Five years after the release of the latest full length record “A Natural Disaster”, England’s (most?) atmospheric rock band Anathema returns with a compilation album somewhere between the aesthetic approach of the “unplugged” sessions and a challenging “best of” performance. Maybe it just wants too much…
It seems superfluous to me to discuss the quality of Anathema’s back catalogue or the excellence of the concerts (which are of course also dependent on circumstances beyond the band’s control), but I do question the sense of re-arranging brilliant songs in what is described as “semi-acoustic” style. Can you really improve a song by changing the instrumentation from basic rock equipment to the mentioned “semi-acoustic” one featuring a “mournful cello” (as the booklet states and thus already forces the listener into the direction of a specific emotional perception)? Especially if the song was already close to perfection before? You may guess this method doesn’t work out too well, at least not in this case. The musicians describe themselves in the booklet as “musical souls on a never ending search” which is not only romantic, but a bit too naïve when you consider the band’s exciting development from the mid-nineties to the wake of the century and the fact that it has found a truly personal and constantly evolving style. What Anathema tries on “Hindsight” is to take old songs to new heights without realizing that some of the songs were already on the top. Thus the band’s undeniably keen sense for harmonies gets in conflict with an idea of romanticism which is sometimes a little bit too close to kitsch for my taste.
“We will as always write straight from the heart with conviction and anyone who understands and appreciates our feelings is never alone.” (Jamie Cavanagh)
Anathema’s pretension is high and on “Hindsight” the band obviously risks to sporadically drown in its sea of artificially flooded emotions, since especially the vocal arrangements of Vincent Cavanagh are just too pretentious here and there. Less would have been more, but in some passages the performance just strikes the message, e.g. in the end of “Inner Silence” where the repeated phrase “still love you” just can’t unfold itself in all its meaningful depth since it is kept on repeating. Lee Douglas’ new interpretation of “A Natural Disaster” is once more outstanding and pales the performance of the main vocalist. In regard to some of the albums from Anathema’s cultural surroundings, e.g. Danny Cavanagh’s tribute to Nick Drake, Íon’s almost magical debut “Madre Protégenos” or the last two records by Antimatter, it seems to me as if the band really left some room for new ideas on the next record. “Hindsight” is just not on the level which you could expect from a band which says that it is always searching for new perspectives and which claims to play music with deepest emotions. Nevertheless it’s without doubt a nice album and far above what often is referred to as “average”. But can this be a satisfying judgement for a band like Anathema?
I’m not sure if the new song “Unchained (Tales Of The Unexpected)” opens new “Horizons” (so the title of the album in work) as well, but Anathema has to come up with something much different and better to realize a record which is already announced as “beyond all expectations”.
01 – Fragile Dreams