anathema - eternityOf thousands of metal bands, there are few that have changed as drastically as Anathema. First blazing trails as a death-doom band and party to the so-called ‘Peaceville Three,’ they underwent a softening into what can be described as doom or goth rock. Their deathy innards stripped away, this mid-era is what some regard as their strongest output given they retained their darkness and evocative atmosphere but with subtler music. Since the turn of the millennium they’ve mellowed yet further into an unusual but compelling amalgamation of alternative rock, airy prog and dreamy pop. I’m here today to discuss my favorite Anathema album, one from the mid-period: Eternity. It seems this is an uncommon pick as more people point to Judgement but this was the beginning of everything they would go on to become. Its predecessor, The Silent Enigma, had already signified an intention to develop from death-doom but it’s here that these ideas were crystallized.

So Eternity can broadly be described as doom rock. It’s often morose and slow but is way subtler than doom metal would usually allow for, utilizing delicate tones, lots of acoustic guitar with prominent keyboards to flesh out detailed soundscapes. The metal hadn’t quite been purged but harsh vocals are reserved for but one occasion – and even then it’s buried in a dense climax, more of a token gesture than anything else. However, there’s a heaviness to a few of their constructions which while substantially distant from their roots, feel quite similar. The duality of density and delicacy is something which has gone on to characterize Anathema, even in their arguably excessively sensitive and sentimental current form. “Radiance” is also a tip of the hat to their older sound, developing from quiet, still chords to thicker distortion and heavy doom most similar to Serenades.

But through the majority, it’s the material which was then new which excites me most. The acoustic interludes, passages and harmonies are strongly evocative without the sappiness of later material – evoking despondency, distance and aching beauty. Eternity is assuredly a fitting title. Indeed, “Far Away” has a very proggy opening with a jamming guitar over a groovier bass-line. Prog went on to be an important tool in their repertoire, with Floydian landscapes on Weather Systems and Distant Satellites. Audio samples from other media are used on “Eternity Part II” and “Hope,” as is now the standard on a track or two, contributing to the intense atmosphere. This orientation around atmosphere is now also a central focus for the band and it’s here that Eternity sees its greatest victory. You can appreciate and enjoy music at a distance but it’s when it makes you feel something that you connect with it. The cosmic synths with which “Sentient” opens gives me a shudder of nostalgia, before the waves of longing and remote hope are induced. I love this emotional reaction which so few can achieve.

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It certainly helps that Eternity is thoroughly engrossing throughout: it flows well. Spacey synths and cleaner guitar tones prevail during the record’s first third, ensuring there is acclimatization to the new sounds introduced. This is probably my favorite part of the record as it is so atmospheric. But upon reaching “Hope” there is change. It’s a Roy Harper cover which retains the record’s overall feel but is understandably slightly different emotionally. Its pace and relative positivity is then juxtaposed by “Suicide Veil,” with its appropriately low and dark approach. “Radiance” is the throwback and “Far Away” the prog track, both of which vary the album again. “Eternity Part III” then feels like a proper conclusion, with a return to earlier dark and seductive keyboards before ramping up into the most intense passage throughout. It’s unrelenting and immediate unlike much of the album and thus offers a natural climax. One of my few criticisms is that there are two further tracks after this – neither is bad but they’re extraneous and disturb the effective rhythm otherwise maintained.

A further reason why I like this more than Judgement is the production. The latter was starting to use a cleaner aesthetic, closer to typical rock music which suited the sound they would adopt. But Eternity still had a certain roughness left over from their metal days. The tones and feel more naturally suit the heavier passages, leaving the softer acoustic guitars and keyboards lacking precision and purity. This contributes to the darker, more alluring ambiance.

Eternity marks a transition period for Anathema but there were no growing pains – it’s a stunning album and one which I’ll never quite shake, even if I haven’t heard it for a number of months. It’s haunting but ultimately uplifting and its these echoes I hear when I pass the band’s name.

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  • Dethjesta

    Second best band to come from the great musical city of Liverpool (after Carcass), IMHO.

    • El_Cuervo

      Oh really? My favourite from Liverpool is Atomic Kitten.

      • Dethjesta

        No question they are are great, but i don’t feel that their career had the longevity of others.

        • Diego Molero

          Let’s not forget that all that they achieved was in less than 10 years, they put out sometimes two albums per year, I think that is why they were, as you said, inconsistent.

          • Alexandre Barata

            If you’re talking about The Beatles, then it’s 13 albums in 7 years. But during those years they only slightly changed their sound 3-4 times (from blues infused pop, to psychadelic, to prog, etc.) when Carcass, that only released 6 albums changed 3 times their sound and one of them is a major change (from pure Goregrind to Death/Grind, to Melo Death)

      • Alexandre Barata

        I will be the party pooper and say that The Beatles are the greatest band coming out of Liverpool…

        • Dethjesta

          I like the Beatles, a lot at times. But in my opinion they are incredibly inconsistent. There is no question that they have some superb songs that will last the test of time but they have a lot more poor/weak music that is ignorable or forgotten (or flat out weird).

