ariel" - 6:28
  5. "The Lost Song, Part 3" - 5:21
  6. "Anathema" - 6:40
  7. "You're Not Alone" - 3:26
  8. "Firelight" - 2:42
  9. "Distant Satellites" - 8:17
  10. Take Shelter" - 6:07

Added: July 1st 2014
Reviewer: Simon Bray
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 2273
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Anathema: Distant Satellites
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2014-07-01 09:00:49
My Score:

OK, I've admittedly been a bit hard on this band over the years...with most of the music world telling me that Anathema are the greatest thing since sliced bread, I've often taken the opposite approach and claimed their material as bland, lifeless, and well, boring. Well, it appears that I've recently seen the error of my ways, thanks to this latest release Distant Satellites, a rich, melodic, and quite stunning achievement of atmospheric rock, prog, and pop, certainly a far cry from their doom days, but thankfully so. The opening two-part "The Lost Song" is just gorgeously painful, an emotional roller coaster ride that is a perfect vehicle for the soaring vocals of Daniel Cavanagh, Vincent Cavanagh, & Lee Douglas. "Dusk (Dark Descending)" is more of an upbeat hard rocker, again those impressive vocals just tugging at your soul, and Douglas takes over on the delicate, piano led ballad "Ariel", showing that she is one of the most underrated female singers in rock today. The dramatic "Anathema" builds and builds to an emotional, majestic climax, while the lengthy title track offers up haunting organ and electronic drums to support Vincent's yearning vocal.

I'm enjoying this one so much that I've gone back to their previous few releases, and have had a total change of heart on all of them. Vocally, Anathema just have a way with crafting haunting melodies that few bands can match, and their delicate yet thickly textured music just adds to an overall joyous listening experience. Sorry I haven't 'gotten it' sooner guys, but I'm happy to be on board the train now. Better late than never I guess!

Anathema: Distant Satellites
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2014-06-22 06:31:30
My Score:

Distant Satellites marks Anathema's tenth studio album, hinting at a gradual shift from its two predecessors, We're Here Because We're Here and Weather Systems. While there's no denying that a great deal of sonic and compositional ideas have found their way into this disc, at the same time, Distant Satellites sports a darker and grittier approach, and much welcome change. While the previous two albums utilized the guitars for beautiful, climactic crescendos, otherwise highlighting the band's symphonic approach and vast, endless sound explorations, the guitar work on this disc seems to be a more central element of their craft.

Often, guitars are the vessel that carry the main body of the songs, underscoring the most pivotal moments with a plethora of techniques: the acoustic intro of "Dusk (Dark is Descending)" is so dark and evil-sounding that it reminds me of Opeth's "The Funeral Portrait" while the textured, intensely beautiful "The Lost Song" trilogy sees the Cavanagh brothers building atmosphere and tension in a way only the two of them could master, with the second part hitting its apex due to Lee Douglas' absurdly wonderful singing. Douglas contributes to this album in a much more substantial manner, taking cente-stage on several tracks as well as adding her unique backing vocals, leaving her indelible sonic imprint. If she were to leave or take a break from the the band for whatever reason, it would be impossible to do these songs justice in a live setting, either with male or female vocals. Her soft, breathy voice reaches impossible heights on the piano-driven "Ariel," with distant percussive sound manipulations in the background and climaxes in the finale with the Cavanagh adding his easily identifiable croon.

The centrepiece of the disc is perhaps "Anathema," without doubt a risk the band has taken and succeeded in. Before the release of the album, when I saw the tracklisting, I was a bit apprehensive why the band had decided to name a song after themselves, given no song could capture the essence of their wide sound palette and complex musical evolution. The song is perhaps the most guitar-centred tune on this disc, built around a sprawling main melody that permeates its entirety. With a beautiful repetitive chord progression in its second half, the song ploughs through myriad sound textures: a sombre piano theme, lyrics examining the history of the band and detailing their happy, sad, and angry moments but always concluding with the "But I loved you!" scream, and clusters of repetitive guitar chords that eventually engulf and destroy you--the melody is so intense it brings back memories of their finest moments on albums like Alternative 4 and Judgement. The repetition certainly sounds intentional, as it allows the listener to be fully taken over by the song's emotional impact.

The progressive rock side of the band is more prominent in the latter half of the disc: with its sampled drum beats and short lyrics delivered in typical Steven Wilson fashion, "You're Not Alone" boasts repeated, rapid-fire lyrics eventually morphing into a drum-and-bass battery, reminding me of listening to a lost song from Porcupine Tree circa Signify or a cut that didn't make it on their masterpiece, Lightbulb Sun. It's certainly a good experiment for the band but does not quite work on this album. The two-minute instrumental "Fireflight" is basically a study in stretching the chordal parameters of synth-driven textures and sound manipulations, which honestly function as a precursor to the title track. One of their most experimental songs, it blends lots of electronic beats, great triple drum fill where each note is totally clean and even, and beautiful linear grooves by Daniel Cardoso.

At any rate, the last couple of songs suggest this album is the transition from Anathema's past two releases into a darker and grittier realm. Even the sonic feel of some of these tunes is different. "The Lost Song" trilogy, for instance, originated from a song Danny Cavanagh had written several years ago. Unable to find the demos he had recorded, and just remembering its time signature, he and the band attempted to recreate it, with a much different result. The trilogy is certainly great for what it is, but one can also tell that any of these three pieces could also have made it onto their previous discs, since they have more common with those songs, harmonically and sonically. Speaking of which, even Steven Wilson's mix on these songs is different from that of Christer-Andre Cederberg, who is responsible for the rest of the album and has given them their dark vibe.

Still, this is a great disc and a great sign that they are ready to get back to writing more direct pieces demonstrating the bare emotion of their songs. It has always been great following this band, and they have never released a disappointing album. Hopefully they have at least ten more albums in them.

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