Welcome to Throwback Thursday! This is the place where we get to indulge in nostalgia and wax poetic about excellent metal of years past. TBT numero 49 features a band that doesn't exactly fit the metal mold, but is always welcome at our long, darkened table anyway. Liverpool's Anathema spent their early career running around with the likes of At The Gates and My Dying Bride bumming out the masses with their cathartic blend of doom-kissed riffs and beautifully simplistic lyricism. While the band is still recording mood-swept albums that explore the facets of the human experience, their 5th studio album Judgement marks a change in sound that some call the band's last 'metal' album. Prepare yourself to feel with…
Release Date: June 1999
Record Label: Music for Nations
Over the last 25 years, Anathema have borrowed heavily from the books of metal in terms of story telling and, perhaps most importantly, atmosphere. However, over time their sound has significantly shifted from a raw 'basement show' style doom metal to a more polished form of indulgent and lofty alternative/goth rock. Judgement is the album that perfectly straddles that transition. Co-written by brothers Danny and Vincent Cavanagh, Judgement introduces Dave Pybus (Cradle of Filth) on bass and brings back their original drummer John Douglas. Touring for this album revealed Danny of his keyboard duties and reassigned the task to Martin Powell (My Dying Bride). From their fledgling early adulthood efforts, Judgement matures in execution and delivers a pensive mood that reminds me of a stripped down version of Katatonia. Beautiful and clean, Judgement takes the hand of the listener into a sorrowful free-fall of longing and acceptance. Check out track "Make it Right":
Admittedly, on paper Anathema doesn't do much for me. For the uninitiated, they could be construed as boring if you single out some of their more identifying characteristics: straight-forward and (arguably) unpoetic lyrics, uncomplicated riffs, softly meandering lead, and the occasional bout of spoken word. But Anathema is a band who turns transparency into something phenomenal. With so little to hid behind, Amathema's careful musicianship finds a way to make each piece that contributes to the music – be it the instruments, vocals, lyrics or production – important. The result gives us utterly captivating and compelling tracks such as "Deep":
Prior to Judgement's release, former vocalist Darren White and Danny C. commented on their relationship with their record label at the time, Peaceville Records, "The whole attitude of [the label] is really down to Earth." In a 1993 interview with MTV's Headbanger's Ball, the duo quip that they feel as thought they don't fall into any one genre, nor did they enjoy trying to be explained. Danny comments that, "We sing about what they feel strongly about – even in the dark recesses of my mind". Judgement is the first record that the group recorded on a different label, and hardcore fans have expressed that perhaps their label change influenced the shift in the genre of their music.
Judgement happens to have one of Anathema's most beloved songs across all of their recordings "One Last Goodbye":
This is the first track I had ever heard from the band. My initial feelings about this song were mixed because I had never heard something by a 'metal' band so deliberate and plain. As a metal fan, I expect most of the music that swirls around the genre's whirlpool to come with layers of complications and instrumentation. So, at first I thought that they were compensating for lack of musicianship by trying too hard to create meaning and invoke emotion. But, after revisiting this track, my mind completely changed. "One Last Goodbye" is the opposite of trying too hard; it's a beautiful expression put so simply that the impact of it made me uncomfortable. The lyrics describe loss in such a universal way that anyone who has ever felt the shock and anguish of loss way will relate. What I like about this song, and this album, is that the music needs the lyrics and the lyrics need the music. From the initial tinklings of guitar, the "One Last Goodbye" grows with a soft and reserved fragility that mirrors the sorrow of the words. Both elements strengthen one another and lie together like an old married couple familiar with one another's bittersweet memories.
The universality of Anathema's music is therapeutic. For what it's worth, I happen to prefer the un-remastered version of Judgement, because I like the rougher edges of the recording – it matches the realness of the album. Judgement is a great intro to Anathema BUT I strongly recommend listening to their earlier releases that are also great in their own rights. Even thought the album sits on the fringe of the metalverse, Judgement is a record that will surely compliment any metal head's collection who loves melancholy and is ready for something stripped down and under-complicated.