          For me they have one great album (Revolver), the rest is hit and miss – whereas, for me, Carcass have 3 great albums (including a genre defining album). Anathema have two albums I would class as great, this and Judgement (I’ll confess to not knowing many of the rest of their albums well enough to make a fully informed opinion).

          This is all just my opinion, though (I’m not trying to troll).

          • Alexandre Barata

            Revolver is cool, Sgt. Peppers is perfect. The only 2 albums I would score with a perfect 10/10 would be Sgt. Peppers and Paranoid (by Black Sabbath). but this is completelly subjective, as it is your preference in Carcass and Anathema.

            Objectively speaking, the fact that The Beatles changed their sound every couple of albums, introducing some new sounds in the pop and rock industires, is just to show their artistic originality. The fact that it influenced the culture (musical and fashion) for a whole decade. The fact that they were the main force behind psychadelic rock (as they had the 1st and almost only best selling psychadelic singles) and the world music (rock with indian elements, that was new, at least on the mainstream). The fact that they made the first successful concept album in the history of rock/pop (Sgt. Peppers). And the fact that after 50 years, they keep on being one of the highest rated bands in the world, make The Beatles indeed the greatest band from Liverpool (and one of the greatest in the 20th century history of music).

          • Iain Gleasure

            I must admit I feel that rat salad and quite frankly fairies wear boots do drag down paranoid. I think that Heaven and Hell is actually Sabbath’s best album and that Vol. 4 is Ozzy’s best.

          • Dethjesta

            Heaven and Hell is definitely a bit of a hidden gem, all too often doesn’t get the love it deserves. but I’d go with Master of Reality (not very original, I know).

          • Alexandre Barata

            The only song from Paranoid I would dismiss would be Planet Caravan, but the riffs on the other songs are so golden I don’t mind that sub-par song

          • Diego Molero

            What? Why? Planet Caravan is my favorite song from that album, is great.

          • Alexandre Barata

            There’s nothing wrong in the music per se, but I don’t think it belongs to the album. It feels kinda wrong for me

          • Dethjesta

            I fully accept that my opinion is not going to be held by the majority of people. But, as I enjoying talking music so much, I feel it’s only fair to write a rebuttal (since we’re now speaking objectively).

            I agree that the Beatles changed their sound every couple of albums but for me that doesn’t confirm originality – in most cases they were just moving with the times. They do deserve a lot of credit for doing this as many of their contemporaries were not able to do so and it’s not an easy thing to do in a authentic way, and they did achieve this. But having a continually evolving sound also doesn’t inherently make for great music, but it’s all in the eye (well, ear) of the beholder.

            Fashion – Quite frankly, based on my clothing choices, I have no right to comment on fashion.

            Psychadelic Rock. I think you’re right that they were one of the pioneers of that particular musical genre. But for me Psychadelic Rock is incredibly hit and miss. Although some of it is very good a lot of it, in my opinion, is not (unless perhaps you’re on drugs, wouldn’t know, not my thing).

            I would agree that Sgt. Pepper is probably the first ‘Rock/pop’ concept album – a superb achievement, but i would disagree that the Beatles were among the first to fuse eastern/Indian musically influences with Rock music in the mainstream, The Kinks are regarded as having that accolade (See My Friends).

            As I’ve said, I enjoy much of The Beatles music but I feel that the ‘mythos’ of The Beatles is, at times, larger than their music which, personally, i find to be mixed.

            I enjoy talking music.

          • Alexandre Barata

            About The Kinks, it’s true they made indian-based music before The Beatles, but we must not forget that Norwegian Wood by The Beatles is considered as much the start of the raga-styled music in the pop-rock of the 60’s and early 70’s (although having come out some months later), with the huge impact of having a sitar, played by Harrison. Also A Ticket to Ride from the album “Help!” was also regarded as a primitive adaptation to Oriental sound, because of the tone of Harrison’s guitar aping a sitar.

            As for psychadelic, I would agree with you, but there are really some jewels on it, the 101 on the genre I found to be Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, with a lovely bass displayed by McCartney.

            I found that they have lots of musics that I don’t really enjoy, but as a whole they were pretty much impressive, and with a huge impact in the pop culture of their time (and still continued to have a great impact all over the 70’s). But maybe because they changed styles so frequently their discography lacks consistency, although it still reeks quality (I love the song Please, Please Me and it’s a different style altogether than the one found, say, on Sgt. Peppers)

            There’s no other subject I’d rather waste my time than on music :)

          • Surely Abbey Road gets a look-in because of I Want You (She’s So Heavy)? It’s clearly doom!

