Anathema // Weather Systems
Rating: 4.5/5.0 — You can take the dirty hippy out of metal, but you can’t take the metal out of the dirty hippy.
Label: Kscope
Websites: | |
Release Dates: EU: 2012.04.16/18 | US: 04.24.2012

Anathema - Weather SystemsIt’s safe to say that you’re attracted to metal for one of several reasons and those reasons aren’t really just ’cause you’re a working class kid who wants to wear a leather jacket. No, it’s probably because of the way the music is constructed. For example, you might love metal because of its epic scope. Metal, aside from classical music and jazz, is basically the last of the non-simplistic music forms left (and the only popular one). Whether you like them or hate them bands like Symphony X or Opeth or Wolves in the Throne Room have in common that they build up epic musical landscapes that move the listener. Guitar melodies and complex harmonies might appeal to you or the pulsing beats of music as it chugs forward. That’s also why metal guys seem to have a surprising amount of overlap in non-metal music as well, like Muse. I certainly didn’t think anyone would love Vienna Teng when I reviewed her album—and I’ve received a lot of feedback from metal dudes who really thought that album was golden, because there’s a progressive intelligence to her music that we as metalheads appreciate.

Anathema, despite no longer really being a metal band, has all of those above qualities in spades. Though, it’s safe to say that Weather Systems, the latest in a string of releases from Liverpool’s finest, is the most ‘metal’ of the band’s releases since 1999’s Judgement. But it’s not metal because it’s heavy per se, but it still maintains the heft of a metal band—it’s like you can take the dirty hippy out of metal, but you can’t ever really take the metal out of the dirty hippy. The first track on the record, “Untouchable, Pt. 1”, exemplifies this perfectly. While the song sports nothing particularly metal in the topic (aw, lurve), the music is a steady build up to a head nodding peak in classic Anathema style. And while its musical counterpart “Untouchable, Pt. 2” does not reach the fever pitch of its predecessor, it still builds out an epic landscape of beautiful orchestrations before tapering off into a delicate Lee Douglas outro.

But this isn’t a fluke: “The Gathering of Clouds” features 16th note finger picking that easily could be transposed onto a double bass kick, while the vocals and build up sad, but beautiful melodies that intertwine and the song builds—like a storm cloud. It’s companion song “Lightning Song” also has some of the heaviest drums on an Anathema song since “Pressure” on A Fine Day to Exit, and I dare say that “Sunlight” follows right along the same tracks. And these epic builds and throbbing rhythmic sections coupled with melancholic melodies and vocals are the trademark of Anathema in their new era, but there’s something that pulls me back to their older material and (thankfully) a lot less to Coldplay than they’ve sounded.

Anathema 2012All of this is not to say that they’re not the same post-metal, progressive band that they have been since the late 90s. Their love of Pink Floyd screams through on tracks like “The Storm before the Calm,” where the guitar solo at the end of the song in the context of the orchestral build reminds me of “Comfortably Numb” something fierce (the feel, not the melody). “The Beginning and the End,” “The Lost Child” and “Internal Landscapes” go hand-in-hand with We’re Here Because We’re Here—particularly the closing track’s voice over about a near death experience: “I can say: I was peace, I was love.” This is more along the lines of what we have come to expect from the band and which works fantastically well.

For me, the biggest downside of the record is that it starts out very quickly with these building, epic songs and almost an urgency that its more stormy, calm second half doesn’t quite live up to. One could almost have reversed the order of songs (the last 5 first and then the pairs last) and the record would flow more like one would actually expect it to. And, to be fair, I do get kinda bored with the first half of “The Storm before the Calm,” even if the second half is majestic. But that’s a pretty minor complaint in the scheme of things, this album has everything I love in my metal: epic orchestrations, building song structures, emotional poignancy and vocal performances that one can latch onto. It shows Anathema coming back into their best, I think. And any old or prospective fan of the band should check it out. Fantastic.

  • OzanCan

    The band’s Alternative 4 and Judgement albums had a huge impact on my teenage years, however, even this album does not change my opinion about them stop making music :(

    well, I dunno…maybe I should leave my prejudice behind and give a try :/

    •  I’m afraid that when you no longer enjoy the music of a band you formerly liked, it is not them who should stop making music, but you who should move on to listening to something else.

