With the announcement this week that the Liverpool band Anathema is to go on an ‘indefinite hiatus’, we take some time to add our thoughts on a band for whom we have the greatest admiration.
Perhaps not the first or last musicians to see their livelihood and careers take a hit in the outfall from the global situation, they did their job of making our world a better place with their music for many years.
My first encounter with Anathema was on 8th December 2007. I can be that precise. It was Manchester Academy where they were supporting Porcupine Tree on their rise into larger venues on the Fear Of A Blank Planet tour. Can you imagine that billing now!? Watching their set from the side of the venue, it was most impressive and a mental note was made.
Later that week I’d been online and sought out some listening. Imagine my surprise when The Silent Enigma arrived and I searched in vain for the soaring melodies I’d heard at the Academy. Doing a bit of homework, I learned of the band’s roots as the death/doom outfit Pagan Angel and by the time of 2010’s We’re Here Because We’re Here album, was fully on board with their development into a more progressive tinged outfit.
That album, of course, won the coveted Best Album at the PROG awards (a feat repeated by The Optimist in 2017) and along with Weather Systems (that felt very much like WHBWH part 2) and Distant Satellites, it makes a formidable trio of albums from a band at their peak. I recall seeing them play the whole album from top to toe at Manchester Academy 3, no words, just music until the dying sounds of Hindsight were met with an ovation and Danny’s simple “that was We’re Here Because We’re Here”)
A night when Danny headed into an acoustic rendition of Wish You Were Here when the power went down and who came onstage in a beanie, possibly to keep his hair in control but confessing to disguising a black eye – these lads are from Liverpool remember.
The live experiences from small packed clubs to arenas and ornate cathedrals. The stripped down band of Danny, Vincent and Lee Douglas showing thier acoustic side in Manchester Catherdral and Leeds Minster (managing to sneak into the pulpit to grab a few photos seemed quite daring). However, intimate moments aside, Anathema will best be remembered for their emotional, their spiritual and their uplifting grandeur that saw them hitting the premier league of progressive music.
In a proto version of At The Barrier, Dom and I had the chance to chat with Daniel for Louder Than War here talking about his magnificent solo album Monochrome ahead of the Anathema gig in Manchester in 2017. Walking in on Danny and Lee having great fun with tweeting their larking about to the in house video system and sharing Danny’s enthusiasm for his new album was great fun.
It’s hard to choose one track that sums up Anathema for me. The live version of The Storm Before The Calm from the Universal album, backed by an orchestra in the Plovdiv amphitheatre is stunning. The second half (‘the calm’) is particularly stirring. The stunning beauty Ariel from Distant Satellites is another that almost got the nod. The “a love so strong it hurts” line typical of how they wrote love songs in a prog framework.
However, I’ve got to go with Hindsight from WHBWH – the simple build and the spoken word passages are breathtaking.
“Intangible. Eternal. Without beginning nor end. The nameless, formless energy that permeates all living things. That sweeps through nature like a ripple in an ocean, sending cascades of timeless wonder through the air, on the song of a bird, the freshness of the morning air. A clear calling for our inner nature to awaken beyond our every day lives, and fears. Love is timeless, love is purity. It is the lightless light, the rays of the sunrise dancing on the surface of the sea. Love is you, and love is me. It is the deepest knowing, the serenity of being, the laughter of the earth, the limitless breath of the wind, the wonder of potential, the power of thought, the gift of life, the highest vibration, the most profound awareness… the knower. Life. Love. Infinite. within you. Now. Always.“
Anathema live photos by Mike Ainscoe from Holmfirth Picturedrome, Leeds Minster, London O2 and Manchester Ritz