Anathema – Internal Landscapes – Album Review

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Artist: Anathema

Album Title: Internal Landscapes

Label: Kscope

Date of Release: 26 October 2018

I don’t normally review compilation albums because I tend to prefer spending my time listening to new, original material rather than giving my thoughts on music that is already well-known and well-established. However, on this occasion, I am willing to make an exception. That’s because the record in question relates to one of my all-time favourite bands, Anathema. And, quite frankly, I’ll take any excuse to listen to their music.

‘Internal Landscapes’ does not cover the Liverpudlian band’s entire career; rather it takes a look back over the past ten years, from 2008 to 2018, to explore the material released in partnership with the Kscope label. Many will argue that this has been the most impressive era within Anathema’s career and on the evidence of the thirteen tracks chosen here, you’d be a brave person to argue against this assertion. I have loved Anathema throughout their career, from their more extreme and dark metal beginnings, right through to the modern, atmospheric, emotional and progressive rock band that they have gradually morphed into.

However, it is within this Kscope era that Anathema have released their greatest single album, with others pushing it very close indeed. I am, of course, referring to the exquisite ‘Weather Systems’, a genuinely perfect album that remains a constant musical companion to me with the ability to move me whatever mood I am in when I press play.

Follow-up ‘Distant Satellites’ is also near-perfect, whilst the most recent release, ‘The Optimist’ also saw the band in great form if, with the benefit of a little time and some greater perspective, it doesn’t quite hit the heights of its two predecessors for my tastes. Nevertheless, it still wipes the floor with most other rock bands out there. And that, in itself, demonstrates just how good Anathema have become in recent years.

anathema

So what do we get with ‘Internal Landscapes’, an album named, coincidentally, after my favourite Anathema track of all-time? Well, you get three cuts from the aforementioned ‘Weather Systems’ including a finale of the title track, three from 2014’s ‘Distant Satellites’, two from 2010’s delightful ‘We’re Here Because We’re Here’ and three from ‘The Optimist’. Then there’s the acoustic reworking of ‘Are You There?’ from 2008’s ‘Hindsight’ which originally featured on 2003’s ‘A Natural Disaster’ as well as the marvellous orchestral rendition of ‘J’ai Fait Une Promesse’ from ‘Falling Deeper’, released in 2011.

Some may question the need for a release like this in the modern music world. But, importantly, what this retrospective does, is it gives us a chance to revisit some of the most poignant and emotionally powerful compositions that have ever been penned, by anyone. People laugh at me when I say that in my opinion, Anathema are the greatest band to ever emerge from Liverpool, but when I listen to these songs, I truly mean it. Very few artists touch me on such a personal level as Anathema, meaning that they will forever have a special place in my heart.

Take ‘Internal Landscapes’ as the prime example. Not only is the song itself exquisitely passionate and beautiful, as I wrote back in 2012, “It begins with the voice of an man recalling his personal ‘near death’ experience and, as the story nears the end, he is joined by an acoustic guitar. At that point, I nearly always well up. Those of you who know me and know my own story will understand why. Suffice it to say though that the words and sentiment within the song have an added resonance when you’ve been the one sitting by the bedside, watching helplessly as a loved one slips away. Only, in my case, that loved one never came back.”

How many bands can you name that have such an incredible ability to reach inside their listeners and tug purposefully and knowingly on their heartstrings?

But everywhere you look on this album, there are snippets of musical and compositional genius, evidence of a group of musicians at their very peak of creativity, able to produce sheer magic. From the gradually-building ‘Anathema’ that eventually erupts with a achingly poignant lead guitar solo that represents the thunderous bursting of an emotional dam, to the strikingly different and electronics-heavy ‘Leaving It Behind’.

Then there’s the powerhouse one-two of ‘Untouchable, Part 1’ and ‘Part 2’, which tests my emotional strength every time I listen, especially the delicate, fragile and heart-breaking ‘Part 2’ which sees Lee Douglas deliver some of her best vocals to date.

I often overlook ‘We’re Here Because We’re Here’ because it sits chronologically-speaking in the shadow of ‘Weather Systems’. But when the gorgeous sounds of ‘Dreaming Light’ caress my ears, I am reminded in the best possible way just how utterly amazing this record truly is. In fact, hearing this and ‘Thin Air’ again led me to revisit the album in full. I now class it as arguably my second-favourite studio release, alongside ‘Distant Satellites’ and ‘Eternity’ from their earlier days.

Add to this some interesting and completely honest liner notes from Daniel Cavanagh as well as artwork from Travis Smith and you have a release that demands a place in your collection regardless of whether you already have all these songs on your shelf elsewhere. Anathema prove once again that they really are one of the most important and special bands on the planet right now. For the impact that Anathema have had on my life and the sheer strength their music has given me in good times and bad, what other score could I possibly give this release?

The Score of Much Metal: 10

If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from 2018 and from previous years right here:

2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

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2 Thoughts

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