            *goes off to listen to Type O Negative’s Daytripper/She’s So Heavy medley…*

          • Alexandre Barata

            The album is very cool, imo, but calling to that song doom might be a little stretch. It has indeed a doom-ish ending, but still. Also Rubber Soul is one of my favorites from them. They have 5 huge albums in my opinion, and the other 8 are good, not having a worthless/bad album in their discog.

    • Steve Critchley

      Carcass aren’t from Liverpool though!

      • Alexandre Barata

        Unless I’m wrong, and that’s not impossible, Carcass is indeed from Liverpool.

        • Syn

          Isn’t that a strange name for a town, though? Liver pool. Considering how the liver in a body acts as a sort of filter for the bad stuff, ‘liver pool’ could be considered a pool of scum. I’d understand it if it’s the capital city of a country and all politicians lived there, but this seems just wrong.

          • Steve Critchley

            The name comes from the local dialect of over 800 years ago. It translates as Muddy Pool which comes from the heavily silted Merseyside estuary.

          • Syn

            Ah lovely! Thanks for the explanation =)

          • El_Cuervo

            You’ve obviously never visited Liverpool. You’ll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.

          • Syn

            Aye, I haven’t. Though from where I come from, I know a thing or two about scum and villainy too.

        • Steve Critchley

          You are wrong! Liverpool is used as a reference point for the band as they used to rehearse there. The original members are from St Helens and the wirral. The only member of the band to come from Liverpool was Carlo Regards. Being from the Liverpool scene since the 1980s i can assure you that this information is correct. I was also lucky enough to be friends with the anathema guys since back in their Pagan Angel days

          • Alexandre Barata

            Thanks for the information, then :)

  • RuySan

    It’s a good record, but for me this band reached their prime on the perfect trio of Alternative 4-Judgment-A Fine day to exit.

    What happened after i have no idea. The new records are so unsubtle when it comes to absolute sappiness and emotional manipulation that i can’t stand them. I’m going to watch them live in a festival next week, so i tried to get into Distant Satellites to see if i missed anything meanwhile.

    No, i hate it.

    • El_Cuervo

      But teh Weather Systems?! Amazing album as well.

      • RuySan

        I love the super mario galaxy-like cover art of Weather Systems, but that’s it.

        The decline started with “A Natural Disaster”. It had some good songs, but i just can’t stand the female singer that became a permanent member of the band. She has the blandest voice on earth.

        • MelbCro

          What the hell man? Natural Disaster is my fav Anathema album. If I was so inclined I would challenge you to a duel my good sir.

        • Wilhelm

          I think it is the music that is really bad – give her something worth while to sing over and challenge her a bit.

    • AndySynn

      “The new records are so unsubtle when it comes to absolute sappiness and emotional manipulation”

      It’s fine that you don’t like the albums, but accusing the band of “emotional manipulation” seems like the height of arrogance. Seems to me like the band are being entirely honest and heartfelt with their most recent albums. They just don’t happen to be to your taste.

      • Rina and Raven

        Seems to me like they are being entirely honest and heartfelt and constantly on antidepressants. The last part is the problem.

    • Jm from nj

      Then they “manipulated” the hell out of me, because I love everything this band has done since “eternity”.

    • Wilhelm

      I cannot get into the last couple albums, compositionaly they are writing some of the blandest, emotionally empty music I’ve heard from someone in the genre…and to think they wrote this amazing album.

    • Edgar Allan Bro

      I would put the perfect trio at Eternity-Alt 4-Judgement.

      Also can’t get into Distant Satellites, but Weather Systems is the easily the best thing they have done since Judgement.

  • Syn

    I love this so much it hurts sometimes.

    • Syn

      On a more serious note, though, I love this album. It’s always kind of a toss-up for me between those middle three. Alternative 4 was the first I ever heard of them so it’s special in that way. Judgement is just fantastic in its own right, and then Eternity here… I think it’s the most emotional of their albums. Melancholiest, in a way. Sure A4 had perhaps the most depressive song titles (and probably lyrics too; I haven’t listened to them in a while so I kind of forgot a bit), but musically, Eternity is just pure emotions.

      I mean Angelica is one of the most emotional songs ever (speaking of which, how come you didn’t even mention it in the text?! The Beloved too!); the quiet intro melody and then the cutting sound of the lead guitar as it plays the same melody, then the solo at the end…


      Btw, I do agree about the production. There’s this roughness here that’s gone in Judgement. Judgement sounds so clear and polished and I love how it sounds, but this here has this sort of raw feel to it which fits perfectly with the general feel of the album.

