Friday Full-Length: Anathema, Alternative 4

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 28th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Anathema, Alternative 4 (1998)

 

When I was 18 years old and working at KB Toys store number #1051 at the intersection of Rt. 10 and 202 in Morris Plains, NJ, about a minute from where I’ll be living from now on, a coworker turned me onto Anathema‘s Alternative 4. I bought the CD on his say-so, put it on, heard the piano intro to “Shroud of False” and absolutely didn’t get it. Made no sense to my brain. I tossed the disc into the back of my 1988 Ford Bronco II and it stayed there probably for a few weeks until I finally decided to give it a real shot, and when I did, it was one of my first and most pivotal engagements with underground music, and something that helped set me listening-wise on the course I’m still on today. That coworker kind of turned out to be an asshole, but didn’t we all.

Alternative 4 was indeed Anathema‘s fourth album and the last they’d issue during their original run on Peaceville Records, which had nursed them through their death-doom beginnings from 1992’s The Crestfallen EP across their 1993 debut, Serenades, 1995’s The Silent Enigma and Pentecost III EP and 1996’s Eternity. The band, who will mark their 30th anniversary in 2020 no doubt with form of some celebration or other, already seemed to be in transition by their third album, but it was the 10-song/44-minute Alternative 4 that would push that over the top. Guitarist Vincent Cavanagh had taken over the vocalist role from Darren White following Pentecost III, and that change would prove crucial to their direction on the whole, incorporating elements of goth emotionalist drama and a heavy hand of Floydian progressivism to go with their depressive themes and bouts of still-metal intensity.

But they weren’t just metal anymore, and their use of space in the recording, their arrangements of keys, and most of all their patience, demonstrated that. “Shroud of False” was the outset of one of the most powerful salvos I’ve ever heard on a record, with “Fragile Dreams,” “Empty” and “Lost Control” behind it varying in intensity but united in their depressive expression. Themes of loss, betrayal, disillusionment came to a head in the third anathema alternative 4track: “Nothing left but to kill myself again ‘cos I’m so empty,” but the build to that moment across “Fragile Dreams” and “Empty” itself was gorgeous and troubling in kind, the hook of “Fragile Dreams” serving as a downer clarion as the then-four-piece of Vincent Cavanagh, his brother Danny Cavanagh (lead guitar, keys), Duncan Patterson (bass, keys) and Shaun Taylor-Steels (drums) pushed some of Alternative 4‘s most fervent delivery to the front in order to branch out from there. The violin on “Lost Control” seemed a nod to their own death-hued past as well as to compatriots My Dying Bride, and the thrust in “Re-Connect” was more chaotic than that of “Fragile Dreams,” and purposefully so, but frenetic in a way that evoked the chaos of mania it seemed intended to convey.

Piano returned to introduce “Inner Silence” at the outset of side B as Vincent proved in a single track the vocalist he would ultimately become on subsequent outings, and Danny answered right back with a winding and meditative guitar lead. No verses or choruses or such, but an arrangement that bordered on the orchestral in its wash — particularly given the production of the era — and a perfect lead-in for the darker and brooding low of the title-track, with its multi-movement immersion and play toward minimalism. It and “Regret,” which follows, were the two longest tracks on Alternative 4 at 6:18 and 7:58, respectively, and their pairing was no coincidence, and though “Regret” would pick up from “Alternative 4” with a memorable chorus and a more structured feel on the whole, there’s no question the change in atmosphere brought the listener even deeper into the record’s bleak emotional landscape — “Visions of love and hate/A collage behind my eyes/Remnants of dying laughter/Echoes of silent cries,” the hook. Organ added to the melody as the band traded between loud and quiet parts in the second half and came around to what for me always seemed like the apex of the album, though “Feel” both continued the thread of organ and had more of a crashing end, a kind of anti-doom doom, riding out on fading progression that seemed foreboding even though it was followed by the brief “Destiny,” with its guitar and toy piano and vocal harmonies, a kind of epilogue that ended the record with a sincere-feeling moment of contemplation, underscoring that the point of the whole thing all along was the emotion, and that the moments of bombast were there to serve that as much as the songs themselves.

Some music just hits you at the right time. This is one of those records for me, and A Fine Day to Exit (reissue review here), which they’d release in 2001 after 1999’s Judgement, is among my favorite albums of any era. I wasn’t ready for Judgement on such a quick turnaround, but A Fine Day to Exit and 2003’s A Natural Disaster, which would be their final album until 2010’s We’re Here Because We’re Here (discussed here), remain essential in my view. Alternative 4 may be somewhat dated in its production, but the songs themselves hold up more than 20 years later, and the emotion behind them still resonates though it’s a direction Anathema have long since left behind in favor of flirtations with more modern prog and a brighter perspective on the whole. Fair enough, I guess. That change would come about on We’re Here Because We’re Here and continue on 2012’s Weather Systems (review here) and 2014’s Distant Satellites before 2017’s The Optimist (review here) picked up the story of A Fine Day to Exit and added fresh perspective at the same time it allowed itself to engage more of a range of styles of craft.

Anathema have never stopped progression. Each record is something different from the one before it, the one after — and don’t get me started on Hindsight or Falling Deeper — but their vision always charts a path forward from where they’ve, and Alternative 4, from as troubled a place as it seems to come, was a special moment for them that only happened once. As a listener, it was for me as well.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

I don’t break out Anathema all the time. Especially not this record. Especially not in summer. This week though, coming down H-A-R-D as I have been from Maryland Doom Fest, we got there. That change, where you go back to real life after the thing, I just haven’t been able to get there. A lot of processing. A lot of sort of distant daydreaming. A lot of trying to distract myself and failing pretty hard at it. I don’t know. I’m just not there. I haven’t been sleeping. Was up at 2:30 this morning, 12:30 the other night, 1AM another night. Yesterday I slept I think. Hard to remember outside of the overall pattern of fucking self-loathing and wishing I was someone else.

When people say nice things to me, a voice in my head immediately contradicts. They don’t know me. They have some idea of me that’s not true. I’d like to be that. But that’s not who I am. I know who I am. Fucking wretched. I am not a good person. I do not appreciate or deserve the things and people I have in my life. It goes on and on. I take pills for it. I’ve been microdosing psilocybin mushrooms every other day for the last couple weeks and that’s made those days easier. But still. I look at my son and know I’ll fail him. Every time someone says he looks like me, I want to die. I look at my wife and know I let her down. I don’t deserve what I have. At all.

So.

We’re in Connecticut this weekend, going back to Jersey on Sunday. I might go to the studio with Solace that day, as they were kind enough to invite me as they did nine years ago when they were finishing A.D., but it depends largely on timing. We’re also starting the Quarterly Review next week. I’ve slated it for six days, but there’s a bit of finagling to do, so whatever. I also need to do Postwax liner notes, send out interview questions to Tony Reed and The Mad Doctors (who are breaking up) and update a visa recommendation letter for Kadavar, so there’s some shit going on either way. Obviously this week I’ve been super-motivated to do anything other than bash my brain in with a fucking hammer.

Baggage claim. That’s mine. Least I can do is be honest about it.

Seriously, at Doom Fest, people said like the nicest shit to me. “Thanks for all you do,” and “How do you do it” and all that. You know how I do it? I’m fucking crazy, is how I do it. I’m compulsive in EVERYTHING. The same drive that used to have me getting drunk by myself at two in the morning? The same drive that punishes myself for, I don’t know, eating a meal? It’s the same fucking thing. It’s all part of my disgusting fucking brain. I’m 37 years old. I can’t even function. I can’t even chew gum like a human being. I’m supposed to raise a kid? I can feel myself poisoning everything around me.

Next week will be better. Will it? Yeah, it will. I’ll do the Quarterly Review and that’ll get me out of my head for a little bit, give me something to focus on. It’s just exhausting in the meantime.

