The album that went under everyone’s radar

(And shouldn’t have)

2010 has been a pretty good year for music so far. A lot of albums have dropped from all kinds of bands — I’ve been personally pleased as a few of my favorite electronic and metal bands have released some great albums. Soilwork, Kamelot, Blind Guardian, Pendulum — I’m sure I’m forgetting a few in there.

However there was one album that came out this year that I haven’t seen much mention of anywhere — no metal blogs, no alternative blogs — it seemed to be ignored despite being something fans had been waiting years for. Perhaps there was just no place for them?

I speak of Anathema and their (relatively) new album, We’re Here Because We’re Here.

For those of you unfamiliar with Anathema, they started as a very dark “doom metal” band in the vein of older Katatonia or My Dying Bride. They were, at a time, “heavy” all the while having this incredible feeling of great melancholy-ish poetry. Over the years they changed dramatically as now they have more in common with atmospheric rock than anything else (think something like Katatonia, but softer). In many ways, the “heavy” parts of the music were replaced with depressing, airy sorts of chords and vocals — yet the feel of the band remained the same. So even though their sound changed dramatically, their fans still are pretty loyal.

Over the years their sound has progressed in this atmospheric vein, each album touching on different soft notes with the “meat” staying the same — powerful yet subdued vocals with careful lyrics and an emphasis on simple instrumentation. You’re not going to find exciting solos or bombastic drumming here. The focus is on the emotions portrayed by the songs themselves and really, nothing else.

We’re Here Because We’re Here is all of that, except while most Anathema up to this point has been bleak and depressing, We’re Here sort of looks at us with a slight smile, almost-bright eyes and a sense of hope that is quite infectious. This isn’t music celebrating life though, it is music celebrating rebirth. After years and years of effortless depression, this is a band acknowledging that hope exists and that it is important.

Now, this certainly doesn’t mean that every song is cheerful. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The beauty here is that the hope isn’t conveyed through a bright future, it is conveyed by simply saying “Hey -this- exists.” Wrapping all of these subtle hints within the music makes for a very good piece of audible art.

Then, a little more than halfway through the album, the message is suddenly given in plain sight: “Life is not the opposite of death. Death is the opposite of birth. Life is eternal.”

Previous Anathema albums tugged right behind your eyes because they brought you down into a place you didn’t want to be. This one still causes the same reaction, but for entire different reasons. It’s clarity, which might be the definition of hope.

The central message of this whole album is that if we realize that hope within ourselves we receive a sort of inner peace that is infectious. I can only wonder what inspired such messages in the first place considering the band’s older subject matter.

It would be really easy to simply go down all of the songs (much like I did the last album I reviewed) but I don’t feel that is appropriate here. The central message is in the whole package, and while it can be listened to on a song-by-song basis in order to really understand it you must listen to it all the way through. It isn’t a concept album, exactly, but the messages just line up too perfectly for it to be unintentional.

It is saddening to me that Anathema hasn’t received much attention for this album as it is one of their best, without a doubt — and quite frankly, it is one of the best releases this year. Regardless of the type of music you enjoy, you should consider picking this one up, especially if you need a little boost.

“Despair is for people who know, beyond any doubt, what the future is going to bring. Nobody is in that position. So despair is not only a kind of sin, theologically, but also a simple mistake, because nobody actually knows. In that sense there always is hope.”

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