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Best to treat as a mini album,
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This review is from: Distant Satellites (Audio CD)
Having followed Anathema's development for a while it was always going to be interesting to see how they followed up the last two stunning albums which generated much deserved critical acclaim. Would they take the sound further or stick to what they have found to have worked, creating a Part 3 to We're Here Because We're Here and Weather Systems thus feeding a desire for more songs of such architectural beauty?
The answer is a bit of both. An enigmatic album title, evocative artwork and a track listing which contains the title track and also one labelled after the band's name sounds promising, surely after a long career such a track must be truly exceptional to merit such a tag.
Sadly, that initial promise doesn't follow through. As many have highlighted there is a marked difference here between the first and second halves which sit somewhat uneasily together. Tracks 1 to 6 echo WHBWH/WS and the early conclusion is that this is indeed a welcome Part 3, but somehow without the majesty. The Lost Song trilogy is pleasant, almost an easy listening version of the Untouchable tracks from Weather Systems. But it fails to genuinely excite, the highs are a little shallower and are less frequent. And the self-named closer to this section is just that- it's steady, a little one-paced, hinting at underlying power and aggression but doesn't quite explode into life. A good fit perhaps for earlier album A Natural Disaster, but certainly not the pinnacle of their catalogue. These 6 are good solid songs and will merit repeated listens even though you may reach for its predecessors, or A Natural Disaster or Judgement first.
It is then that the album gets into real trouble. A notable change of style is welcome and exciting, but the principal problem is that the vocals and lyrics are uninteresting, limp and at odds with the underlying music. The flawed and misjudged "You're Not Alone" would have been classic B-side material 20 years ago- here it jars and is spoiled by a not very successful vocoder treatment such as on Closer from A Natural Disaster, there it worked- here it doesn't. Frankly, the album would have had better balance without it. Firelight is simply a meandering 2 minutes of filling intro to the title track. Distant Satellites itself is probably the biggest disappointment, an upbeat almost disco-style rythmn suggests something special, but it doesn't arrive for it is matched again with a soulful, insipid vocal overlay. It goes nowhere, ambles around and ends just after one's attention has wandered. Shame- the underlying music is good enough, but it doesn't quite work as a whole. We then close with something crying out for Lee Douglas to bring it life, she doesn't appear and it is another undemanding few minutes of your time.
So my advice is to treat this as a mini album of 6 songs. It won't mesmerise you like some of their previous work but it is pleasant enough. As for the final 4 sadly, and this is a word I never thought I would use with Anathema, they just get a bit.........boring.