I’m gonna pour myself another coffee and go watch the sunrise. Great, safe. Forum, radio, merch.

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Anathema, The Optimist: A Fine Day to Return

Posted in Reviews on June 2nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

anathema the optimist

A significant reason Anathema‘s The Optimist succeeds as it does is because it doesn’t attempt to recapture a moment that’s long since gone. The album, which is released by proggy Peaceville offshoot Kscope Music as the follow-up to 2014’s Distant Satellites and is upwards of the UK-based melodic progressive rockers’ 13th full-length, depending on what you count — they’ve had a couple offerings reworking prior material — is intended as a sequel to 2001’s A Fine Day to Exit (reissue review here). Accordingly, one almost looks at the title The Optimist as ironic at first, as that turn-of-the-century outing had depression and near-suicidal mania so much at its core, but optimism is something the previously-grim Anathema seem to have discovered within their own sound circa 2010’s We’re Here Because We’re Here, and they don’t necessarily cast it off for The Optimist for the sake of pretending to be something they’re not aesthetically.

From the quick electronic pulses that rhythmically transition from intro “32.63N 117.14W” to the ocean waves that start closer “Back to the Start” — that being a direct reference to “Temporary Peace” from A Fine Day to Exit — the six-piece are free to nod at the work they’ve done before, but their songwriting in no way feels beholden to it, even if they’re picking up a story where they left it some 16 years ago. This has been a consistency throughout their career, as Anathema have always embraced change and development within their style and generally managed to bring their fanbase — of which I’d consider myself a part — with them for the ride, and just because they’re looking back in theme doesn’t necessarily mean they’re giving up that approach. Vocalist Lee Douglas might be taking on the voice of our main character’s consciousness in lead-single “Springfield” when she asks, “How did I get here?,” but the arrangement behind her is by no means playing to a darkness that is no longer there.

Crucially, as melancholy as they get, particularly in the back half of the record, the band — led, as ever, by vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Vincent Cavanagh and guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Danny Cavanagh, with Douglas sharing intermittent lead and backing vocal roles, bassist Jamie Cavanagh, keyboardist Daniel Cardoso and drummer John Douglas — don’t try to remake or directly reinterpret “Panic,” the frenetic emotional and sonic apex of A Fine Day to Exit. After “32.63N 117.14W” starts the journey — if one plugs in the coordinates, it’s a beach off the coast of San Diego; presumably intended to be where the cover art of A Fine Day to Exit takes place and where this take begins — with our character getting in his car and hearing on the radio, among other things, an Anathema song, “Leaving it Behind” picks up with a fervent energy and burst-forth hook the tempo of which will inform even quieter moments like “San Francisco” before finding more direct complement in the later track “Can’t Let Go,” but the bulk of The Optimist‘s 11-song/hour-long runtime is given to lush, patient and deeply resonant emotional fare.

Vincent and Lee bolster an abiding instrumental flow throughout by switching lead-singer duties. He soars in “Leaving it Behind,” she answers back on the subsequent “Endless Ways” over a hair-stand-on-end instrumental wash, and after a ringing phone leads directly into the title-track from there, the two come together over an orchestral swell and rhythmic push held together by John‘s drums and a crescendo of lead guitar. Piano plays a large role throughout, including in “San Francisco,” on which more pulsations are met with crashing cymbal sounds in a five-minute instrumental push that ends in traffic giving way fluidly to “Springfield” as the centerpiece of The Optimist‘s linear presentation. Slower and patient in its build, “Springfield” rolls forward but maintains an airy feel thanks to the echo on Lee‘s vocals, the piano line that remains at its core and the light tone of the lead guitar, but the questions it asks as it moves into its voluminous peak would seem to be the essence of what the album is looking to express and a moment of direct relation to the character of The Optimist himself; a crucial moment on the record given its due in melody and flourish.

anathema

Gentle ride cymbal and keyboard string sounds back Lee‘s vocal highlight performance in “Ghosts,” and a sense of stillness pervades that the quicker, more active rhythm guitar and drum progression — not to mention the far back keyboard swirl — of “Can’t Let Go” immediately contrast, Vincent taking over on vocals as if to emphasize the dynamic that has been at play all throughout The Optimist to one degree or another, and the meticulousness with which Anathema at this stage in their career present their material. A swell of guitar near the halfway point of “Can’t Let Go” arises and brings another melodic wash, but never gets louder than it needs to be, with Danny adding backing harmonies before a long fadeout brings the sound of a door opening and our main character sitting down to watch television/listen to the radio comes on quietly, giving us a sampled line of A Fine Day to Exit opener “Pressure” before the piano-led minimalism of “Close Your Eyes” quickly takes hold, drums and horns sound arriving in the second half behind Lee‘s voice to draw out a jazzy, lounge-style vibe.

The shortest non-intro track at 3:43, “Close Your Eyes” nonetheless distinguishes itself from its surroundings with this semi-experimental feel, and a voice whispers, “It’s okay, it’s okay. It’s just a dream. Go back to sleep,” before piano begins the penultimate “Wildfires.” The title-line is delivered in drawling, effected fashion, as is the verse that follows, but an electronic urgency rises in the mix gradually, and at the 3:19 mark, the guitars and drums explode to prominence and a fullness of impact that lets the listener know they’re arriving at the conclusion of the narrative. Vincent‘s voice informs in repetitions, “It’s too late,” over his own lead guitar, and the song cuts to toy piano and guitar to transition into the aforementioned wave sounds that drift into “Back to the Start,” a six-plus-minute grand finale that works on a linear energy as a payoff for the entire course of the album preceding. In its melody and arrangement, it is among the most memorable stretches of The Optimist despite coming at the end of a long and varied trip, and when it’s over, our character walks up, knocks on a door and a voice says, “How are you?” And then it’s over.

One last thing The Optimist shares in common with A Fine Day to Exit is a tossoff, silly, home-recorded-sounding hidden track, but instead of the John Douglas goofing around, this time it’s primarily a child’s voice we hear. That last-minute acknowledgement of time gone by is subtle but evocative of the spirit of The Optimist as a whole, which though it revives a narrative thread the band clearly felt was unfinished, reshapes the story into one that sounds fresh in perspective and execution coming from them as they are today. Anathema‘s creative growth as songwriters has never stopped, and as a result, no two of their albums have found them in the same place in terms of sound. That remains true here, and even as they look to their past, they push brazenly ahead into their future, as ever.

Anathema, “Springfield” official video

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Anathema Announce North American Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 18th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

anathema (photo caroline traitler)

Earlier this month, when long-running UK melodic progressive rockers Anathema announced the June 9 release of their new album, The Optimist, that word came already with tour dates across multiple continents. Well, after they wrap up in South and Central America this August, the band will continue to make their way north for shows in the US and Canada, hitting major markets in Baltimore, New York, Chicago, Quebec, and so on in support of the new record. As the PR wire notes below, it’s their first North American run since 2014, and it precedes a much lengthier UK/European tour alongside Alcest that will consume much of their autumn.

Any way you look at it, it’s a lot, a lot, a lot of touring. Of course, Anathema are no strangers to time on the road, and a steady stream of live records, DVDs and offerings of the like keeps their loyal fanbase sated even when they’re not actually playing out, so all the better. Maybe they’ll record a few of these shows too. One never knows.

Here’s the latest:

anathema tour dates

ANATHEMA ANNOUNCE FIRST NORTH AMERICAN TOUR DATES IN SUPPORT OF THE OPTIMIST (JUNE 9, KSCOPE)

TICKETS AVAILABLE THIS FRIDAY, APRIL 21

Anathema, who recently revealed the new song “Springfield” from the band’s forthcoming album, The Optimist (June 9, Kscope), are now thrilled to announce their first North American dates since 2014.

The nine dates, which kick off on Aug. 16 in Baltimore, include stops in New York, Chicago and a trio of Canadian dates.

