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Sunday Old School: Anathema

Over the past few months, Sunday Old School has examined British outfit, My Dying Bride and Swedish metal favourites, Katatonia, who, along with Paradise Lost, are known as three of the four bands who helped to pioneer the death/doom genre. This week, we’ll be completing the set by taking a look at Anathema, another band instrumental in launching the sub-genre, but who soon found themselves on an entirely different musical path. Anathema were formed in the English city of Liverpool in 1990, initially under the name of Pagan Angel. They recorded their first demo, "An Iliad of Woes," in November of that year which soon spread around the English music scene and caught the interest of several labels, with the band eventually settling on Peaceville Records following the release of their second demo, "All Faith is Lost." Their first release through Peaceville was an EP named, "The Crestfallen," which earned them enough credibility that they were able to tour with American death metal favourites, Cannibal Corpse. They followed, "The Crestfallen" with their first full length album, "Serenades," which also earned the band significant exposure and featured a music video for the song, "Sweet Tears," which soon gained airplay on MTV. As well as television exposure, the band were soon able to tour throughout Europe and were even scheduled to perform at a festival in Brazil.

Despite the rapidly growing fan base and success, vocalist Darren White decided to leave the band in 1995. Rather than searching for a new singer, guitarist Vincent Cavanagh took over the spot behind the microphone, and later that year, Anathema released their second studio album, "The Silent Enigma," which marked Cavanagh’s debut recording with the band, after he had made his live debut as the group’s frontman when they had toured with countrymen, Cathedral. They followed, "The Silent Enigma" a year later with their third full length, "Eternity," which received near universal acclaim. The album was notable for moving away from the doom metal sound and more towards alternative rock, with some psychedelic and gothic influences also present.

Following, "Eternity," the band parted company with drummer John Douglas, and replaced him with former Solstice drummer, Shaun Taylor-Steels, who would make his only recording with Anathema on their next album, "Alternative 4," before leaving to join Yorkshire doom outfit, My Dying Bride, leaving the drum stool free for John Douglas to return. Steels wasn’t the only member to leave the band, bassist and principal songwriter, Duncan Patterson also decided to quit and was replaced by Dreambreed bass player, Dave Pybus. Finally, the band added Martin Powell to their ranks, who had recently left My Dying Bride, as their live keyboardist.

With the song writing now chiefly done by guitarist Danny Cavanagh and new members in tow, the group got to work on their next album, the ultimately excellent, "Judgement," which was released in 1999 to glowing reviews and entered the British album charts at number 151. The album marked a complete departure from doom metal and ventured into much more progressive territory, earning them comparisons to the likes of Pink Floyd. It also contained the song, "One Last Goodbye," a tribute to Danny and Vincent’s mother, Helen, who had sadly passed away the year before. Powell soon took leave of the group to join extreme stars, Cradle of Filth, switching places with their keyboardist, Les Smith, who had previously done session work for Anathema on the "Eternity" album. With Smith now in tow, the band recorded their sixth album, "A Fine Day to Exit," which was released in 2001. However, shortly before the record hit the shelves, Pybus announced that he would be leaving the band, and also went on to join Cradle of Filth. He was replaced briefly George Roberts, before the band hired Jamie Cavanagh, twin brother of Vincent and the group’s original bass player as a permanent member. The family affair continued when Danny announced that he was leaving to join Antimatter, a band spearheaded by former bassist Duncan Patterson, only to rejoin Anathema soon after, in time to record their next album, "A Natural Disaster," which saw the band move into a more atmospheric tone.

In 2004, Music For Nations Records was forced to close it’s doors after being acquired by Sony BMG and the band found itself without a record label. They made the best of the situation and fully embraced the power of the internet, through which they released a number of singles and allowed fans to pay what they wanted for the music, which helped to keep them touring in Europe. They carried on like this for a few years before announcing in 2010 that they had signed to Kscope Records and would soon be releasing their first full length album in seven years. The album surfaced in May of that year under the title, "We’re Here Because We’re Here" and was very well received by critics and fans alike. They followed this release in 2011 with a new CD named, "Falling Deeper," which comprised of orchestral re-workings of previous songs, and featured Anneke van Giersbergen, formerly of The Gathering, on the song, "Everwake." A week after the release of the record, Les Smith announced that he was leaving the band due to creative differences. Most recently, the band released their eleventh studio album, "Weather Systems," which is perhaps their most commercially successful record to date, entering the German top twenty and scraping into the top fifty in the United Kingdom. It’s an exciting time to be an Anathema fan, with three high quality releases in as many years, which will no doubt become four in 2013 when they release a new live DVD recorded in Bulgaria with the Plovdid Symphony Orchestra.

Anathema - "We, The Gods"

Anathema - "The Sunset Age"

Anathema - "Cries On The Wind"

Anathema - "Re-Connect"

Anathema - "Deep"

Anathema - "Dreaming Light"

Anathema - "Untouchable (Part One)"

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com since 2007 and a metal fan since 2001, going as far as to travel to other countries and continents for metal gigs.

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10 Comments on "Sunday Old School: Anathema"

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KMADD's avatar


1. KMADD writes:

Serenades is crucial. As a matter of fact I need to find that on itunes one of the best melodic death doom albums of all times.

# Dec 2, 2012 @ 11:27 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Cynic's avatar

Senior Reviewer

2. Cynic writes:

Nice write up, it's amusing how incestuous the metal scene is. For me, "The Silent Enigma" is the pinnacle of Anathema. Songs like "A Dying Wish" or "Shroud Of Frost" are just doom brilliance.

# Dec 2, 2012 @ 2:24 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
3. Nurav writes:

This is my favorite band, thanks for this.
It should be An Iliad Of Woes, not wolves. :)

# Dec 2, 2012 @ 3:47 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
4. Nurav writes:

Also, no mention of the EP Pentecost III?
Personally, I feel "We, The Gods" has to be one of the most stellar songs written by Anathema ever.

# Dec 2, 2012 @ 3:51 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Diamond Oz's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

5. Diamond Oz writes:

My mistake, corrected it now and added, "We, The Gods" for you. Hope that other than those errors you enjoyed the article! Cheers Cynic!

# Dec 2, 2012 @ 4:01 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Cynic's avatar

Senior Reviewer

6. Cynic writes:

Awesome point Nurav! "We, The Gods" is incredible, the way it builds, so much emotion in the lyrics and vocals.

"You are slicing your own wrists
You are tearing out your own hearts
And you are drowning your own children"

# Dec 2, 2012 @ 5:13 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
7. the guy in the beavis and butthead episode where buttheads dreaming of doing a concert writes:

ya shroud of frost was the sh!t.

# Dec 2, 2012 @ 5:35 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
8. aylmer writes:

The first "official" release was an EP through Witchhunt records called "they die/Crestfallen" in 1991-92.
These songs were taken from "All Faith is Lost demo" in slightly different versions and lengths, and limited in 1000 copies.

# Dec 3, 2012 @ 1:57 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
americanpatriot1's avatar


9. americanpatriot1 writes:

Got into them with Eternity. Had seen them in Metal Maniacs a bunch before, but never got them. Alternative 4 is my favorite from them.

# Dec 3, 2012 @ 9:32 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
saxon83's avatar


10. saxon83 writes:

Excellent band!!!!!!!!!!Too many good albums to count, although their earlier stuff is my favorite. Silent Enigma and Eternity stand out and I think A Fine Day to Exit is amazing, also.

# Dec 8, 2012 @ 9:37 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address

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