ANATHEMA - "ALTERNATIVE 4" (PEACEVILLE / MFN)
Gosh, Anathema have changed so much through the years. With "Serenades" they started off much in the vein of My Dying Bride - but without the violin and with added melancholy. Singer Darren's influence proved perhaps too powerful on the "Pentecost III" EP that was, to say the least, non-compact and rather blurrily unfocused. With Darren's replacement in the form of guitarist Vinnie Cavanagh, "The Silent Enigma" was a mighty fine album with less dark vocals but no less doom power. Then, with "Eternity", everything changed. Gone were the days of the grunt, welcome to a wealth of gothic influences. My mind reeled, my ears revolted, and I didn't play the album until after the release of their latest, "Alternative 4".
"Alternative 4" taught me that, really, Anathema might still be called Anathema but have in reality become an entirely different band. Now there's "old" and "new" Anathema. "Old" is powerfully doomy, fit for listening in many moods; "new" is much more emotional and much less heavy music, fit for fewer moods but fit nonetheless. It just takes some getting used to, and then it just grows and grows until it almost sends tears to your eyes. I don't know how many loved ones they lost in the process of writing "Alernative 4", but it seems like there are no girlfriends, grandmothers and aunties left, that's how depressive the lyrics are. Death, dying, sadness, parting, these are recurrent themes in every song. And, damn it, they put those sad words to brilliant music.
Anathema is no longer Anathema but, in their way, they are still most excellent.
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Written September 1998
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