“Touring the U.S. and Canada is always a fantastic privilege,” said guitar player Daniel Cavanagh. “These countries have been the birthplace of some of the most revered recording artists of all time. We are delighted to visit the east coast and we promise to visit the west coast, following up soon. Our new album, The Optimist, is set in America. It will be a blast! “

North American Tour dates:
August 16 Baltimore, MD Soundstage
August 17 New York, NY Gramercy Theater
August 18 Boston, MA Brighton Music Hall
August 19 Quebec, QC Saile Multi
August 20 Montreal, QC Astral
August 21 Toronto, ON Opera House
August 23 Chicago, IL Bottom Lounge
August 24 Cleveland, OH House of Blues
August 25 Philadelphia, PA Theatre of Living Arts

ANATHEMA TOUR DATES:
Jun 08 Yotaspace Moscow, Russia
Jun 09 Clubzal St. Petersburg, Russian Federation
Jun 11 Download Festival Derby, United Kingdom
Jun 18 Graspop Metal Meeting Dessel, Belgium
Jun 23 Doornroosje Nijmegen, Netherlands
Jun 24 Midsummer Prog Festival Valkenburg, Netherlands
Jul 01 Be Prog! My Friend Barcelona, Spain
Jul 02 Rockwave Festival Athens, Greece
Aug 03 Café Iguana Monterrey, Mexico
Aug 04 C3 Stage Guadalajara, Mexico
Aug 05 El Plaza Condesa Mexico City, Mexico
Aug 07 Teatro Ecci Bogota, Colombia
Aug 09 Teatro Capriola Santiago, Chile
Aug 11 Groove Buenos Aires, Argentina
Aug 12 Carioca Club Sao Paulo, Brazil
Aug 13 Granfinos Belo Horizonte, Brazil

ANATHEMA with Alcest:
Sep 23 Limelight 2 Belfast, United Kingdom
Sep 24 Academy Dublin, Ireland
Oct 02 La Cartonnerie Reims, France
Oct 03 L’Étage Rennes, France
Oct 04 Le Bataclan Paris, France
Oct 05 Aeronef Lille, France
Oct 06 013 Tilburg, Netherlands
Oct 07 La Laiterie Strasbourg, France
Oct 08 La Sirene La Rochelle, France
Oct 10 Rock School Barbey Bordeaux, France
Oct 11 Le Metronum Toulouse, France
Oct 14 Paloma Nimes, France
Oct 15 Le Radiant Caluire Et Cuire, France
Oct 16 Alcatraz Milan, Italy
Oct 18 Z7 Konzertfabrik Pratteln, Switzerland
Oct 19 LKA Longhorn Stuttgart, Germany
Oct 20 Backstage Werk Munchen, Germany
Oct 21 Simm City Vienna, Austria
Oct 22 Kino Šiška Ljubljana, Slovenia
Oct 24 Arenele Romane Bucharest, Romania
Oct 25 Orpheus Studio Sofia, Bulgaria
Oct 27 Dürer Kert Budapest, Hungary
Oct 28 Lucerna Music Bar Prague, Czech Republic
Oct 29 Batschkapp Frankfurt Am Main, Germany
Oct 31 Astra Berlin, Germany
Nov 01 Uebel & Gefährlich Hamburg, Germany
Nov 02 Amager Bio Copenhagen, Denmark
Nov 03 Kulturbolaget Malmö, Sweden
Nov 05 Rockefeller Music Hall Oslo, Norway
Nov 06 Kägelbanan Södermalm, Sweden
Nov 08 Klubi Tampere, Finland
Nov 09 THE CIRCUS Helsinki, Finland
Nov 10 Rock Café Tallinn, Estonia
Nov 12 Progresja Music Zone Warsaw, Poland
Nov 13 Stary Mane? Gdansk, Poland
Nov 14 MTP2 Poznan, Poland
Nov 15 HSD Erfurt, Germany
Nov 16 Live Music Hall Cologne, Germany
Nov 18 Kulturfabrik Esch Sur Alzette, Luxembourg

Anathema, led by brothers Daniel and Vincent Cavanagh, along with drummer John Douglas, singer Lee Douglas, bassist Jamie Cavanagh and drummer/keyboardist Daniel Cardoso began recording The Optimist in the winter of 2016 at Attica Audio in Donegal, Ireland and then finished at Castle Of Doom studios in Glasgow with producer Tony Doogan (Mogwai, Belle & Sebastian, Super Furry Animals) at the helm and was mastered at the legendary Abbey Road Studios.

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Anathema, “Springfield”

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Anathema Announce New Album The Optimist Due June 9; Stream “Springfield”

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 6th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

If you know anything about my ongoing nerddom for Anathema, you’ll already know that when Danny Cavanagh says below that the narrative of their forthcoming The Optimist full-length — out June 9 on Kscope — picks up where 2001’s A Fine Day to Exit (reissue review here) left off, well, that’s just about the bee’s knees as far as I’m concerned. The ever-evolving band has unveiled the new track “Springfield” that bears that vibe out to some degree while still remaining loyal to 2014’s Distant Satellites, which I actually only recently picked up after being left largely cold over the longer term by 2012’s Weather Systems (review here) — a stupid move for which I’ve been kicking myself since, because actually Distant Satellites was pretty solid, moving somewhat in the direction that “Springfield” would seem to be continuing here in bringing some of the melancholy back into their sound.

As Anathema prepare to unleash the new record I’ll prepare my completely biased longterm-fan hyperbole about how excellent it is. They’ve got tour dates booked in Europe, Central and South America, and Europe again already, but a US run is said to follow at some point, which I very much wouldn’t mind seeing, particularly after their set at Roadburn 2015 quite literally brought me to tears.

The PR wire has those tour dates, the song, and more pressing info for The Optimist than I know what to do with. I want the CD one that comes with the fancy Bluray that I wouldn’t even know how to listen to.

Pick your poison:

anathema the optimist

Anathema Stream “Springfield” from Forthcoming Album, The Optimist (June 9, Kscope)

PRE-ORDERS AVAILABLE NOW: http://found.ee/The_Optimist

Anathema’s eleventh full-length The Optimist is due for release on 9th June through Kscope, where the ambient rockers will reveal some of the darkest, most challenging and unexpected music the sextet have put their name to.

Anathema, led by brothers Daniel and Vincent Cavanagh, along with drummer John Douglas, singer Lee Douglas, bassist Jamie Cavanagh and drummer/keyboardist Daniel Cardoso began recording The Optimist in the winter of 2016 at Attica Audio in Donegal, Ireland and then finished at Castle Of Doom studios in Glasgow with producer Tony Doogan [Mogwai, Belle & Sebastian, Super Furry Animals] at the helm and was mastered at the legendary Abbey Road Studios.

