"some music was meant to stay underground..."

70000 Tons of Metal - The World's Biggest Heavy Metal Cruise

Anathema - "Distant Sattelites" (CD)

Anathema - "Distant Sattelites" CD cover image

"Distant Sattelites" track listing:

1. The Lost Song - Part 1 (5:54)
2. The Lost Song - Part 2 (5:45)
3. Dusk (Dark Is Descending) (6:00)
4. Ariel (6:29)
5. The Lost Song - Part 3 (5:22)
6. Anathema (6:41)
7. You're Not Alone (3:27)
8. Firelight (2:43)
9. Distant Satellites (8:17)
10. Take Shelter (6:07)

Reviewed by on June 18, 2014

"While a very solid slab of laid back, non-metal music aimed at the metal crowd, the band's 12th full-length album doesn't manage to have quite the same emotional resonance as its critically-acclaimed predecessor."

How does a band follow-up a stellar album like “Weather Systems?” As one of the best releases of 2012 in any genre, Anathema set expectations very high for “Distant Satellites” - maybe even too high! While a very solid slab of laid back, non-metal music aimed at the metal crowd, the band's 12th full-length album doesn't manage to have quite the same emotional resonance as its critically-acclaimed predecessor.

As with the last couple of albums, Anathema generally sticks with a tried and true formula of long segments that eventually reaching a swelling crescendo coupled with smooth, drawn out vocals that really stretch the lyrics. The band knows exactly how to hit the right combination of sounds to pull at the heart strings of even the most die-hard extreme metal fan and make them think about life and death in a less brutal (but still potentially devastating) way.

Where “Distant Satellites” diverges is in the tone and specific expressions of the standard formula. These tracks are significantly more dream-like and laid back than the last album. While “Weather Systems” wasn't an extreme metal release by any stretch of the imagination, it did have a tense energy to it that also occasionally saw some heavier guitar work coming out. This time around, nearly all the tracks are toned down and less amped up, ending up more low-key with slower buildups.

Now that's not necessarily an outright bad thing, as it does create an interesting “floating through the emptiness of space” sort of feel, but it also means the album doesn't quite create the same excitement factor. “Firelight,” for instance, is essentially just three minutes of atmospheric synths – which is nice background music for relaxing – but in albums past that's the sort of thing that would have had a spiritual voiceover leading up to more exciting music.

On the other hand, “Distant Satellites” does also take some chances and try new things that haven't been heard from the band lately. The repeating vocals and electronic vibe of “You're Not Alone” are leagues away from the Anathema norm. There are several songs that bring in unexpected electronica elements as well – like the title track – that give off somewhat of a dance floor feel, although of course tempered by Anathema's usual gloominess.

If you loved “We're Here Because We're Here” or “Weather Systems,” then there is no doubt you'll enjoy “Distant Satellites.” The album is easily worth hearing for Anathema fans, even if it doesn't quite match the greatness of the amazing release that came before.

Highs: Anathema still knows how to provoke an emotional response and make listeners contemplate life and death.

Lows: It doesn't hit as hard as the previous album, taking a much more low-key and laid back approach.

Bottom line: Anathema keeps up its gloomy-yet-uplifting sound that deals with heavy issues in a toned down way.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)