      • maartje

        The roughness is also in the vocals. My feeling is that at that time, when Vince had just taken over vocal duties, his singing style wasn’t yet very great on a technical level but it delivered very much emotion (at least for me). While now he probably sings much better technically, but I just can’t stand it. “Excessively sentimental”, that’s exactly my idea.
        Even when they performed some songs from Eternity last year on Roadburn I was disappointed because of the vocal style that had changed. I suppose Vincent can’t sing as bad anymore as he did back in the days :-) Going back further in time with Darren singing was great though.

  • madhare

    I tend of forget this one because Judgement is my favourite, and that’s what I spin from this era. But Eternity manages to surprise me every time I play it. “Oh, this is actually really good. Should listen to this more often!” :D

    • Wilhelm

      interesting, I always loved this cover of Hope. I remember reading the band didn’t even like the cover.

  • Hulksteraus

    I bought this one for the cover alone when it first came out. It was actually my first Anathema album, but not my first doom album (that being the angel and the dark river by my dying bride). I was instantly blown away by the atmosphere and emotions, Angelica really does open the album well. Instantly bought their back catalogue and havee bought every other album since. This is a very sentimental album for me, but my favourite is still Judgement

  • André Snyde Lopes

    I just listened to this earlier in the day! Some of the lyrics on this are great: “If the truth hurts, prepare for pain.”

    With that said, I think they went on to do bigger and better things especially with Judgement, A Fine Day to Exit, We’re Here and Weather Systems. There were a few missteps but that happens. These guys certainly deliver on variety!

    • Jm from nj

      Agree with your assessment. Their best albums came after this, but this was certainly a turning point. TBH, everything after this album was stellar in my eyes, minus their most recent, which didn’t hit me as hard as the previous albums.

      • André Snyde Lopes

        I was honestly not a big fan of A Natural Disaster or Distant Satellites. Both still had some cool cuts but were definitely weaker than the albums surrounding them.

        • Jm from nj

          Def agree on Distant Satellites, but liked a lot of A Natural Disaster.

  • eloli

    This was the first Anathema album I owned, and is still my favorite. What really impressed me back in the day is how crushingly heavy the songs in this album sounded, and that the heaviness came from the bleak, sorrowful atmosphere created by the music and lyrics… that was so far away from metal’s conception of heaviness back then, which mostly meant speed, loud production, tons of drumming, gore lyrics and atonality.

    • El_Cuervo

      Good comment. They retained their heaviness without using death metal.

  • Rasmus Steinke

    I will always love Alternative 4 the most. But I am alone, it seems. Eternity is great though!

    • It’s my favorite non-doom Anathema album as well!

    • MelbCro

      Not sure why you think you are alone, Alternative 4 is along with Judgement their most acclaimed album.

    • TLFernandes

      Alternative 4 is definitely their best album in my opinion… Fragile Dreams is their peak!

  • pfk505

    A fantastic album from a fantastic band. Not my usual bag but they are just wonderful. Eternity probably shades it but I also really like A Fine Day to Exit!

  • robpal

    Sorry for spoiling the party, but today is the actual 20th anniversary of another classic — Moonspell’s “Irreligious”!

    • Alexandre Barata

      Yep, a great album, in my opinion

  • maartje

    I love the bonus tracks on the 2003 reissue. “Far Away” and “Eternity Part III” stripped to their bare emotional essence in an acoustic version and a bad live recording of “Angelica” in a noisy club, but man, such a crushing power it has.

  • Just thought I’d raise a small voice (and chalice) for those who grew up with Crestfallen, They Die, Serenades or even earlier Anathema works…

    What? You’d expect a speech? As If I could ever speak on behalf of that many complete strangers. What the fuck were you thinking?
    (We don’t consider our self any better than you (just more trve… mohahaha…)).

  • Wilhelm

    This is such a beautiful album, a classic of Floydian cosmic metal (in a completely different manner than scene comrades Tiamat) – I obsessed with Eternity in my youth (my fav tied with Serenades) and still feel a really deep connection to the album. Alternative 4 was amazing, but this was still atmospheric doom metal and the journey from the first track to the last track is just immense and epic, something I never felt from them again. I miss Duncan Patterson, his compositions made Anathema great, although the Cavanaugh’s wrote some killer songs too. Great album to review – El Cuervo – do you think we’re forever?

    • El_Cuervo

      You and I might be Wilhelm.

  • Noobhammer

    Anathema is one of those bands whose outputs I will always love. I am unashamedly a fanboy of them throughout their entire discography, with special love being for this one, Judgement, and Alternative 4. But I must say that I am actually growing to love their later output even more with “A Fine Day to Exit” and “Weather Systems” being a repeat listen, even now.