A Brief Encouragement Toward Hope: Anathema’s video concert, UNIVERSAL (2013)
I’ve only been listening to Anathema since 2008. In the big scheme of things, I’m an Anathema newbie, and I never knew about them when they were a death-metal band. I’ve still not explored that side of the band, and I’m fairly sure I wouldn’t understand it or what they were trying to accomplish with their early albums.
I can state with certainty, however, that I believe that every thing they’ve recorded over the last 11 years is of the highest excellence and integrity. I will admit, I wasn’t as keen on Weather Systems as I was We’re Here Because We’re Here. To me, the 2011 album is an example of a perfect album, or as perfect as things can get in this world. When I hear Anathema, I think of Rush meeting Marillion, of Arvo Peart meeting U2 (Unforgettable Fire period). We’re Here Because We’re Here hit everything just perfectly, and it did so with intensity and purpose (two of my favorite words). I’m also not a fan, generally, of music videos for single songs, but the video for “Dreaming Light” hit me very hard. It captured mystery, tragedy, and innocence so . . . well, perfectly. My oldest daughter, Gretchen, and I watched it over and over when it came out. We made up stories about it, and it became a very important part of our relationship. We’re naturally very close, but this only made us closer. It gave us a way to talk about war, abuse, and other horrific issues that must be confronted. But, of course, the video also embraces hope. Perhaps hope pervades every aspect of the song, frankly.
Weather Systems (2012), as I judged it, succeeded just as well, and. in some ways, better, until Track No. 9. Then, it all fell apart for me, really changing the complexion of the entire work of art and, to some extent, of the band. I certainly have nothing against poetry or spoken word, but, from my perspective, “Internal Landscapes” just failed. I didn’t find the story compelling, and I thought the voice of the narrator (an American, I presume, or at least a North American) mediocre. Maybe I’m just close-minded, but this really affected me. I still played the album around the house and on our very long car trips, but I grimaced every time “Internal Landscapes” came on. When PROG called Weather Systems the best album of 2012, I was just stunned. Big Big Train had earned that one!
Last week, however, Gretchen started singing a song repeatedly, and I recognized that I recognized it, but I couldn’t quite place it. She didn’t have the lyrics correct, but had interpreted them as well as she possibly could have, given that I have the CD in my office, and she’s only heard the album intermittently. After about 10 tries with different groups, she explained again, “No, daddy, it’s a back and forth, a man and a woman, and they’re in love but they’re separated.” It hit me that it had to be Anathema. I put on Untouchable, Parts I and II, and she breathed a sigh of relief. Yes, that was definitely it.
I’d already heard the soundtrack of the UNIVERSAL concert, and I enjoyed it. Hoping to encourage Gretchen, I ordered the concert video. It arrived yesterday. Let me express my view of this concert in the most succinct way I can: Wow. Just wow. I love concert DVDs, and I have quite a few of them. This, however, has to rank up near the top. It has reaffirmed everything I loved about this band, but didn’t quite understand. I’m still not a fan of “Internal Landscapes,” but it doesn’t matter. This is reality. This is myth. This is beauty. This is intensity. This is integrity. This is glory. This is music.
Once again, everything is simply perfect. The aggressiveness, the playfulness, the seriousness, the artistry, the cinematography, the personality. Everything. In. Its. Right. Place.
Thank you. Just, thank you. And, my beautiful and wondrous daughter, Gretchen, thanks you as well.