“Here we present the song ‘Springfield’, it’s actually the song that closed our unforgettable Wembley gig with Opeth and it seemed to be a track that just fell into place without much effort. It seemed to do itself. The song forms part of a narrative that runs through The Optimist album, it’s a narrative that begins where A Fine Day To Exit left off. The album is a journey. The songs are ambiguous. There is no right or wrong way to take them. Make of them what you will.” – Daniel Cavanagh

The Optimist track list:
1. 32.63N 117.14W
2. Leaving It Behind
3. Endless Ways
4. The Optimist
5. San Francisco
6. Springfield
7. Ghosts
8. Can’t Let Go
9. Close Your Eyes
10. Wildfires
11. Back To the Start

Pre-orders are available now via http://found.ee/The_Optimist in the following formats:

Deluxe 12″ hardbook featuring:
* 40-page artwork book, with artwork from Travis Smith
* CD The Optimist with 11 original album tracks
* CD featuring 6 bonus tracks – 3 demo versions and 3 live demo recordings from the band’s November 2016 dates
* DVD-V The Optimist with 11 original album tracks, 24/96 LPCM Stereo & 24/96 DTS 5.1 surround mix
* Blu-Ray disc The Optimist 11 original album tracks, 24/96 LPCM Stereo, 24/96 LPCM 5.1 lossless surround mix & 24/96 DTS-HD Master Audio lossless 5.1 surround mix

2-Disc CD & DVD Mediabook:
* 24 page booklet
* CD The Optimist with 11 original album tracks
* DVD-V The Optimist with 11 original album tracks, 24/96 LPCM Stereo & 24/96 DTS 5.1 surround mix

Blu-Ray featuring:
* The Optimist 11 original album tracks, 24/96 LPCM Stereo, 24/96 LPCM 5.1 lossless surround mix & 24/96 DTS-HD Master Audio lossless 5.1 surround mix

CD featuring:
* The Optimist with 11 original album tracks

Double gatefold 180g heavyweight LP featuring:
* The Optimist 11 original album tracks (with MP3 download code)
* Limited edition red vinyl LP version (with MPD download code) available exclusively through the band’s webstore

Digital download featuring:
* The Optimist 11 original album tracks with pre-orders receiving an instant download of “Springfield”

A European tour has been announced, with Alcest opening. Tickets are available on April 3 at 10 am local time. North American tour dates will be announced soon.

ANATHEMA TOUR DATES:
Jun 08 Yotaspace Moscow, Russia
Jun 09 Clubzal St. Petersburg, Russian Federation
Jun 11 Download Festival Derby, United Kingdom
Jun 18 Graspop Metal Meeting Dessel, Belgium
Jun 23 Doornroosje Nijmegen, Netherlands
Jun 24 Midsummer Prog Festival Valkenburg, Netherlands
Jul 01 Be Prog! My Friend Barcelona, Spain
Jul 02 Rockwave Festival Athens, Greece
Aug 03 Café Iguana Monterrey, Mexico
Aug 04 C3 Stage Guadalajara, Mexico
Aug 05 El Plaza Condesa Mexico City, Mexico
Aug 07 Teatro Ecci Bogota, Colombia
Aug 09 Teatro Capriola Santiago, Chile
Aug 11 Groove Buenos Aires, Argentina
Aug 12 Carioca Club Sao Paulo, Brazil
Aug 13 Granfinos Belo Horizonte, Brazil

ANATHEMA with Alcest:
Sep 23 Limelight 2 Belfast, United Kingdom
Sep 24 Academy Dublin, Ireland
Oct 02 La Cartonnerie Reims, France
Oct 03 L’Étage Rennes, France
Oct 04 Le Bataclan Paris, France
Oct 05 Aeronef Lille, France
Oct 06 013 Tilburg, Netherlands
Oct 07 La Laiterie Strasbourg, France
Oct 08 La Sirene La Rochelle, France
Oct 10 Rock School Barbey Bordeaux, France
Oct 11 Le Metronum Toulouse, France
Oct 14 Paloma Nimes, France
Oct 15 Le Radiant Caluire Et Cuire, France
Oct 16 Alcatraz Milan, Italy
Oct 18 Z7 Konzertfabrik Pratteln, Switzerland
Oct 19 LKA Longhorn Stuttgart, Germany
Oct 20 Backstage Werk Munchen, Germany
Oct 21 Simm City Vienna, Austria
Oct 22 Kino Šiška Ljubljana, Slovenia
Oct 24 Arenele Romane Bucharest, Romania
Oct 25 Orpheus Studio Sofia, Bulgaria
Oct 27 Dürer Kert Budapest, Hungary
Oct 28 Lucerna Music Bar Prague, Czech Republic
Oct 29 Batschkapp Frankfurt Am Main, Germany
Oct 31 Astra Berlin, Germany
Nov 01 Uebel & Gefährlich Hamburg, Germany
Nov 02 Amager Bio Copenhagen, Denmark
Nov 03 Kulturbolaget Malmö, Sweden
Nov 05 Rockefeller Music Hall Oslo, Norway
Nov 06 Kägelbanan Södermalm, Sweden
Nov 08 Klubi Tampere, Finland
Nov 09 THE CIRCUS Helsinki, Finland
Nov 10 Rock Café Tallinn, Estonia
Nov 12 Progresja Music Zone Warsaw, Poland
Nov 13 Stary Mane? Gdansk, Poland
Nov 14 MTP2 Poznan, Poland
Nov 15 HSD Erfurt, Germany
Nov 16 Live Music Hall Cologne, Germany
Nov 18 Kulturfabrik Esch Sur Alzette, Luxembourg

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Anathema, “Springfield”

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Anathema to Release A Sort of Homecoming Concert Film and Live Album

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 28th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

Hey, you know who saw Anathema earlier this year? Me. I did. It was frickin’ great. It wasn’t at a cathedral, but it was at Roadburn, which is about as close as I come to a house of religious worship, so there. The long-running, long-progressing UK outfit had played Liverpool Cathedral only about a month before, however, and it’s that show that will be released as A Sort of Homecoming on Oct. 30 via Kscope. The material is mostly recent, but they manage to sneak a couple older cuts in there too, and if the cover is anything to go by, it looks like the setting is half the point. Look at that ceiling. I’d record a live album too if presented the opportunity.

And the title? Well, they’re from Liverpool, so there you go. Also, I love that Vincent Cavanagh compares it to Erebor. Fantastic.

The PR wire brings copious info and a trailer for the release:

anathema in liverpool cathedral

KSCOPE PRESENTS: ANATHEMA’S “A SORT OF HOMECOMING,” A CONCERT FILM BY LASSE HOILE FROM ANATHEMA’S LIVERPOOL CATHEDRAL SHOW

“A Sort of Homecoming” to be released on Blu-ray, 2CD + DVD-V, LP and digital download on October 30

Anathema, one of the U.K.’s most cherished and critically acclaimed rock bands, will release a live Blu-ray/audio collection entitled A Sort of Homecoming on October 30 via Kscope. Directed by Lasse Hoile (Steven Wilson, Katatonia, Opeth), A Sort of Homecoming is a stunning concert film of Anathema’s homecoming show on March 7, 2015 in the spectacular setting of the Liverpool Cathedral. The concert was described by Prog Magazine as “a once in a lifetime experience that words can barely do justice.”

“I’m really happy that this night in particular has been preserved,” commented Anathema guitarist/vocalist, Vincent Cavanagh. “As anyone from Liverpool will tell you, to be given the chance to play the Anglican Cathedral is monumental and a huge honor. The place is absolutely huge. Just look at the cover, it was like doing a gig in Erebor!”

Having previously worked with Anathema on the acclaimed Universal concert film, Lasse Hoile captured the 100 minute acoustic set in high definition against the sensational backdrop of Liverpool Cathedral. Featuring 15 songs selected from the albums Distant Satellites, Weather Systems, We’re Here Because We’re Here, A Natural Disaster and Alternative 4, the ‘Anathema Acoustic’ trio of Daniel Cavanagh, Vincent Cavanagh and Lee Douglas were joined by rhythm section John Douglas and Jamie Cavanagh, alongside their very talented close friend David Wesling on cello who also played on Hindsight (2009) and A Moment In Time (2006). For this exclusive performance the band was also joined by the renowned violinist, Anna Phoebe, on a haunting rendition of “Anathema.” The audio has been produced and mixed by Christer-André Cederberg who worked on Distant Satellites, Universal and Weather Systems, with the cover and booklet artwork featuring the stunning photography from the show and behind the scenes by long time collaborator Caroline Traitler. This is the first Anathema live release to feature a 5.1 audio mix, engineered by Bruce Soord.

