Anathema – Distant Satellites – 9.55/10

– “How can Anathema possibly follow Weather Systems?” That was the question that was on my mind from the time I heard they were making a new album to the time I first listened to it. Weather Systems went from being my favorite album of 2012 to one of my top 5 favorite albums of all time. That album was already an improvement on the tones, feels, structures, and emotions of their stellar album, We’re Here Because We’re Here, from 2010. Was it possible to do it again? Anathema had an answer. To take what they had learned from Weather Systems and try it a different way. Distant Satellites starts off with a very similar formula to the previous album (the strings at the beginning immediately make me think of the string use from that album). “The Lost Song Part 1 + 2” do the exact same thing that Anathema did on Weather Systems with “Untouchable 1 + 2” in terms of build up and structure. “Part 1” sees Vincent’s vocals soar over an interesting drum beat, piano melodies, and the strings continuing throughout. His and Lee’s vocals are at the top of their game, especially when harmonizing with each other. It climaxes at the end and goes straight into “Part 2”. “Part 2” starts off with just piano and guitar before Lee’s vocals come in. She really shines in this song. Towards the end she reiterates lyrics and melodies from the first part giving off a strong sense of nostalgia. “Dusk (Dark is Descending)” starts off with a repeated and somewhat dissonant somewhat melodic guitar line that reminded me of how “The Gathering of Clouds” started on Weather Systems, continuing my belief that the structures were very similar. Vincent sings over it and it is a kind of hectic and kind of unsure sound in his voice. It creates an interesting sound, but it is also one of the weaker moments of the album in my opinion. This changes as the song turns slower and more emotional towards the end. The last two and a half minutes are beautiful as they go to a purely melodic chord progression and create an excellent dynamic from the first half of the song. “Ariel” continues the trend of sounding like the structure of Weather Systems. From the previous song, we move into another Lee Douglas featured ballad. Like “Lighting Song” from Weather Systems, “Ariel” is one of the highlights for me. The piano plays underneath her and the reverb on her voice in certain sections creates a call and response. It includes Vincent’s vocals join later in the track along with the full band and the orchestra. The guitar notes at the end remind me of the end of “Dreaming Light” from We’re Here Because We’re Here. Just as I was about to write this album off as an exact clone, “The Lost Song Part 3” comes around and changes the format. It is a darker, more electronic sounding track with glimpses of melodies and moments from its previous two parts. From there on, the album really goes its own way, and we get some true gems because of it. “Anathema” is a track that sounds more like the gothic era album likes Alternative 4, and its lyrics really sum up with this band is all about and the struggles and triumphs they have encountered. It ends with a great guitar solo, similar to the ones in “Universal” and “The Beginning of the End” from previous albums. “You’re Not Alone” is a very different track as it is a 3 and a half minutes of electronic. Vincent repeats lyrics over and over again as the drums, guitar, and other sound effects make the band sound more like 65daysofstatic than Anathema. “Fireflight” is two minutes of organ build up that goes straight into the next track and really provides a well needed break before the last two songs of the the album. “Distant Satellites” and “Take Shelter” show off the emotional and orchestral elements that they have been working with on the previous two albums, however it is mixed with some electronic elements that we previously saw on “The Lost Song Part 3” and “You’re Not Alone”, which makes these two tracks something completely new and different. These are some of the best songs of Anathema’s discography in my opinion. They sound similar to bands like Coldplay and I mean that in the best possible way. There are songs that could be on the radio, or have remixes played in clubs, and people would absolutely love them. I personally believe that these two songs will show the next direction Anathema will take, after so many changes, directions, and styles that they have gone through over the course of their discography. They are a band who constantly reinvent themselves, but they always do it in a way that honest and true to themselves. That is something that can be felt when you listen to this album. The door is wide open for them to try something completely new, and I highly anticipate hearing exactly what that is going to be. As for this album, it took me a couple of listens to confirm that I really enjoyed this album as much as I did and that I was not being completely biased. But after almost a year of digesting it, I now know that I like it just as much as I like Weather Systems, and that is why it is my favorite album of the year 2014. This is exactly the kind of music I really love listening to. At first, I was scared that they were just repeating themselves and taking the easy way out, but these songs deserve praise and recognition as well. For me, this is as close to perfect as it got in the year 2014, and I cannot talk about this band or album enough.