They finally did it. They kept the melancholy of old but added stronger choruses and powerful riffing guitars. The singles that shined on the last one (Teargas, Tonight's Music) multiplied here to a dozen of hits, including the strong opener Ghost Of The Sun, the wicked Criminals, the downer Sleeper, exploding Complicity and the-one-with-the-greatest-hook of all, Evidence.
Not only did Viva Emptiness have the hooks. The dynamics of the songs were the best to date - this album didn't let you breathe without its embrace. The only thing wrong, in retrospective though, is that the guitar sounded a bit too digital, but this was landmark release for all doom/dark/alter metalheads out there.
This was also the first time I managed to see them on tour, on 11th april 2003 with Pera and Vanja in Budapest. The gig was mindblowing, and not only that - we met the guys as well. The story behind it was hilarious. Pera, Vanja and I were standing outside the venue and Pera accidentally met Les Smith, keyboard player of Anathema. They met two years earlier on Sziget fest when Pera interviewed Danny. Les Smith was Katatonia's tour manager for the tour. He recognized Pera and asked us to join them backstage later. The Katatonia guys turned out to be nice guys and the newborn friendship would culminate in a Belgrade show some years later.
That Budapest gig remained to be one of my favourite ones cause that was one of the rare chances to catch a band that was at the peak of their career - at least Viva was for the three of us.
I was lucky I had a friend in Athens/Piraeus at the time and she sent me this CD the same week it came out. I was shivering in awe when opened the package and saw the nice digipack with Anathema written on it.
This was a step further from A Fine Day To Exit. Danny had a tough time with the band at that time and wrote nearly all the material by himself, although the songs were beautiful as ever. Are You There? was this fragile ballad Danny sang in a style that resembled me of another artist from Liverpool I loved, Black and his ballad Sweetest Smile from 1987. Are You There? was kind of One Last Goodbye part two, since it was also dedicated to his and Vincent's mom who passed away around the time they were recording Judgement. Closer was the experimental track with vocoder and showed the band's newfound love for postrock and growing dynamics. Pulled Under At 2000 Meters Per Second was a strong one, resembling Empty and Panic, with some influences off Pink Floyd's Sheep as well.
The title track was Lee Douglas' centerfold where she shone with her bluesy infected voice. Electricity was this piano miniature written and sang by Danny, that resembled some Coldplay, while Flying showed Vincent's best performance yet and had Danny's brilliant solo peaking the song. Violence was the powerful instrumental that was closing the album and the ending minutes fading out reminded of Dreaming: The Romance off the debut Serenades, making Anathema's lifetime work full circle.
I managed to see the guys in Zagreb next year and that was the best gig of my life, ever. I also managed to interview Danny, although he didn't seem to remember much of it, something he confessed to me a couple of years later. Anyway, A Natural Disaster remained one of the best Anathema albums so far and left me and all the fans worldwide waiting for new works and new progressions. Ee didn't know at the time it would last a bit more than just a couple of years...
Wow. Not only the Pink Floyd influences could be heard on this one, but some Santana ones as well. Opeth made one hundred per cent acoustic record I was craving for since my first listen of To Bid You Farewell four years earlier.
Windowpane, In My Time Of Need, Hope Leaves and To Rid The Disease were the highlights and the Steven Wilson's will to experiment a bit with the effects and various delays really helped the record shine even more. Deliverance was this modern metal record and, on the other hand, Damnation smelled all the way of the 70's vibe. Mikael not only showed outstanding guitar playing on this one, he was also singing his heart out on each of eight tracks. Damnation was a brilliant record at the right time for an excellent band that seemed flawless.
Wow. With every Gathering album I was always like, this song was definitely their best yet and they managed to do it again with Even The Spirits Are Afraid. That song gets me shivers every fucking time I put it on.
Souvenirs was a nice companion to A Natural Disaster and Damnation. It was a chilled record but not in so modern/urban way as if_then_else was. It was relaxed in The Gathering's own way of doing things, not rushing anything up, and that was finally fully possible by them following Ulver's example of leaving Century Media and doing records for their own label. Ulver's Garm even did a guest appearance on the ending track A Life All Mine. that track not only married the best of Ulver and Gathering (Garm & Anneke) but also put together the vibe that both bands were chasing, both in their own unique ways. Rhodes and drum loops of Ulver married the live band and the organic presence of The Gathering and it remained one of both bands' finest achievements.
Monsters was this rocky track I never preferred, but it was okay listen. On the other hand, the title track was awesome and the new version of Broken Glass was great too. Jelena was one of the heavier tracks in a moody way, bringing in some Portishead downer portions to the table. All in all, Souvenirs was very mature record and maybe their finest hour in that darker, more serious sense.
Fucking hell. I knew that these guys were insane but I could never imagine they would do a three hour farewell show, a live set in their hometown Kristiansand, in a hotel lobby, playing all the songs they ever recorded, with all the people that were involved in creating them, and then releasing all of it on a double CD.
Where to even begin with this one? They played two sets, twenty songs in total (there were a bit more but couldn't fit on two discs, they put the rest of the songs for download for some time on their old site). The best pieces off Heart Of The Ages were played, the Omnio in its entirety, the singles off the Pilgrimage compilation and some powerful Strange In Stereo moments were included too. This was a farewell concert any fan of any band could ever imagine. The dedication to all their moms after playing Omnio only showed how human they were after all, and maybe therein lays the perfection of this band. Too bad the DVD documento of this gig never saw the light of a day. Only a short clip of I Am Your Flesh was available on Youtube and that was it. Closing In was the final track on the gig (minus the encore) and it was the most outstanding one, on the whole package, with all of the Woods' members joining on stage.