      I think that Anathema have reached a new peak in their career. Weather Systems is a brilliant album. I think you have to get emotionally connected to it to get it, but if you do, it is impossible to dislike it.

      Good review.

  • HKKHell

    Ah, just bought this one, and I think this is quite a more mature step to their Pink Floyd’esque aesthetics that they demonstrated in WHBWH, you’re totally right about the second half being noticeably weaker, perhaps it has to do with being quite a bit weaker in the lyrics department. But I can’t find any fault in “the gathering of the clouds”, it’s a killer track. As usual you are quite spot on, great review.

    • HKKHell

      Oh, and a minor typo: “One could almost have *reversed* the order of songs”

  • Very nice introduction, I have even wondered what brought me into metal in the first place, and why some bands or genres “tick” on me while others don’t. While there are other important elements in metal like rawness and furiosity, and other music genres may be even more complex technically (yes, I dare to accept it), it’s the epicness that plugged me in.

    • Yeah, the epic scope and sweeping choruses and stuff is what does it for me. Listen to 7th Son of a 7th Son. That’s what does it.

  • Erik Johansson

    Another one of those bands (like Katatonia and Tiamat, for instance) that I loved in the 90s but then lost interest in during the last decade. This review makes me hope that I will like this one better than the last album.

    • ZacP

       Oh cool. I thought I was the only Tiamat fan left on the planet. Nobody ever talks about them anymore. Nice to know I’m not alone. I loved them until they completed their transformation into Sisters of Mercy Lite.

      • Erik Johansson

        Yeah, although I still enjoy Tiamats later material to some extent it just doesn’t have the same quality as the stuff they released before Skeleton Skeletron. Wildhoney, Clouds and The Astral Sleep are legendary albums imo.

        • I loved the early Tiamat albums. The later ones were good but lost the magic a bit for me.

  • Wow.  This is spectacular.  What a soundscape.

  • thehuntress144

    Reminds me of Devin Townsend’s ‘Ghost’ in atmosphere and scope. Nice stuff.

  • Testing, testing, 1… 2… 3.

  • Erik Johansson

    Listened to it now. And it is definitely better than the last one. If I give it a few more listens it might actually turn out to be their best work since Judgement.

  • “Metal, aside from classical music and jazz, is basically the last of the non-simplistic music forms left (and the only popular one).”
    Somebody clearly doesn’t listen to brass band music

  • John Tighe

    Metal, aside from classical music and jazz, is basically the last of the non-simplistic music forms left (and the only popular one). 

    I’m so glad to see someone else saying this.

    • Over here, we speak the truth! ;)

    • bkmiller

      I’ve never understood the idea that metal fans are “stupid”.  Other than our sometimes suspect personal grooming habits that is LOL.

      All that non-metal people hear (at first) is the harshness and heaviness.  Only as you become a fan does the complexity and epicness really come through. 

      •  The accusation of stupidity is of course a generalisation, but there is a hint of truth to it. There was no shortage of metal fans that whinged endlessly about Opeth’s “Heritage”. Metal fans are notoriously conservative. Indeed, a friend of mine who was a long-time fan of the band claimed that they had become boring and indeed had sold out. A pioneer of progressive death metal dampens the ‘death’, ramps up the prog, and they’ve apparently sold out? On the contrary, Opeth have remained true to themselves and I eagerly await Storm Corrosion.

        • I await Storm Corrosion, but I thought Heritage was piss poor. You should check out my review. And it’s not because I’m conservative, because I’m a fan of prog rock. I just thought it was a poorly written album. 

    • Sean Broyles

      Blah, blah, blah. Metal has no monopoly on creativity.  Look how many copycat bands their are nowadays.  

      • That’s 100% true. ALL genres have tons of copycats. But there are also really shining lights in metal and, oh right, I love the sound. :)

    • Guest

      I don’t get that quote, man. I mean, you forgot rock? Besides, if you get into other genres that have been evolving through the last years, you can discover amazing minds working on complex and very hitting pieces, even those who come from simplistic and mainstreamed foundations such as the new wave of “pop-punk” or electronic music.