Kscope will release A Sort of Homecoming as:

– 4 disc box set: 2 CD concert audio (100 mins), DVD with full concert plus an additional behind the scenes film “A Temporary Peace” and concert on Blu-ray disc. In a deluxe rigid media book with 36 page booklet, presented in a slipcase

– 2CD + DVD-V: The set features the full 100 minute audio and DVD-V of the concert with 5.1 audio mixed by The Pineapple Thief’s Bruce Soord

– Blu-ray disc: The full 100 minute concert plus an additional behind the scenes film “A Temporary Peace” with 5.1 audio mixed by The Pineapple Thief’s Bruce Soord

LP: A gatefold triple 180g black vinyl LP including MP3 download code

Digital: Concert audio only

All formats, excluding digital download, are available to pre-order via the Kscope web-store at: www.kscopemusic.com/store.

1. The Lost Song Part 2
2. Untouchable Part 1
3. Untouchable Part 2
4. Thin Air
5. Dreaming Light
6. Anathema
7. Ariel
8. Electricity
9. Temporary Peace
10. The Beginning And The End
11. Distant Satellites
12. Take Shelter
13. Internal Landscapes
14. A Natural Disaster
15. Fragile Dreams

Anathema will continue to tour throughout the remainder of 2015. A full list of dates can be seen below.

Anathema live…
8/31 – Tokyo, Japan @ Liquid Room
9/01 – Tokyo, Japan @ Liquid Room
9/05 – Sao Paulo, Brazil @ Overload Music Festival
9/07 – Porto Alegre, Brazil @ Opiniao (w/ Paradise Lost)
9/08 – Rio, Brazil @ Circo Voador (w/ Paradise Lost)
9/11 – Atlanta, GA, USA @ Prog Power Festival
10/01 – Moscow, Russia @ Volta
10/02 – Minsk, Russia @ Re:Public
10/03 – St Petersburg, Russia @ Avrora
10/23 – Christchurch, NZ @ Dux Live
10/24 – Auckland, NZ @ Kings Arms
10/27 – Adelaide, AUS @ The Gov
10/29 – Brisbane, AUS @ Triffid
10/30 – Sydney, AUS @ Metro Theatre
10/31 – Melbourne, AUS @ Corner Hotel
11/01 – Perth, AUS @ Rosemount Hotel
11/04 – Manchester, UK @ Manchester Cathedral
11/05 – Paris, France @ Église Saint-Eustache (acoustic)
11/06 – Bochum, Germany (acoustic)
11/07 – Leipzig, Germany @ Täubchenthal (acoustic)
11/09 – Utrecht, Netherlands @ TivoliVredenburg
11/10 – Mannheim, Germany @ Capitol (acoustic)
11/11 – Sofia, Bulgaria @ Royal Bulgaria Hall (acoustic)
11/15 – 11/19 – Miami, FL, USA @ Cruise To The Edge

www.anathema.ws
www.facebook.com/weareanathema
www.twitter.com/anathemamusic
http://www.kscopemusic.com/artists/anathema/

Anathema, A Sort of Homecoming trailer

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Anathema, Judgement, A Fine Day to Exit & A Natural Disaster: Of Continued Resonance

Posted in Reviews on July 9th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

anathema a natural disaster judgement and a fine day to exit covers

British label Music for Nations went under in 2004 after 21 years of releasing landmark metal in Europe from everyone from Entombed and Candlemass and Opeth to Tygers of Pan Tang, Savatage and Legs Diamond. Now owned by Sony via BMG, it has been reactivated and a series of reissues is underway highlighting Music for Nations‘ rather formidable catalog, which includes three records by Liverpool’s Anathema, who signed to the label in 1999 after the release of their fourth album, 1998’s Alternative 4, which would be their last — for a time — on Peaceville Records.

Remastered and issued as deluxe 180g LPs (plus CDs) with liner notes by the band and distributed in the US by The End Records, the three albums Anathema released with Music for Nations are what I usually consider from the middle era of the band. “Mid-period Anathema,” is the phrase I use. Ever-progressing, always changing, one can look at the career of Anathema in three stages: Their early days of doomed extremity that made them contemporaries of Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride, the middle era of melancholy influenced heavily by Pink Floyd, and the increasingly progressive work of the last half-decade plus, which has seen them return to Peaceville via its prog-minded offshoot Kscope and found them sounding happier to be alive than they’ve ever been.

Of course, that’s one way of thinking about it. Another would be breaking Anathema‘s discography into two stages — essentially “Then” and “Now” — which leaves their three Music for Nations offerings somewhat lost in the transition, and still another would be to simply say that each of their 10-to-date albums is its own era. Probably the most accurate in terms of the actual processes involved, but hardly useful in understanding the progression either of their lineup around brothers Vincent, Danny and Jamie Cavanagh or of their songwriting, which has retained a vivid core no matter how dark the material actually got. And it got pretty dark there for a while. Gloriously so.

Though 1999’s fifth album, Judgement, 2001’s A Fine Day to Exit and 2003’s A Natural Disaster weren’t close to being Anathema‘s angriest or most outwardly metallic work — for which one would have to go back to their 1993 debut, Serenades, or 1992’s The Crestfallen and 1995’s Pentecost III EPs; their rawness still eviscerating what since have become the conventions of modern theatrical doom — the three albums retain an emotional and atmospheric heft that continues to resonate even more than a decade after the fact. Each presents its own vision of the band, and each has its own sound, but over the course of the three — which The End has bundled together in special edition packages that include extras like a turntable slip mat and as the Fine Days 1999-2004 3CD/DVD mediabook — one can trace a line of vigilant creative progress, and that has always been what draws Anathema‘s discography together.

On a personal note, I’ll say that these three records particularly — I might take Alternative 4 over Judgement, but it’s close and that’s splitting hairs anyway — mark out my favorite era of Anathema‘s work. These are albums I’ve held sacred for years now, and a chance to revisit them is welcome long past the point of impartiality. I’ve been a nerd on this stuff for way too long not to call myself out on it.

Still, we dive in:

Judgement (1999)

anathema judgement vinyl and cover

One of the most striking things about the new version of Judgement is how clear it sounds. Not that the original was muddy by any stretch — Anathema had some lackluster productions in their early going, but had gotten it out of their system by the time they came around to their fifth album — but still, the backgrounds of songs like “Deep” and “Forgotten Hope” and “Parisienne Moonlight” seem to stand out more. It’s true of the other two records as well. Vinyl compression suits the atmosphere of Judgement, which retains a lonely, brooding sensibility despite a pretty broad range of songwriting, and the flow of “Forgotten Hope” into the tense repetitions of “Destiny is Dead” is as vital as ever. In the context of these reissues, the penultimate “Anyone, Anywhere,” with its piano and acoustic blend, seems to directly presage A Fine Day to Exit, though the emergent surge of slow distortion could just as easily be traced to the preceding Alternative 4. In any case, there’s no question as to what band you’re hearing, and though its mood is as blue and deep-running as its cover art, Judgement boasts enough space for more than a fair share of breadth, Vincent Cavanagh coming into his own as the lead vocalist and carrying “One Last Goodbye” across with a flair for drama that does nothing to undercut the emotionalism of the song itself. It was the height of the CD era, and accordingly, Judgement runs long for a standard single LP at 13 tracks and nearly 57 minutes — the side split coming between “Judgement” and “Don’t Look too Far,” the latter every bit worthy of the highlight position opening the second side — but it’s time well spent or re-spent depending on your experience in the band, and in addition to being their debut on Music for Nations, Judgement was pivotal in expanding the reach of Anathema‘s songcraft. Cavanagh mentions in the liner notes that it was also vocalist Lee Douglas‘ intro to the band — she’s on “Parisienne Moonlight” and “Don’t Look too Far” — and as she became more established in the lineup, that reach would only continue to grow.

