I feel duty-bound to offer an up-front disclaimer about this review of Anathema’s latest release, Distant Satellites: The album doesn’t seem to have much business being reviewed on a metal website next to the likes of some of the other bands you can read about here. From what I knew of the band prior to writing this, I’m not sure that most of Anathema’s catalog would be able to claim otherwise.
That being said, Distant Satellites is by no means unlistenable, despite the fact that it’s pretty much devoid of anything you could characterize as metal. Atmospheric and expansive, new-age like vocals are the name of the game with this band. It is very much the kind of music you’d listen to if you are depressed about breaking up with a significant other. The band would be in fine company touring with a group like Celtic Woman, as much as with Porcupine Tree or Anubis Gate.
Though they’ve been dubbed “progressive” by some, I haven’t heard any material from them that I’d necessarily ascribe that term to. Overall, Distant Satellites is an emotionally evocative, if not somewhat overtly mellow piece of work. Those who are familiar with 2012’s Weather Systems will find this new album a bit stripped back in some ways. The guitars are gone on most of it (with a few exceptions) and none of what is present is really anything more than a melodic loop used to support the vocal elements. Piano is absolutely the main melodic instrument on the album, often to very nice effect. The male and female vocal contributions are also up to par with what I’ve heard of Anathema’s past work.
The downside to this album for me is that it tends to fall into being what I’d refer to as background music. As I said, it isn’t bad, but there’s also not really anything overly impressive about any of it. The vocals and lyrics are good, but they don’t reflect the kind of ridiculously engaging talent that keeps my attention throughout the album by their own virtue. The music, while effective in conveying emotional depth, seems to be fairly utilitarian. It’s good to have the music work for the song, but when nothing sticks out at all, you’re in danger of making everything a bit flat overall. The songs all have their own individual charm to them, but there are really no “Oh, I love this part” moments.
So my verdict with Distant Satellites is that I don’t think I would choose it over some of this band’s previous work, and I highly doubt most of the people who frequent this site will be all that interested in it. However, it is a decent choice to go along with a collection of mellow, sad sounding music if you are so inclined. It isn’t without it’s redeeming qualities, but I think Anathema could probably some up with something a little more exciting if they tried .
Distant Satellites is out now on Kscope.
Rating: 2.5/5 Stars