Anathema- Distant Satellites Review
By: DJ Blackmoon
Through different and original variations on doom/death metal and alternative rock, Anathema have evolved, changed, and developed their style drastically throughout their long career, but they have finally reached their destination. Anathema’s 10th studio album, Distant Satellites, is very hard to describe with words, as there are not enough positive adjectives for such an outstanding release.
With a beautiful quality, rich in tone, and captivating melodies, this is hands down the best vocal performance of Vincent Cavanagh and Lee Douglas’s career. They deliver a great amount of passion with every note of every line. Lee takes the role of performing lead vocals much more frequently on this album than any other release, and weaves in and out of Vincent’s lines flawlessly. Both vocalists also present a range that is wider than that of previous albums. The guitar parts are barely noticeable, and that is not a bad thing. They are used mainly to highlight the orchestral arrangements, and to help the drums push the song forward during heavier moments. True riffs are used sparingly, but every riff is not only memorable, but melodic, heavy, and timed perfectly, solidifying Anathema’s “less is more” approach. The drums have a very punk feel, which helps to drive the aggressive sections along. Daniel Cardoso makes excellent use of the kit by knowing exactly what sound and rhythm works best and where, in order to provide the most emotional delivery possible. The bass work is jazzy, yet also has a punk style that compliments the drumming when things get heavy, but also provides a perfect foundation for the greatest emotional impact during the softer parts. Distant Satellites is very orchestral, adding a necessary element to the album. The parts are well arranged and layered nicely to provide a majestic, powerful, full, yet not heavy, soundscape to the album. The atmosphere takes the listener to another world. Utilizing electronic drums adds an interesting, and possibly unexpected twist to the recording. The instrumental parts as a whole are quite layered and sometimes repetitive, but not boring. Production on Distant Satellites is remarkable. It is crisp, clean, and brings out each nuance and captures every ounce of feeling that pours out of each instrument.
The songwriting on this album is a bit different than earlier albums. Anathema exercise a more approachable, and even slightly pop-rock style without being overly happy, as some moments of their previous studio album, Weather Systems, were; there is a more thoughtful take on writing this time around. Each song starts soft and increasingly builds until the climax explodes with passion, and then quickly fades to nothing- a well-executed and effective contrast. The album is a true album, rather than a collection of songs, as it progresses almost perfectly from one track to the next, and all the songs flow into each other and connect. Lyrically, Distant Satellites is not overly deep, symbolic, or difficult to absorb, but the lyrics are meaningful nonetheless, and the vocal delivery on each song exemplifies that. The lyrics take the listener on a journey through the darkest and brightest sides of love, the concept or overall theme of the album being a love story of sorts. It celebrates the good times, reflects on the bad, and is dark, sad, yet upbeat, hopeful, and nostalgic- elements that exist in everyday life, but are very hard to successfully bring together in music, not to mention on one album. All of this can be represented perfectly by the beautiful album cover art.
The only thing negative I have to say about the album is that there is a break in the flow of the songs with “You’re Not Alone”, the first song on the record to feature electronic drums. This song flows into the rest of the album well, but is a little too different than the first half of the album, and distracts the listener from their journey. The short vocal part of this otherwise instrumental song I find annoying, as well as the guitar riff, both of which I feel are too repetitive. Once the riff builds though, it becomes a little more interesting. The album then calms down with “Firelight” and continues on fluidly through the rest of the album, now including more synthesized drums, but with no more hiccups in smooth transitions.
This is a great album, to say the least. In Anathema’s long and ever changing career, this is them at their very best, and this album could very easily be my pick for album of the year.
Highlight tracks: The Lost Song Part 1, The Lost Song Part 2, Ariel, Anathema