Anathema’s Latest Masterpiece: A Sort of Homecoming (Live, 2015, in Liverpool)

Anathema, A SORT OF HOMECOMING (KScope, 2015).  Blu-ray, DVD, and 2 CD book edition.  Recorded live at Liverpool Theater, March 7, 2015.  Film by Lasse Hoile.

Songs: The Lost Song, Part 2; Untouchable Parts 1 and 2; Thin Air; Dreaming Light; Anathema; Ariel; Electricity; Temporary Peace; The Beginning and the End; Distant Satellites; Take Shelter; Internal Landscapes; A Natural Disaster; and Fragile Dreams.

Anathema's latest live release, A SORT OF HOMECOMING. Nothing to do with U2, as far as I know.
Anathema’s latest live release, A SORT OF HOMECOMING. Nothing to do with U2, as far as I know.

I don’t think I could explain why, but I find myself always getting emotional when I think of Anathema.  Let me clarify.  I don’t weep or anything like that.  But, I find myself increasingly impossible to separate myself from the music of the band.  It grabs me—for better and for worse—at the deepest levels.  This said, I think UNIVERSAL is quite possibly the greatest concert film I’ve ever seen. And, I’ve seen quite a few.  And, I’ve seen quite a few brilliant ones.  So, this is not feint praise.  By no means.  UNIVERSAL never grows old.  The setting, the lighting, the intensity—all of it reaches towards the absolute heights of beauty, goodness, and truth.  The band just radiates integrity.

Equally important—at least to me—I was sorely disappointed with DISTANT SATELLITES (Kscope, 2014).  After the immense progress (nn the best sense of the word) from WE’RE HERE BECAUSE WE’RE HERE (2011) to FALLING DEEPER (2011) to WEATHER SYSTEMS (2012) it pretty much seemed like Anathema were incapable of creating anything but perfection.  Admittedly, the final song of WEATHER SYSTEMS, “Internal Landscapes,” seemed problematic as neither the story nor the spoken word format seemed to work well.  But, it was an experiment, I thought, and I’d rather my bands innovate than not.  Additionally, and more importantly, the rest of the album was just so amazing that one could easily forgive the band for one poor track on the album.

And, then came UNIVERSAL (2013), the closest thing to perfection ever reached by a live recording.

It is more than possible that I simply expected too much for their followup, but when I first listened to DISTANT SATELLITES, I was sorely disappointed.  Whereas the previous three albums had so beautifully built upon one another, DISTANT SATELLITES seemed empty, void, and absent of any real ideas.  It was like tasting a bottle of wine that had gone sour.  At best, DISTANT SATELLITES is a reworked, lite, Muzak version of the previous three albums with a lot of Radiohead influences thrown in.  The only stand out track of the album—and it is exceptional—is “Ariel.”  Looking back at the comments I received at the time I wrote a scathing review of the album and seeing that folks I admire deeply—such as Jerry Ewing—love the album, I’m obviously in a minority.

So, what about A SORT OF HOMECOMING?  Well, there’s certainly a lot to write about it.  The sound quality, not surprisingly, is excellent and full.  The video—brilliant.  Again, not unexpected.  It’s pretty near impossible to imagine Lasse Hoile doing anything less than perfect.  The packaging?  Again, perfect.  It’s Kscope.  The best part, however, is that the songs from DISTANT SATELLITES sound so much better live than they do on the original studio album.  I find myself completely taken with this album, and Anathema seems to be—at least from my perspective, for what it’s worth—back on the right track.

Amen, amen.

Admittedly, I don’t think this offering is as strong as UNIVERSAL.  But, after praising of it above as the greatest live release ever, how could a new album top it?  The only thing missing on A SORT OF HOMECOMING is Daniel Cardoso, the keyboardist who offered so much on UNIVERSAL.  The band should make him permanent.  He’s not only an amazing keyboardist, but an equally astounding presence.

And, I must state what is probably obvious: Lee Douglas, one of the two lead singers, is one of the finest singers in all of rock.  She sings already as a citizen of the heavenly realm.

Run, do not walk, to get this latest release from Anathema.  And, a huge congratulations to them for continuing to pursue such excellence.

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