      Although media tells us differently, music is evolving, fortunately not metal

  • Ben Carbery

    First paragraph… thanks for putting that into words, you nailed my sentiments precisely. I listen to metal and progressive first, jazz second, and not much in between. You just provided the common thread. Just yesterday I was musing to my wife how ridiculously rich both genres still are given their lack of mainstream interest. Metal is alive and well and will outlive the big record companies.

    • Yeah, it’s hard not to notice the overlap, IMO. It’s not always obvious to people, but I tend to think big picture.

  • You did a good job reviewing this one! I found myself nodding whilst reading the paragraph about the “progressive intelligence” of their music.

    About Weather System, I only have 5 words: My Record Of The Year. I fuckin’ love this band!

  • You did a good job reviewing this one! I found myself nodding whilst reading the paragraph about the “progressive intelligence” of their music.

    About Weather System, I only have 5 words: My Record Of The Year. I fuckin’ love this band!

  • Sean Broyles

    Am I the only person who thinks this album sucks?  Great musicianship does not equal great music.  I’m sorry but the first song sounds like the theme song to some Lifetime channel chick show.  This album has no place even being reviewed on a “Metal” site.  

    • Neither does Vienna Teng, but I do what I want. What did you say earlier? “Metal has no monopoly on creativity.” It’s true! And these guys are still epic and once were metal, so quit your whining. 

    • You are not! It sounds like a spectacularly emotional Mentos commercial. I didn’t know if I should cry or laugh… Either way I was desperately awaiting Bolt Thrower to Spearhead it into oblivion while I was tormenting myself through the 65 trillion minutes of “atmosphere”.. Bleh… 0.0!

  • Great Review and loved the first part you did, I’ve been a metalhead for years now but love a variety of different musical styles. and btw I found Vienna Teng before you ever mentioned her and was surprised by how much i actually love her music and songwriting and her along with a few other artist actually helped me to branch out to more intellectual music. I’ve always enjoyed anathema albums and think the music they do now is levels above when they were a “Metal” band. I will always have a place in my heart for Metal but love when a Metal band can branch out into new territory and get it right! there are so many musicians in the metal scene that have so much more potential that kind of get stuck making the same record over and over again. (with some bands it works) I’m glad to see a band like Anathema progress so much through the years and only seem to get better with each record.

    The New album is amazing and right now after one listen i’ll have to give it a 4.5/5 and i think it’s a lot more consistent than “We’re Here Because We’re Here”, The first half of that album is classic but it slowed down pretty heavy half way through and picks up again near the end.

  • Yaaay record of the month. I only got around to getting it yesterday, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. Good musings on metalheads liking non-metal as well (although I personally cannot stand Muse, they’re so tedious).

  • Zadion

    This is a good album, but I got it because I was blown away by the epicness of “The Gathering of the Clouds,” when you put it on your ‘Top Songs of 2012 Nominations.’ I’m disappointed, because that song is leagues better than the rest of the album, IMO. :

  • Just ordered this.  Thanks to AngryMetalGuy for your reviews; another band discovered that are a joy to listen to.

  • The beginning of this article reminded me off why I like metal and that there are other who like it for the same reason.

    Im hearing Anathema mentioned alot along with Porcupine Tree recently. 
    Which I count among my absolute favourite bands (And Steven Wilson as one of my favourite musicians)
    I also agree that Opeth’s Heritage was poor.  I didnt believe that it was at first. I mean who cares if they moved away from death grunts its still metal and could be cool as hell…it wasnt. It was….Drab and boring to say the least.

  • swlong

    Just out of curiosity, what are some of your and Steel Druhm’s favorite non-metal groups and albums?

    • I’m going to get around to writing this post at some point.

  • So I’ve owned this album for a year, and still, whenever any track comes up on shuffle there is about a 60% chance I end up playing the entire album front to back. This review is spot on. For an album that isn’t exactly heavy, it sure is f’n heavy.

  • lesem

    Oh i would like to add, prog rock to that list of non simplistic music form, it being the most complex and all!

  • I really enjoyed this album. Nice review.