A Fine Day to Exit (2001)

anathema a fine day to exit cover and lp

As with anything, opinions among the converted vary, and mine is by no means the prevailing one on this issue. However, from where I sit, 2001’s A Fine Day to Exit is Anathema‘s best record. It has all the weight and depressive vibing of their early work but presents itself with an absolute clarity of purpose in memorable songs that stay with the listener — provided the listener lets them and isn’t too busy expecting the album to be something it isn’t or resenting it for not being that thing — long after play has stopped. Its rich melodies and textures foreshadow the progressive mindset that would come when the band resurfaced with 2010’s We’re Here Because We’re Here (discussed here), but as a band, they were still more about atmosphere than pinpoint execution, and A Fine Day to Exit continues to benefit greatly from the specificity of the moment in Anathema‘s development it captures. Of the three reissues, it’s also the most different from its original version. What was the album opener with its distinctive piano stokes, “Pressure” has moved to the end of side A, and now arrives after the tense pulsations of “Underworld” and before the side flip, which brings the suicidal manic chaos of “Panic” — a song whose existential torture remains writ in its confusing lyrical turns, “Air bubbles in your veins turning my hands black,” and so on — and A Fine Day to Exit‘s heaviest thrust, still beautiful for its poetic bleakness and the stark contrast that its rush maintains with the slower flows surrounding. “Panic” as the starter for side B makes even more sense with the inclusion of new opener, the previously unreleased “A Fine Day,” which provides side A with a jump at the beginning of the record, an acoustic strum giving way to a cacophony (though if you listen, that acoustic line never leaves) of crashes and jagged guitar that cuts short with about a minute to go and ends with a sweet acoustic line that feeds into “Release.” In addition to shifting “Pressure,” side A’s “Looking Outside Inside” has been moved to the second half, where it follows “Breaking down the Barriers,” which used to just be called “Barriers” and used to lead into “Panic” instead of following it as it does here. To fit the format, closer “Temporary Peace” is also a truncated seven minutes on the vinyl, down from 18 on the original version (what with the “What about dogs, what about cats, what about chickens?” and all that silliness at the end) and down from 15 on this one’s accompanying CD. Do all these changes make A Fine Day to Exit a better album? I don’t know. Talk to me in 14 years. What they do is dramatically change the listening experience, and I think it says something that with what’s really some comparatively little minor tooling, Anathema‘s sixth offering can sound as fresh as it does here. It remains one of the best records I’ve ever heard. Ever? Ever.

A Natural Disaster (2003)

anathema a natural disaster cover and lp

After Anathema released A Natural Disaster in 2003, it would be five years before they managed to put out another long-player, and that was Hindsight, a revisit/reworking of older material. I remember wondering if they were done for some time. And in a way, they were, because when We’re Here Because We’re Here came out in 2010, they were a different band. A Natural Disaster found bassist Jamie Cavanagh back in the band alongside VincentDanny, drummer John Douglas (who’d played on the prior two albums as well, having come aboard for Judgement), Lee Douglas (still listed as a guest vocalist), additional vocalist Anna Livingstone who added lines to “Are You There?,” and keyboardist/programmer/recording engineer Les Smith, who makes a more significant impact on the material than one might initially think to hear the songs, but more than the lineup it established — the three Cavanaghs and the two Douglases being in the current incarnation of Anathema with drummer Daniel Cardoso — this was the record where Anathema pushed that sense of inward-looking darkness as far as it could go. A winter hasn’t passed in the last 12 that I haven’t at some point put it on to hear the kick-in of opener “Harmonium” and the sort of wandering ethereal melody of “Balance,” which follows, both songs drawing the listener into a programmed but organic-seeming world the tracks create. If one considers A Fine Day to Exit the trauma, then A Natural Disaster is the post-trauma, that moment of aftershock where damage is assessed. Of the three Music for Nations outings, it is also the most masterful, the steps that Judgement seemed to take as bold moves forward now refined to a point where Anathema could bend their own methods to suit purposes like the build-into-payoff-into-minimalism of “Closer,” or the meandering impressionism of “Childhood Dream,” the soft wistfulness of the aforementioned “Are You There?” and the bass-driven tension of the intro to “Pulled Under at 2,000 Metres,” which here makes a finish to side A no less driving than how “Panic” started side B of the album preceding — the two songs have always been linked in my mind, the outward heaviness of the other making it a spiritual successor to the one. Perhaps most terrifying of all is how comfortable Anathema seem inhabiting this emotional space, the longing that pervades “A Natural Disaster” and “Flying” at the start of side B emblematic of the range that has taken shape by this point in the band’s methods and the variety of forms their expression could, by this point, take. Backed by wisps of guitar, the piano and acoustic strum of “Electricity” provide a last human landmark before 10-minute instrumental closer “Violence” begins its movement forward and through a well-charted build and quiet finish. Far closer to being the same as it was to start with than was A Fine Day to Exit, if listening to the LP of A Natural Disaster has done anything, it’s forced me to really take on those last two cuts, where with the CD of the album that I’ve had since it was released I always tended to zone out after “Flying” and lose myself in the wash of “Violence.” Can’t say I regret paying closer attention.

Like I said, it would be five years before Anathema put out any new studio material — a couple demos surfaced on their website circa 2007 (unless my timeline is way off) for tracks that would show up on the next album; “Angels Walk Among Us” and one or two others — and by the time they did, this moment, the progression of JudgementA Fine Day to Exit and A Natural Disaster would have taken another turn that set in motion the current stage of Anathema‘s development. They plunged deep into a sonic bleakness, maybe too deep for their own liking, ultimately, but what they were able to bring out of that depressive morass remain some of the richest and most honest looks at it a band could hope to give.

Anathema, A Natural Disaster (2003)

Anathema at The End Records

Anathema on Thee Facebooks

Anathema’s website

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Anathema Reissues & Box Set Due in June

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 27th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

anathema

As discussed before and after their set at Roadburn 2015, this is actually my favorite period of Anathema‘s work: the middle stage where the near-gothic death-doom dramas of their early days gave way to melodic Floydian spaciousness without letting go of its melancholic sensibility or emotional rawness that seemed all the more laid bare on songs like “One Last Goodbye,” “Temporary Peace” and “Flying” without waves of distortion to cover them up. Wider regard for their catalog before and after will be what it is — the ability to conjure opinions has always been a strong point for the Liverpool outfit — but this stuff is where my heart lies when it comes to Anathema.

As such, it’s with a somewhat wistful eye I look at the info below for 180g vinyl remasters and a box set compiling all of what I consider to be their best stuff, The End Records continuing to do well after having picked up the Music for Nations catalog however many years ago it was. Exclusive bundle, 3CD box, 180g vinyl, this one’s got all the keywords.

From the PR wire:

anathema bundle

ANATHEMA REISSUES 3 TITLES ON VINYL WITH CD PLUS COLLECTOR’S BOXSET & EXCLUSIVE ALBUM BUNDLE

AVAILABLE NOW IN LIMITED EDITIONS VIA THE OMEGA ORDER

OUT 6/30 VIA THE END RECORDS/ADA

British rock group Anathema announces the remastered reissues of Judgement, A Fine Day To Exit, and A Natural Disaster on 180-gram vinyl and CD via The End Records/ADA. All three albums are also available as a 3-CD collector’s boxset, which includes the 38-song DVD mediabook, Were You There?.

This reissue makes available the first ever Anathema collector’s set, including an exclusive album bundle configuration of all three titles, boxset, and screenprinted slipmat.
All Titles Limited Edition

AVAILABLE NOW ON THE OMEGA ORDER!

