Anathema - A Sort Of Homecoming
It’s nice to see U2 have some uses as not for the first time, the title of the opening track from 1984’s The Unforgettable Fire album comes in handy. The concert film by Steven Wilson/Porcupine Tree/Opeth art man Lasse Hoile has been culled along with the accompanying audio from their gig at Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral earlier this year. It was a gig which Prog magazine wet themselves over and having attended the Leeds Minster gig on the same little set of dates, it was admittedly visually very impressive.
With their recent Distant Satellites rounding off an increasingly impressive trio of releases, Anathema seemed to shift gears and move to another level. Their vast sound had been superbly captured on the Universal concert film, shot in a ruined amphitheatre with an orchestra and the majestic setting and sweeping sounds were a perfect coming together. Perhaps the modern day equivalent of Pink Floyd at Pompeii.
Moving the band into a cathedral was the obvious step in creating the type of environment which matched the magnitude of their music – much more suitable than the cramped Manchester Academy 3’s of this world – and shifting from full band to an acoustic format for added delicacy to match the surroundings and to offer a different take on the usual expansive arrangements seemed to be the logical thing to do.
This set features 15 songs selected mainly from those most recent three albums Distant Satellites, Weather Systems and, We’re Here Because We’re Here and performed by the core trio of Daniel and Vincent Cavanagh and Lee Douglas who find themselves supplemented on occasion by the regular band rhythm section of John Douglas & Jamie Cavanagh, alongside David Wesling on cello. For this exclusive performance the band were also joined by the renowned violinist and support act, Anna Phoebe on a haunting rendition of what has become a bit of an anthem in Anathema.
It’s also is the first Anathema live release to feature a 5.1 audio mix, engineered by Bruce Soord – surprisingly not Steven Wilson but nice to see a new kid on the block adding his skills to the surround sound phenomenon. So moving from the sublime to the ridiculous the use of a stream to listen to the audio aspect of the set and to view short clips of the visual aspect of the film on to base an assessment isn’t exactly going to show the audio visual impact of the release in the best light.
The best views show the enormity of the event, any close ups looking quite dimly lit and lacking any real visual impact – it was a place of worship after all and not necessarily conducive to the usual sets of stage lighting. The subdued/barely discernable lighting (if the clips are anything to go by) may add to the intimacy yet on the screen it simply seems plain and austere. Musically it may also seem slightly incongruous with the starker arrangements. There are times when you just want the music to swell and fill the space and it’s not there and there are moments where Danny is actively encouraging the crowd to become part of the event rather than sit in reverential and respectful observance and again it’s not quite there. Yeah, it’s not that sort of rock and roll performance and more a case of taking the chance to show some more of the subtleties of the arrangements. What it does is to strip things back to the extent that Lee Douglas’ voice really gets the chance to shine through as a lead vocalist and not just as an added decoration to the sound of the band.
The multiple option of formats include the all singing all dancing hardbound media book set of 2CDs, a DVD and a blu ray and of course and triple vinyl set and everything inbetween and while some may continue to hail Anathema as the best thing since sliced bread, as a critical friend, there may be those who didn’t think it would be but might feel slightly underwhelmed.
Words: Mike Ainscoe