The legacy of this band was so huge I made them a Myspace page and a Facebook page as well couple of years later, with approvals and nods from both Jan Transit and A. Kobro. Kobro announced recently that both In The Woods and Green Carnation might do some more things in the future and I'd be the first in line chewing my own balls to hear it.
Maudlin Of The Well were no more and Kayo Dot was this new band. And they really pushed the avantgarde tag further on and John Zorn noticed it too, since he signed them to his own label.
Marathon was this grand opener that married jazzy chords with thinking man's metal in a sophisticated prog way. Nothing seemed forced and the atmosphere was pure reflection of devastated mind going through cathartic bliss. The calm after the storm was emphasized on A Pitcher Of Summer, a track that mostly resembled quieter moments of Maudlin's Bath, while The Manifold Curiosity was the centerpiece that showed ebbs and tides all the way to a schizophrenic ending with kinda black and death metallish edge. The closing Antique was my favorite with weird chords and tunings of prog scented doomy rust, that led to a Sigur Ros driven piano piece that shimmered through lots of eternities visited by some trumpet ghosts.
Choirs Of The Eye remained my favorite Kayo record ever. It was perfect for the time it was released and the band really showed both balls and maturity by making such a jewel of a record.
I definitely started getting myself interested in ambient techno and minimal after listening to some Aphex Twin and Autechre, but I really shat myself when discovered Plastikman and Closer.
This was the darkest acid techno ever. And it was so easy to sink into it; licking an acid blotter seemed so easy as licking a strawberry ice cream. I spent many hours, by myself or with some absent friends, investigating my own inner darkness and the infinite depths of mind while having sir Richie creating backdrops from behind. The subconscious groove it had was just too irresistible. The whole album was both a trip and a journey, depending on which you preferred. The most wonderful details of this record happened only once or twice per song and those tiny details were emphasized with the blotters flowing through the organism, with all the vents wide open. Even though all of the tracks off Closer were dark, intimate and minimal, the best results were given through the ending I No and I Don't Know. This was and still is one of the most important electronic records (the heavenly liquid synth pads were the best ever), so the braver ones among you should reveal its shining kingdoms as well.
8. A Perfect Circle - Thirteenth Step (Virgin)
Wow. I was so blown away after seeing Massive on Sziget festival in Budapest in the Summer of 2003 I became a fan instantly. 100th Window was a dark cousin of critically acclaimed Mezzanine, yet the criticism accused 100th Window of playing safe cards and not experimenting and progressing further on.
The truth is that the majority of tracks on Window seemed like Mezzanine leftovers, but I liked them whatsoever. Sinead O'Connor made a guest appearance on three tracks on the album, one of them being Special Cases, a really good track. A Prayer For England was also very dark track, yet perhaps too locally oriented lyric-wise. The highlights for me were Antistar and the opener Future Proof. The groove and the cryptic voice of Del Naja were Massive trademarks for me and the thing I remembered mostly from that Sziget show. Not that 100th Window was the best that Massive could, but it was good enough for a newborn fan such as I was at the time the album was released.
Wow. What a fucking mindmelter this record was. The kings of prog returned and destroyed everything with this one. Not only they showed they were capable of pushing the boundaries of prog music even further, but made the record that sounded like it was made in 2113 and not in 2003.
Intertwined guitarwork of Belew and Fripp in Level Five were giving pleasant headaches to all the guitar players in the world. At the other hand, Eyes Wide Open was this pop influenced prog ballad that made syncopated caresses to everybone who wanted to open their minds a bit wider. Fripp's soundscapes were more beautiful than ever, showing that the difference between a synth and a guitar was never smaller in the terms of ambience and the atmosphere. Happy With What You Have To Be Happy With was another acoustic piece that together with what might be the most important part of the album, Dangerous Curves, revealed the miracles of life and proved that LSD influenced thinkings weren't just some hippie bullshit fun drug - acid improved the brain, the mind, the body and the motion of emotion needed for understanding human place on earth and universe.
Simply put, The Power To Believe was not just a Holy Bible for any prog fan, it was also a must have for all the music lovers as well.
I loved this when it came out. It was the most accessible Neurosis record yet and also one of the drinkable ones concerning anything Swans related. Heavy as fuck, the word uncomfortable was the right one when describing the overall atmosphere that was crawling under you skin. Charmingly uncomfortable, that was.
The meditations were black with this one but the cathartic effect it had was a biggie too. Within was a great opener that was growing with the flow so much, the drum hits felt almost unbearable to take at the ending of the song. More reflective songs such as His Last Words were calmer but still giving creeps and chills every now and then.
This album was so perfect and stood out in everything not just Neurosis and Swans/Jarboe related but heavy music genres related too. It was impossible not to have opinion on this one. This album could smother you but also free your spirit, depending on the current mood. Definitely not for the overly sensitive souls among you.
12. Mogwai - Happy Songs For Happy People (Matador)
This was labeled postrock but the guys were already moving away from the tag with this one. Like Souvenirs for The Gathering, Happy Songs was a calmer for Mogwai.
The opener Hunted By A Freak was the most beautiful track by the band, introducing vocoder and some gentle guitar innertwinings (sounds like some tea). The dynamics of the previous records weren't so obvious on this one but the importance of the music and the joy of making new chords were. Lots of the fans have mistaken modesty and non-aggression of the sound for the band wimping out but that was simply not true. The Scots have obviously got tired of zillion decibels of distortions and investigated brighter sides of town. Not all the songs worked perfectly, but the majority of them did and Mogwai got one more fan in Belgrade in 2003.