Judgement
Remastered 180-gram LP + CD
01 Deep
02 Pitiless
03 Forgotten Hope
04 Destiny Is Dead
05 Make It Right (F.F.S)
06 One Last Goodbye
07 Parisienne Moonlight
08 Judgement
09 Don’t Look Too Far
10 Emotional Winter
11 Wings of God
12 Anyone, Anywhere
13 2000 & Gone

CLICK HERE To Order Judgment

A Fine Day To Exit
Remastered 180-gram LP + CD
01 Pressure
02 Release
03 Looking Outside Inside
04 Leave No Trace
05 Underworld
06 Barrier
07 Panic
08 Fine Day To Exit
09 Temporary Peace

CLICK HERE To Order A Fine Day To Exit

A Natural Disaster
Remastered 180-gram LP + CD
01 Harmonium
02 Balance
03 Closer
04 Are You There?
05 Childhood Dream
06 Pulled Under at 2000 Metres a Second
07 A Natural Disaster
08 Flying
09 Electricity
10 Violence

CLICK HERE To Order A Natural Disaster

Fine Days: 1999-2004
3 Remastered CDs & DVD Mediabook
Disc 1: Judgement (13 Songs)
Disc 2: A Fine Day to Exit (10 Songs)
Disc 3: A Natural Disaster (9 Songs)
Disc 4: Were you There? (38 Songs – DVD)

CLICK HERE To Order Fine Days: 1999-2004

Exclusive Reissue Bundle
Screenprinted slipmat
Judgement (LP + CD)
A Fine Day To Exit (LP + CD)
A Natural Disaster (LP + CD)
Fine Days 1999 – 2004 (3CD + DVD)

CLICK HERE To Order The Exclusive Reissue Bundle

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https://twitter.com/anathemamusic

Anathema, A Natural Disaster (2003)

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ROADBURN 2015 AFTERBURNER: A Blink of an Eye

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 12th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

Roadburn 2015 banner. (Photo by JJ Koczan)

04.13.15 — 00.21 — Sun. Night — Hotel

I did manage to get back to sleep this morning for a little bit after I finished writing the review and sorting pictures for last night, but first I went downstairs and took full advantage of the hotel breakfast. You get one free, and I wasn’t saving it or anything, I just hadn’t been up when it was served. Well, today I was. It opened at seven, I’d been up since four, so yeah. No problem. Some eggs, cheese, fruit, juice, bacon and sausage later, I was a new man. Who needed sleep. I got maybe half an hour before I needed to be up and out again to get to the 013 office and finalize the last issue of the Roadburn ‘zine, the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch, Thee cover.with Lee from The Sleeping Shaman.

We did it, put the issue out and everything. I folded paper like a champ and have the ink stain on my edge-flattening fingernail to prove it. Not the only mark Roadburn would leave on me today, but we’ll get there in a bit. In the meantime, check out the last Weirdo Canyon Dispatch of Roadburn 2015 here. Go on and give it a read.

Today was the Afterburner, which is Roadburn‘s traditional way of saying, “Sooner or later, you have to get back to real life.” It’s a transitional day. Less stages, fewer running back and forth, fewer people around, and so on. Band-wise, it’s usually a little more of Roadburn‘s roots: Heavy rock, psych, doom, though of course like the fest proper, the Afterburner has branched out stylistically as well.

One didn’t have to look much farther than Gnaw Their TonguesClaudio Simonetti’s Goblin or headliners Anathema — who, since they were playing a special set spanning their career, both fit a doomed aesthetic and pushed beyond it — to see that. Still, it was underrated New York space/psychedelic outfit White Hills who startedArgus (Photo by JJ Koczan) the afternoon off at 15.00 on the Main Stage. An East Coast equivalent in my mind for L.A.’s Farflung — who also did quite well at Roadburn once upon a 2012 — they remain a much more popular band in Europe than in their hometown. So be it. For me, a little space is almost always welcome, but I wanted even more to see Pennsylvania’s Argus open up in the Green Room.

Riding the line between doom and traditional metal, the Brian “Butch” Balich-fronted Argus launched their set with “By Endurance We Conquer,” “No Peace Beyond the Line,” and “The Hands of Time are Bleeding,” the first three songs from their third and latest full-length, 2013’s Beyond the Martyrs (review here). The crowd knew the songs and sang along to the hooks, particularly in “No Peace Beyond the Line,” the five-piece of Balich, guitarists Jason Mucio and Dave Watson, bassist Justin Campbell and drummer Kevin Latchaw making the best case I’ve yet heard for their songwriting. With the two guitars, driving, forward rhythms, roots doom and NWOBHM-precision, Balich‘s powerful voice in addition to that level of craftsmanship, it was no challenge to see the appeal of Argus, and the Green Room certainly got into it. Heavy metal might be a subculture, but it’s one that crosses an awful lot of national borders, and I doubt if there’s any fist-pumping headbanger types who couldn’t get down with Argus. They’re as classically-styled as classically-styled gets, and they delivered in force at Roadburn.Argus (Photo by JJ Koczan)

They were dug into the particularly Trouble-y “Pieces of Your Smile” when I made my way over to the main hall for Chicago instrumental four-piece Bongripper. Now, it would’ve been awfully nice to see those dudes kick the living crap out of their latest album, 2014’s Miserable (review here), way back on Thursday night, but they were going on late and, well, you know the story, with the typing and the clacky-clacky and whatnot. Fine. No way in gosh darn heck was I going to miss my second chance to see guitarists Nick Dellacroce and Dennis Pleckham, bassist Ron Petzke — with whom I shared a cab to Tilburg from Schiphol Airport on Wednesday — and drummer Daniel O’Connor bludgeon all in their path with volume and raw, plodding riffs. With a formidable stack of amps and cabinets behind them, Bongripper tore into a swath of material, a crowd having shown up early to get a good spot for the punishment they knew was in store.

Seeing Bongripper live is like being swallowed by sound. Like if sound had a mouth — maybe the mouth from the front cover of Miserable would suffice, if you need an image — and that mouth ate you. A beastly barrage of riffs and tonal thunder, all of this maddening heft pushed onto the audience in an unrelenting assault. They ended by wailing on their instruments Bongripper (Photo by JJ Koczan)in time to O’Connor‘s crashes, a kind of violent assault on their equipment that fed into the thick wall of noise built up, the packed Main Stage room nodding in unison. The band stopped short of taking a bow when they were done, but no one would’ve been able to say they didn’t deserve to do so. It’s a primal element of doom and sludge and stoner riffing that Bongripper feeds into, fattens, and then slaughters, but the grungus is mighty in what they do and spread out on the wide stage, it was as much an art project as a wanton beatdown. Even their feedback was a weapon.

I’d run into Ohio’s Lo-Pan earlier in the day. They’re on tour with Abrahma now, have been for a couple nights, and like a lot of US heavy bands who come to tour Europe for the first time, I think they’ve been impressed at the show culture. People show up, bands aren’t treated like crap, and it’s a generally cared-for situation, something precious done in a general public interest. The crew workingLo-Pan (Photo by JJ Koczan) at the 013 as a part of Roadburn are second to none in professionalism or hospitality, and so it seemed reasonable to me the band would be singularly impressed. All the better for the show, which is both the intent and precisely how it worked out when they went on in the Green Room at 18.30. They were clashing with Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin, but I’ve been itching for Lo-Pan to make a debut at Roadburn since they put out Salvador (review here) early in 2011. Let’s be clear: I wouldn’t miss them anyway. I’ll go see Lo-Pan just about any night of the week, but I knew this one was going to be special.

Of course, it was. “El Dorado” from Salvador opened and “Regulus” from last fall’s rager Colossus (review here) followed, the band immediately on fire. It was my first time seeing them with guitarist Adrian Zambrano, who came aboard in Nov. 2014 to fill the role formerly held down by Brian Fristoe. A new Lo-Pan, in a new place with new energy and even a new song in the set, there was nothing not to like. They were so tight it hurt With vocalist Jeff Martin set up in back behind drummer Jesse Bartz as per usual, Zambrano on stage left and bassist Scott Thompson on stage right, Lo-Pan were a heavy rock and roll force. Zambrano brought a little showmanship and style to the riffs and solos, and where Bartz and Thompson have always hit it hard on stage and the guitar was a more subdued presence (nothing against that whatsoever), having Zambrano headbanging away, tapping on the frets while throwing his pick-hand behind him, tossingLo-Pan (Photo by JJ Koczan) a leg up on the monitor and so on both reinforced the energetic character of the band, as well as the material, and made it all the more exciting.

