Album Review – Anathema – Distance Satellites (2014)
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Anathema (at the time known as Pagan Angel) formed in the year 1990 as one of the earliest inspirations of the death/doom genre, alongside Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride and Asphyx.
At the departure of the original vocalist, Darren White in May 1995 – who thus went on to join Paul Allender, Paul and Benjamin Ryan, former members Cradle of Filth to create the black symphonic metal project, The Blood Divine – guitarist, Vincent Cavanagh took over, and the subsequent release of Eternity (1996) solidified the disassociation of death/doom and an introduction to alternative metal.
This transformation of experimentation would continue until March 2010, where We’re Here Because We’re Here was announced and enlightened their fan-base to their progressive sound. Prior to this announcement in 2001, guitarist and bassist Dave Pybus had left and came to be recognized as a member of Cradle of Filth, and the following year, Cavanagh’s brother, Daniel joined another former band member, Duncan Patterson’s goth rock project, Antimatter (1998 – 2005), however returned in 2003. By this time, Lee Helen Douglas (known as Lee Douglas), who came into Anathema as a backing vocalist in 1999, for their Judgement album, had joined Vincent Cavanagh as lead vocalist.
Between We’re Here Because We’re Here (2010) and their most recent release, Distant Satellites (2014) – the focus of this review – the band toyed back and forth with different sounds to accompany their new foundations; alternative rock (WHBWH, Weather Systems (2012) and Distant Satellites) and symphonic rock appeared on Falling Deeper, sequel to Hindsight (2008), which were albums dedicated to renditions of their older work, and then with Distant Satellites, art rock, and electronic has been incorporated.
Diverging from their previous albums, Distant Satellites has Cavanagh gaining vocal confidence, mastering stronger octaves (The Lost Song Part I, Dusk – Dark Is Descending,), whilst before, he has expressed softer tones. Because of this change in dynamics, their sound has textures of Thirty Second to Mars’ This is War (2009), which itself was a compilation of progressive metal and experimental rock, with Cavanagh sharing the powerfulness of Jared Leto’s voice, with small similarities to John Rzeznik of alternative rock band Goo Goo Dolls.
Instrumentally, the album has traces of avant-garde artist Bjork, and one of the original formations of neo-progressive rock bands, Marillion after the arrival of vocalist Steve Hogarth (1989 – present) (Anathema), notably the album Holidays in Eden (1991) – (A in addition to what many consider “dark progressive”, which bands such as Katatonia, another of the death/doom generation, and progressive metal bands Tool and Opeth (1990 – present) and Riverside have ventured into. Dark progressive referring to the lengthily compositions, but with the dark, slow drowning found in metal genres, death, symphonic and gothic.
The titular track Distant Satellites and Firelight, with its electronic sound is reminiscent to EBM genres such as trance, minimalism, and ambient, touching on the signature rudiments of Brian Eno. You’re Not Alone is the only track of the album that appears to revert back to classic rock roots, co-joining heavy metal, rock, punk and specks of djent, a recent form of progressive metal that focuses heavily on the palm-muted technique on guitars.