Sunday, July 16, 2006

a leap of faith

anathema - 'eternity'

released: september 2, 1996
running time: 57'57"
peaceville records

songs: 1. sentient 2. angelica 3. the beloved 4. eternity part i 5. eternity part ii 6. hope 7. suicide veil 8. radiance 9. far away 10. eternity part iii 11. cries on the wind 12. ascension

Since the follow-up to 2004's 'A Natural Disaster' is being written as I write, and it won't be too long until its release, it seems appropriate to look back on the career of these Liverpudlians and analyze one of their most important records.

'Eternity' is not such a landmark strictly because of its absolute quality. In fact, purely taken for what it is, it's one of the weakest of the whole Anathema discography, even if that is a particular battlefield where the competition is as fierce as they come. The importance of 'Eternity' can be measured instead in what it meant for the development of the band's sound and for what it allowed them to do afterwards. Before it, Anathema were quite safely pegged within the My Dying Bride/Paradise Lost/Anathema British doom thing of the mid-90s. This is by no means a bad position to be in, but after the departure of original vocalist Darren White, which allowed Vincent Cavanagh to assume lead vocals, it could be sensed that they wanted to go further than that. 'The Silent Enigma' was still very much a doom record (and a brilliant one at that), but 'Eternity' is where it all changed.

If you are a Pink Floyd fan, you will immediately detect what was the main inspiration behind this record. Even if you're not, but have heard them at some point, it is still quite obvious. Anathema themselves made no secret of this, boldly covering 'Hope' halfway through the album, a cover which constitutes the centerpiece of 'Eternity' - the intensity seems to rise until then, only to drop proportionally after it. This Pink-Floyd-as-a-sort-of-metal-band approach caused a slight bit of concern to some fans at the time, because it could easily be interpreted as a) lack of fresh ideas and/or b) wanting to move away from the metal scene. You will agree that none of these are considered particularly promising. It's almost heresy to think of the former worry withing the current Anathema context, while the latter did happen, but with caution and not as drastically as one might have thought. Just listen to 'Pulled Under At 2000 Meters A Second' from 'A Natural Disaster'. With ten years and four subsequent records (all of the highest quality, one might add) of hindsight, 'Eternity' makes perfect sense.

Sure, Vinnie's vocals are quite forced at times, it's evident that he was still in an early development phase as a vocalist. Compare this with his stellar performance on 'A Natural Disaster' to have a full perception of how far the man has come. Also, apart from the inspiring instrumental closer, 'Ascension', most of those songs after 'Hope' are rather disposable. On the other hand, you've got beautiful displays of emotion such as 'Angelica' and the classy 'Eternity part II' which segues nicely into the cover. But above all, 'Eternity' is the sound of a band breaking free from any kind of musical shackles, free and clean to pursue their true inspiration afterwards, which, as history proved, they did. 'Comfortably Numb' still closes most of their live sets, but in the ten years between this record and now, they have blossomed into their own entity, one of the most creative and essential bands regardless of musical genres.

the good: a breakthrough that allowed anathema to become one of the most essential bands in the world, some truly beautiful songs
the bad: too close to pink floyd for comfort, inappropriate vocals at times, a few fillers

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