Speaking of headbanging, I did. It was among the best sets I’ve seen Lo-Pan play — lights, sound, performance, you name it — and yeah, I was getting into it a bit. I wound up banging my head into one of the monitors at the front of the stage early into the set. No blood, it wasn’t that bad, but I’ve got a bump sticking out of my forehead now and I expect by the time I get off the plane tomorrow in Boston it’ll be a good-size bruise. Easy enough to laugh it off and keep going, even if it’s a little sore when I raise my eyebrows, which I apparently do all the time. That’s how you find out that kind of thing.

Anyway, point is it was so, so, so, so good to see Lo-Pan. Not only because they’re one of American heavy rock’s best bands — I’ve called them the finest in US fuzz for pretty much the last four years — and not only because they killed it and put on a stellar show, but because they did it here, as a part of Roadburn 2015, looking across the stage at each other and challenging themselves to play better, harder than they have before. Their first European tour comes after countless US slogs and will hopefully lead to more, but it seems likely to me they’re going to remember this one, and I’m glad to have stayed through “Eastern Seas” and “The Duke” to watch them hammer down their victory. I’d been looking forward Abrahma (Photo by JJ Koczan)to it since they were announced, and it warmed my cold, dead heart to see them kick so much ass.

Their tourmates from Paris and Small Stone labelmates, Abrahma, were going on shortly down the block at Cul de Sac, which is right in the stretch of bars on Heuvelstraat adjacent to the 013 that for I don’t even remember how many years now I’ve been calling Weirdo Canyon (hence the Dispatch). The relatively small club is where the Hard Rock Hideout was held on Wednesday (review here), and I like the room a lot, so it seemed perfect to follow Lo-Pan with Abrahma and head over. Already they were on stage when I got there, dug into what turned out to be their soundcheck, but with the lights up, I snapped a few pictures just in case when they actually started they decided to play in the dark, as pretty much every band I’ve ever seen in that space has done. Abrahma, however, dared to be different.

In keeping, their upcoming second album, Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird (review/track stream here), does likewise, pushing into moodier, somewhat less psychedelic territory than their 2012 debut, Through the Dusty Paths of Our Lives (review here). Their set, which was actually just about split between the two records and leaned slightly toward the new one,Anathema (Photo by JJ Koczan) was surprisingly heavy. Very riffy, very big in tone. Not quite to the level of Floor-syle bombdropping, but not far off either. As a frontman, Sebastien Bismuth was charismatic and engaging, banging his head harder than many and managing not to injure himself in the process unless you count an almost certain sore neck tomorrow, and joined by drummer Fred Quota for this tour along with bassist Guillaume Colin and guitarist Nicolas Heller, their sudden bursts of weighted groove hit with an impressive, genuine impact. As their songwriting continues to grow and become more complex, I’ll be interested to see how that impact evolves.

A prudent move would’ve been to stay longer, but even though it’s the AfterburnerRoadburn means time to move. Anathema would soon be on the Main Stage, playing a special set allotted 130 minutes that was being called “Resonance” and which started with the eponymous “Anathema” from last year’s Distant Satellites and working backwards through their discography. The Cavanagh brothers, Vincent (lead vocals, guitar), Danny (guitar, backing vocals) and Jamie (bass) were down front of the stage with drummer Daniel Cardoso and keyboardist/programmer John Douglas on risers behind, and over the course of their time, current vocalist Lee Douglas made intermittent appearances — a striking one for “A Natural Disaster” lit, at the band’s request, only by cellphone lights from the crowd, as seen on the cover of their 2013 DVD, Universal — and former bassist Duncan Patterson and former vocalist Darren White both showed up the farther along Anathema went, deeper Anathema (Photo by JJ Koczan)and deeper still into their 25-year history.

They’re doing a short “Resonance” tour, are Anathema, but Roadburn 2015 was the first night, and the first time White had been on stage with the band in 20 years. Something special, no doubt. Here’s a fun fact, though: I love that band. Along with Amorphis, who were playing through the main hall P.A. just before Anathema went on, Anathema were one of the acts that led me into exploring underground metal, and ultimately — so the story goes — selling my soul to Tony Iommi at the expense of career, well-being and, this week, sleep. No complaints. But while Anathema are a pivotal band for me personally, a landmark act without whom I genuinely don’t believe I’d be the same person, I also fall into a rarer category of Anathema fan. It’s not their early stuff that I got into back when I was in high school. Not 1995’s Pentecost III, from which “Kingdom” and “Mine is Yours to Drown In (Ours is the New Tribe)” were aired at the start of what would be a third individual component set in the longer runtime, and not even the album The Silent Enigma, which followed it that same year, powerful though “Sunset of Age” and “A Dying Wish” were.

I have those records, and I dig those records a lot, but what got me into Anathema is their often-overlooked middle period: 1998’s Alternative 4, 1999’s Judgement, 2001’s A Fine Day to Exit and 2003’s A Natural Disaster. When I’m reaching for an Anathema album — as I invariably do in a depressive Anathema (Photo by JJ Koczan)fit as I wallow in my own filth and worthlessness because I’m just the right kind of emotional cripple that music offers comfort I apparently can’t allow myself to feel otherwise; whoops — those are what I go for, and when Vincent led the way into “Pressure” from A Fine Day to Exit and “One Last Goodbye” from Judgement tonight, those were the songs that had me tearing up. No bullshit, bringing Darren White out was incredible. Clearly charged up to be on stage with the band in the context of headlining at Roadburn 2015, he settled in and nailed the dramatic chorus of “Kingdom” — shades of Fields of the Nephilim influence showing themselves — and led the band through the finish of their professionally polished but still emotionally potent set, “Sleepless” from Anathema‘s 1993 debut, Serenades, closing out.

This was the Anathema show I’ve been dreaming of, covering their whole career, but their mid-period, pre-prog, post-doom, was what hit me the hardest, the first four cuts from Alternative 4 played with Patterson on bass to morose and atmospheric effect. They could’ve done a third hour, easily, and I might have The Golden Grass (Photo by JJ Koczan)stayed for it if they did.

As it was, time was ticking away. One more stop to make, and it was back in the Green Room of the 013 for Brooklyn trio The Golden Grass, whose 2014 self-titled debut (review here) has only grown in my esteem since it was released. They’re a reminder of home for me, the East Coast, New York and all that, so they were perfect to close out my own little version of Roadburn. Guitarist/vocalist Michael Rafalowich, drummer/vocalist Adam Kriney and bassist Morgan McDaniel are on tour with Hypnos, who’d wrapped a bit earlier at the Cul de Sac, and though I knew I wouldn’t be there the whole time, I wanted to catch at least a bit of their sunshine boogie to help make the thought of walking out of Roadburn 2015, taking off my wristband and coming back to the hotel to put this last review together not quite such a bum-out. By the time they were through “Stuck on a Mountain” and “Please Man” and into a newer song I didn’t know, a bum-out was out of the question. Nothing but good vibes the whole way as I said a few quick goodbyes andThe Golden Grass (Photo by JJ Koczan) walked down the stretch of Weirdo Canyon, a little quieter Sunday than Saturday, but by no means abandoned. I owe The Golden Grass one for that.

Strange to think that “tomorrow” (read: in three hours) when I get up to shower early and head out, it’ll be to the airport instead of the 013 office to bang out another issue of the Weirdo Canyon DispatchRoadburn develops its own culture so quickly each year, and the more and more I’m fortunate enough to come see Tilburg in the springtime, the more it feels like home.

I’ll have another post up to close out this series and say thanks and whatnot, so until then, I’ll just say the same thing I always say: More pics after the jump and thanks for reading.

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