Where the hell does one even start with Anathema. The band has been in a state of flux for quite a while. The last thing they put out was Hindsight which, quite obviously, was not technically considered a standard release (despite it being my top record of 2008, a very dry year for metal in this Angry Metal Guy’s opinion). That means it’s been five years since A Natural Disaster an album that I found to be remarkably underwhelming, as it followed up one of the finest albums of the entire 2000s: A Fine Day to Exit. But it has, indeed, been 9 years since Anathema released a new album that I was super excited about. Everyone keeps asking “was 7 years worth it?” Well, for me it’s more like “was 9 years worth it?”
Yes. The answer is unequivocally yes. Now, it’s true that the band is never going to produce Judgement again, so get that out of your head right now. But what Anathema produces in 2010 is just as relevant and interesting as Judgement was in 1999 and A Fine Day to Exit was in 2001. “And what is that music,” you may ask. I’ll tell you: it’s melancholy, yet oddly positive, 60s and 70s influenced prog rock. With the strains of Pink Floyd, and The Beatles (but honestly, mainly Floyd and their ilk) floating around in the background Anathema breeds their own unique strain of ethereal, amorphous and gorgeous rock music.
The thing that stands out the most for me is that while older Anathema is very much a music of sorrow, We’re Here Because We’re Here is a music all its own. A music of Zen one could say. In fact, there is a hippiesque patchouli stank to this album that is so strong I have to plug my ear-nose. Someone has been reading Be Here Now and maybe smoking a bit too much ganj, but it’s a fascinating change, really. To see it develop from songs like “One Last Goodbye” and “Temporary Peace” into songs like “Angels Walk Among Us” that has lines like “Only you can heal your life / Only you can heal inside…” or “Presence” (which is basically an extension of the same song) which has a fascinating quote: “Life is not the opposite of death, death is the opposite of birth. Life is eternal.” Or how about the final strains of the album: “There is no difficulty that enough love will not conquer / There is no disease that enough love cannot heal / No door that enough love will not open / No gulf that enough love will not bridge / And no wall that enough love will not throw down.” This is not your depressed teenage years’ Anathema, my friends.
The positivity aside, however, Anathema still produces some of the heaviest material on the early tracks of this album since Judgement, on the tracks “Thin Air” and “Summer Night Horizon”. These heavier moments offset a much more poppy and easily digestible Anathema than I think we’ve ever heard before. However, this record is also incredibly epic, or should I say, adventurous and interesting. Tracks like the closing 8 minute epic (see!) “Hindsight” make clear that the band has more to say and a beautiful vision filled with white light, oceans… (silhouettes standing in them.. wait a second this is starting to sound familiar!) and peace and love. They are now, as they ever have been, making the music of the heart and that is the reason that they continue to be admired among fans of heavy music and prog.
So for me, again, while this record might not be on the exact same par as Judgement or A Fine Day To Exit it is definitely still a fantastic album that is worth your listening, your time and your money. The songwriting continues to be compelling, the vocal performances are outstanding and need I mention that Steven Wilson did the mix? Probably not. Now hopefully it won’t be another 7 (or 9) years before Anathema puts out another record of this caliber. Every once in a while Angry Metal Guys need some Zen.