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Anathema - Distant Satellites

Anathema – CD Review
Distant Satellites





CD Info
10 Tracks
English Lyrics


Anathema, the Progressive/Alternative Rock Band from England released Distant Satellites, their tenth album, earlier this year. This album shows how far the band has changed, music wise, from its roots in the early 1990s. This album reminds me of the minimalism of a Philip Glass with driving rock beat. The landscape for the vocals is very thin at times leaving them exposed and vulnerable. While this may be difficult for some bands, Anathema is up to the challenge and pushes the boundary even farther. Part of the album is what we have come to expect from Anathema, but, then the band pushes farther into areas not familiar to them, and with a darker tone. Distant Satellites, comes two years after Weather Systems, and the songs provides clues on how humans are in their own orbits, with love, heartbreak, sadness, a sense of loss, and hope.

The band, from Liverpool, was established in 1990 by three brothers, two of them twins, and they played Doom Metal. Throughout the band’s history, various members have left and then rejoined. The original drummer returned in 1998, and his younger sister joined as a backup vocalist in 2000. Another unique characteristic of the instrumentalists is that they are able to play multiple instruments, which allows them to interchange parts when needed. Most of the current members, except the keyboard player and backup vocalist, have been in the group since 1999, when the band changed to Progressive/Alternative Rock.

The album opens with “The Lost Song Part 1” followed by “The Lost Song Part 2.” Both of these are tied to each other lyrically and musically. Part 1, after opening with a synthesized string sound played by Daniel Cardoso, John Douglas joins in with a syncopated drum beat. We then hear lead male vocalist Vincent Cavanagh with the haunting melody. Soon we hear the female vocalist Lee Douglas, during an arpeggiated piano part, singing “oohs.” Then Vincent and Lee sing a nice, close harmony part in the chorus which is repeated later in the song. The instruments, including bassist Jamie Cavanaugh and Danny Cavanaugh on guitar, along with the vocalists, begin a steady crescendo until the instruments break into a driving rock beat. Vincent repeats “The fear is just an illusion,” over top before ending the song with the subdued synthesized strings. The lyrics in the chorus, where the nice duet part occurs is:

And you came to me
in some way
And my life
will never be the same

Part 2, the opposite of Part 1, opens with subtle piano chords. Then synthesized strings and “oohs” sung by Lee and choir join in lulling us until Lee’s crystal clear voice comes in again. Underneath her voice are the drums and guitars with a simple rock beat. This song is opposite in flavor to the Part 1. The duet part is very tight and emotional. Lee shows her vocal strength in the last part of song over the multi-instrumental parts that build in a crescendo. The end is just the vocalist and synthesized string playing the melody/countermelody. In contrast to Part 1, the repeated phrase is “I can’t believe it was just an illusion.” The chorus part in this song is:

And one day you’ll feel me
A whisper upon the breeze
And I’ll watch you stand there unafraid
I’ll speak to you silently
And know that you hear me
The feeling is more than I’ve ever known

Released as a single earlier this year, “The Lost Song Part 3,” is different in style. Underneath Vincent’s voice is very rhythmical drum beat that has a slight hiccup. With the drum is a straight piano chord played continuously. Another feature in this song is a reverberation of his voice that heard very softly. The second verse is sung by Lee with the same rhythmic pattern underneath and a slight crescendo almost like “Bolero.” A nice duet is once again in the chorus and at the end of the song. Lee sings the high notes effortlessly and Vincent matches with his voice. The chorus:

Tonight, in my mind’s eye
I need you to hold on

It is always interesting when a song has the same name as the band. “Anathema” opens with keyboards, piano and synthesized, before the male vocal part enters. The vocal is full of emotions and it gives us insight into the band in a way. It isn’t until the second verse that the drums enter with a standard rock beat. Vincent’s voice becomes very raw and emotional leading up to a nicely play guitar part and solo. The instruments take over in the second half of the song especially the guitar. The song ends the same way that it began with the keyboards. Some lyrics in the song:

But we laughed
And we cried
And we fought
And we tried
And we failed
But I loved you
I loved you.

Two other songs of note, the shortest two on the album are “You’re Not Alone,” and “Firefight.” “You’re Not Alone” is interesting because it lyrically consists of three phrases. But it is what the instruments do underneath the phrases that make the song noteworthy. This song is probably the closest the band comes to doing what would almost be considered Hip-Hop. The vocal part is performed rap-like, even during the short duet part, while the instrumental style changes throughout the piece. “Firelight” is an instrumental piece that is totally keyboard and sounds like an organ playing. This also leads into the next song.

My favorite song, “Distant Satellites,” also the title of the album, is interesting both instrumentally and lyrically. It opens with the organ part joined by a staccato drum beat underneath. Besides being the longest song on the album, the male vocal part is very exposed over the instruments. Then midway through the song, there is a complete shift, with a steady bass drum and overlaying keyboards. As the song progresses, we have additional drum patterns added until there are four different patterns playing. The expressive voice enters with the chorus again closer to the end, and once in a while, we can hear a hint of Lee’s voice in the background. The song then slowly fades similar to a satellite moving away from the earth or the listener. The vocal part expresses the lyrics very well, but the instruments and what they do throughout the song, make it my favorite. Some lyrics that I found interesting:

And it makes me wanna cry
Caught you as I floated by
And it makes me wanna cry
We’re just distant satellites.

Distant Satellites is a pretty good Progressive/Alternative Rock album from a well-established band. This album, coming two years after their previous album, contains some previous written music and new material. The songs are similar to songs on their previous albums, but they have more emotional and minimalist instrumentation. The vocals are very good and strong, while at the same time showing vulnerability on some songs. For those who like Progressive Rock, you should consider adding this album to you library and for those who would like a taste of this genre of rock, this would be a pretty good choice. The band will be on tour promoting this album starting in August 21, 2014. If you would like additional information on the band, including a video of “Anathema” on their website, please check out the following links:


8 / 10