Distant Satellites - studio album no. 14 - is the follow up to Anathema's 2012 Weather Systems (see review). After listening to this album several times, I come to the conclusion that this is one of the finest albums they ever recorded. Between the first song, The Lost Song Part One and the last, Take Shelter, you're torn between all the elements of love, hate, and passion of a vulnerable relationship between two people.
Vincent, one of the three Cavanagh's starts with a slowly built up emotional symphony in The Lost Song Part One. With great self-confidence we become immersed in tight rhythms. In part two, Lee Douglas throws in a few extra's in their tragic love story with her passionate vocals. This diptych of songs fits together perfectly. In Dusk (dark Is Descending) there is a constant, violent battle between the two loved ones in the first three minutes but here, Anathema shows their excellent way of song writing. The pace is scaled down to a masterful, hunted, romantic ballad. Again, beautiful lyrics in Ariel, sung by Lee. Then at last some peace. Dave Stewart (Porcupine Tree, Steven Wilson) creates some extraordinary orchestral arrangements. Vincent can't wait to sing I found you in the dark.. .. and a bit further along you are sucked into a violin dance with a dramatic piano ending. The last part of The Lost Song (Part Three) is a typical up-tempo rock tune, with a leading role for the drums by John Douglas and Jamie Cavanagh's bass. In Anathema, Vincent sings the skies out of the water with powerful emotion and darkness. Following a bombastic orchestral eruption, there is a heavy electric guitar solo by Daniel Cavanagh to finish this rollercoaster of progressive rock. Unfortunately, You Are Not Alone is a bad song, with it's electronic drums and aggressive violence. I'm happy again with the organ sound in Firelight. It feels like sitting alone in a huge massive church, watching a movie about WWI and the desolate war fields of Flanders. As a contrast you can enjoy electronic beats(!) and the optimistic voice of Vincent in the title song Distant Satellites. Anathema dares everything in their quest for progressive rock's Holy Grail. In Take Shelter, the final song, we are slowly lured into sleep, but there is another surprise here, which I'm not going to give away.
Apart from the track You're Not Alone, Anathema delivered a perfect album, and I suspect it will score very high on the list 'best albums of 2014'.
****+ Cor Smeets (edited by Esther Ladiges)
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