Anathema to premiere onstage in Bogotá, Colombia

Alex de Borba

Alex de Borba

Liverpool-based, British extraordinary and progressive act Anathema will be debuting in Colombia this year, promising to delight their audience with a mesmerizing live performance filled with melancholic and melodramatic thoughtful moments cupped with an unique progressive doom-ish ambience worth of enchantment.

For followers of the band since their inception into the music industry in 1990 under the name of Pagan Angel, a name which they bared while releasing the debut demo tape ‘An Iliad of Woes’ in November of the same year that with haste captured the attention of record labels and the specialised press media. They also began to appear in the vast majority of underground fanzines that during the 1990’s were ferverously circulating throughout the scene, and pen pals that used to do tape trading back in the glorious days when the world “underground” stood for “unity,” and true “support” for a scene that was somehow, outcast by major medias and often, decriminalised by society.

At the beginning of 1991, and after the act obtained a continuous spawn of worthy attention with the release of their second demo tape, ‘All Faith Is Lost,’ which consequently lead them to sign a record contract for the release of four forthcoming studio albums with iconic British Peaceville Records, they wisely decided to change their name to Anathema.

On April 5th, 1992 they released the superb ‘The Crestfallen’ EP, which was re-released as double CD in 1995 alongside ‘Serenades,’ a release that still echoes through the mind of most devotees of the early doom death metal era of Anathema. Again, in 2001, the very same studio album would be re-issued together with ‘Pentecost III,’ which until now, remains as one of the foremost important albums of their magnificent, and transmuting career.

‘Serenades’ — released on April 5th, 1992 — was in fact, the only studio album released by Anathema that features the enchanting, sorrowful vocals layered by Darren White, which was since then, replaced by then guitarist Vincent Cavanagh who remains now as the lead vocalist. Darren White however, after his abrupt departure from Anathema, still continued with the musical scene and in the summer of 1995, together with Cradle of Filth musicians such as Paul Allender (lead guitarist for Cradle of Filth), brothers Paul Ryan (currently working at The Agency as a booking agent, representing musical acts such as brutalizers Cannibal Corpse, and all-Americans Lamb of God) and Benjamin Ryan (presently a freelancing keyboard player and multi instrumentalist from Sudbury, in Suffolk, United Kingdom) formed The Blood Divine, a doom oriented gothic metal band that also included at a later stage, drummer William A. ‘W.A.S.’ Sarginson and bassist Steve Maloney and were subsequently quickly signed by Peaceville Records.

Frankly speaking, I only had the unique opportunity to listen to their 1996 debut album entitled ‘Awaken,’ and The Blood Divine still echoes in my mind as an unique masterpiece with hints of old Anathema, the gothic aura of mid-paced Cradle of Filth, deeply sorrowful vocals bringing life to emotional poetic lyricism and an overall, wonderful digipack presentation, somehow similar to a digibook, which if we consider the year it was released puts ‘Awaken’ into one of the most progressive releases considering both musical approach and illustrations.

Noteworthy is the fact that ‘Serenades’ brought plenty of mainstream media attention to Anathema, propelling their ‘Sweet Tears’ music video to Vanessa Warwick’s MTV Headbangers Ball, and in 1994 sees Anathema embarking on their first European tour, closely followed by an unique performance at the Independent Rock Festival in Brazil. Anathema also debuted live with Vincent Cavanagh while touring with countrymen, Cathedral, in the United Kingdom. Shortly after this venture, Anathema released one of their most acclaimed studio records on October 23rd, 1995, the infamous ‘The Silent Enigma,’ which represented a turning point in their musical career. ‘The Silent Enigma’ sees Vincent Cavanagh incorporating into Anathema’s sonority, clean singing and far melodic rhythmic sections while still retaining the doom-ish, death metal vibe from the earlier days. ‘The Silent Enigma’ was initially to be entitled ‘Rise Pantheon Dreams’, but the title was never used until Darren White’s post-Anathema musical project. The Blood Divine used it as the title to their second studio album, released on 2002, which featured songs from both the act’s albums ‘Mystica’ and ‘Awaken,’ plus some previously unreleased material.

On the summer of 1997, Anathema saw the departure of drum player John Douglas, who was then replaced by Shaun Steels (formerly of Solstice, presently playing with British doomsters My Dying Bride). In 1996, ‘Eternity’ — the third Anathema studio record released on November 11th by Peaceville Records — an album that deeply marketed the musical shift in Anathema’s sonority, distanciating them from the doom metal roots toward a gothic metal aura. ‘Eternity’ features a version of Roy Harper’s song, ‘Hope.’

‘Eternity’ sovereigned with its magistral yet atmospheric ambiences, a starting point to their natural transition to clean singing, acoustic moments that later saw its continuation with the ‘Judgement,’ therefore consolidating their unique musical approach.

