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Anathema - 2006 - "A Moment in Time"

(120 min DVD, Metal Mind)

TRACK LIST:                    

1.  Shroud of False
2.  Fragile Dreams
3.  Balance
4.  Closer
5.  Lost Control
6.  Empty
7.  A Natural Disaster
8.  Inner Silence
9.  One Last Goodbye
10. Judgement
11. Panic
12. Flying
13. Angelica
14. Comfortably Numb
15. Sleepless
16. A Dying Wish
17. Albatross
18. Fragile Dreams 
+    Interview


Vincent - vocals, vocoder; guitar
Danny - guitar; keyboards; vocals
Les - keyboards
Jamie - bass
John - drums
Lee - vocals
David Spencer - violin
Kevin Flynn - violin
Neil McErlean - viola
David Westling - cello 

Prolusion. The history of English group ANATHEMA begins in the very end of the '80s. It was the time of the growing popularity of Doom Metal - a style that was invented by Black Sabbath and, later on, developed by Celtic Frost, Candlemass, Paradise Lost, Tiamat and Anathema themselves. Already the group's debut LP "The Crestfallen" has brought them a cult status, shortly after which they became one of the most promising acts of the genre. This DVD, "A Moment in Time", includes their entire concert at the MetalMania-2006 festival in Katowice, Poland, and four songs from their 2004 live performance in Krakow.

Analysis. I'd lost touch with Anathema's work some ten years ago, but I still have good memories of their first three albums (which also include "Serenades" and "Pentecost III"), all being notable for their unusual combination of depressive, yet definitely progressive music and brutal, yet highly expressive vocals. The band's current repertoire has very little to do with the described qualities. I have painstakingly examined the DVD, but since the process was quite painful to me, I've lost all my inspiration now my time to write this review has come. Only the first three pieces, Shroud of False, Fragile Dreams and Balance, and also the eleventh and twelfth numbers, Panic and Flying, evoke some associations with Anathema's early sound. While I definitely prefer clean vocals to growling, the group's current frontman Vincent's voice is too sweet to my taste, though perhaps I just don't find his delivery to be convincing enough to share his feelings. Shroud of False is a classic requiem performed exclusively by the Bacchus Violin Ensemble and is the only thing in the entire set on which the presence of the quartet is beyond question. Otherwise (in the majority of cases) their parts either take a back seat in the overall sound or are extremely primitive, following strictly the band's chords - the easiest way for chamber musicians to degrade. Fragile Dreams and Balance are works of Cathedral Metal, which is an 'up-tempo' derivation of Doom Metal, retaining most of the fraternal genre's virtues, e.g. relatively complex song structures, stop-to-play movements with the use of odd meters, vivid instrumental sections. Panic stands out for sudden transitions from high-speed to extremely slow arrangements and is also the best point to watch the band's technical skill, particularly their ability to accelerate their pace. While free of heaviness, Flying is one of the most diverse songs in the set, somewhat reminding me of Tiamat circa "A Deeper Kind of Slumber". The other songs are a cross between Alternative, Nu Metal and a traditional ballad, all being straightforward, vocal-heavy, abundant in repetitions and lacking any decent soloing all alike. The same concerns renderings of Pink Floyd's Comfortably Numb and Fleetwood Mac's Albatross. Only one of the set's 18 pieces, A Natural Disaster, features female singer Lee, although she is declared in the principal lineup, but it's no great loss. Anathema is definitely a group of highly professional musicians. However, this particular their performance (as such) isn't spectacular: they do everything semi-automatically, without joy, being nearly static for the most part - as if they're a chamber orchestra. Only the good work of Polish cameramen keeps it more or less interesting to watch. In this respect, Anathema should take lessons from their progressive countrymen, such as IQ, Landmarq, Iona and many others, all of whom, by the way, play their favorite music only in their spare time, as all have full-time day jobs.

Conclusion. As mentioned above, this Anathema's effort contains some fine moments. Overall however, their current music has almost nothing to offer to Progressive Rock lovers. It has a strong commercial component and, therefore, is destined for a corresponding audience.

VM: Agst 2, 2006

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