‘Alternative 4’ — the fourth studio record was released on June 22th, 1998, through Peaceville Records — it followed the musical concept settled on their ‘Eternity’ album, and just like ‘Eternity,’ ‘Alternative 4’ relied much on clean singing, often melancholic and emotional, supported by strong, poetic lyricism resounded over the walls of necromanticism, ‘Alternative 4’ was classified as an experiment, with a title derived from Leslie Watkins’ exceptional book entitled ‘Alternative 3,’ that bass player and Anathema’s co-principal songwriter Duncan Patterson had read the book numerous times prior to composing and writing the album. ‘Alternative 3’ is a book about conspiracy theories, and most songs layered on ‘Alternative 4’ are connected to trust issues. Duncan Patterson departed from Anathema shortly after the release of ‘Alternative 4,’ and formed a new musical project under the same title of the album, inspired by the book and dealing mostly with the same topics at hand, he felt that Anathema had many musical differences that conflicted with his musical growth. He was replaced by Dave Pybus of Dreambreed, an act in which Duncan Patterson himself had played bass for a short period of time. No longer after this, notorious Martin Powell (who had played keyboards and violin for countrymen My Dying Bride) joined Anathema for live performances. In a twist of events, former drummer John Douglas returned to Anathema, replacing Shaun Steels.

In June 25th, 1999, Anathema released their fifth studio record titled ‘Judgement,’ this time by the British independent record label, Music for Nations. On ‘Judgement,’ Danny Cavanagh takes into his care the majority of the act’s songwriting, in order to bring equilibrium to the void left by Duncan Patterson upon his departure. ‘Judgment’ is also the very first record featuring original drummer, John Douglas.

Throughout their career, Anathema’s lyricism kept its essence untouched. The well-recognisable feelings of despair and emotional depression, the overwhelming heavy sense of desperation that always characterised their music remained always present, if not, more polished and pierced now into their melodies and melancholic overtones.

Their sixth studio record, the ‘A Fine Day to Exit’ album, was released on October 9th, 2001, and the particularity with this album is that John Douglas was credited as a writer for around half the songs. It was also the last album to feature bass player Dave Pybus, and keyboard player Les Smith. During the following years, musicians left and re-entered the ranks of Anathema and in November 3rd, 2003, the seventh album of Anathema was released, titled ‘A Natural Disaster.’ It is the first album to feature the band’s original bassist Jamie Cavanagh, brother of band members Vincent Cavanagh and Daniel Cavanagh, who left Anathema prior to any release in 1991 and returned in 2001. It is also Daniel Cavanagh’s first album since his departure in 2002 (after the release of the previous album ‘A Fine Day to Exit’). Indeed, ‘A Natural Disaster’ brought a more solid Anathema sonority, now more atmospheric and entwined toward the progressive.

As a twist of fate, Music for Nations was acquired by Sony BMG who shortly after decided to close the record label, leaving Anathema abandoned without a record contract despite having completed an extensive tour through the United Kingdom with the popular Finnish act, HIM in April 2006. While seeking for a new record label and evaluating proposals, Anathema dedicated themselves to promote their music throughout their official website as well as social networks, showing extreme dedication toward their music while releasing it online, and even receiving donations from their followers with a humble attitude.

On March 20th, 2010, Anathema suddenly and unexpectedly announced the release of their ‘A Natural Disaster’ successor, title ‘We’re Here Because We’re Here’ which was released on May 31st, 2010 through their new record label, Kscope Music, which is an independent record label part of Snapper Music, and a sister-label of Peaceville Records.

On 6 July 2011, it was announced on the Anathema’s official page that their album of re-interpretations, ‘Falling Deeper,’ would be released on September 5th, 2011. The album was a follow-up to ‘Hindsight’ and contained new orchestral versions of songs from the past, as well as a version of ‘Everwake’ featuring the vocals of Anna Maria van Giersbergen. On September 12nd, 2011, Les Smith’s departure due to creative and musical differences was announced on their website, and on 16 April 16th, 2012, Anathema’s ninth studio album, ‘Weather Systems,’ was released via Kscope Music. The album entered the United Kingdom album charts at No. 50 and the German album charts at No. 19.

Anathema’s live album, titled ‘Universal,’ was released as a double vinyl album on June 24th, 2013. The album is a recording of a special one-off concert at the ancient Roman theatre of Philippopolis, Bulgaria in 2012, where the act were joined by the Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra. The setlist was released on Blu-ray, DVD and CD under the name ‘Universal,’ with an alternate track order, on September 17th, 2013.

On March 28th, 2014, Anathema announced their upcoming studio album would be called ‘Distant Satellites.‘ The album came out on June 9th, 2014 via Kscope Music, and was produced by Christer-André Cederberg in Oslo, Norway. Various songs were mixed by Steven Wilson (of Porcupine Tree). Different from previous albums is the use of more electronica on this album. The album was released in four different versions: CD, vinyl, Media Book, and a Deluxe version. Anathema promoted the album by commencing a tour that began on May 22nd, 2014 in Istanbul, Turkey, continuing throughout Europe and travelling to Australia for the first time to perform three dates throughout August 2014.

Following the success of their short Australian tour, an acoustic tour was announced for New Zealand and Australia in 2015. Daniel Cavanagh, Vincent Cavanagh and Lee Douglas performed these shows without the other musicians. On October 30th, 2015, they released an acoustic live album and video entitled ‘A Sort of Homecoming,’ consisting of a concert recording in their hometown of Liverpool at the Cathedral.

Most recently, Anathema released a stream of a brand new song entitled ‘Springfield,’ which serves as a preview to their upcoming new studio record, ‘The Optimist,’ due for release through Kscope Music on June 9th, 2017, and announced dates for their Latin America Tour, which includes a passing through the Teatro El Dorado ECCI on August 7th, 2017, making this the very first time that the British Anathema plays live on Colombian soil.

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