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With My Dying Bride doing remakes of their older material, it only makes sense that another death-doom pioneer would want to do the same at vaguely the same time. Though Anathema are largely under-appreciated when compared to their contemporaries at the time (Namely My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost), Anathema released some of the finest death-doom of their time with excellent releases such as A Silent Enigma and Pentecost III. Their earlier albums, where not quite as good as those, were definitely worth a listen to. Now in their atmospheric rock days, Anathema have decided to take these compositions into an orchestral context into a cooler and perhaps more pleasant shade. These old, crushing songs have turned into relaxing orchestral, cool and pleasant mini-ballads. Sounds nice, right? Anathema have already proven they're good at taking their old material and turning it into a new shade, with the excellent Hindsight. But Anathema totally ruin the potential of this from the offset.
Unlike Evinta by My Dying Bride, and even Hindsight, Anathema don't really re-write the songs in any meaningful way. They only steal their old melodies and repeat them over and over, rinse-repeat. Part of what made some of their doom metal songs so good is how they were structured, and that is totally and utterly gone in Falling Deeper. Take Kingdom for example, one of Anathema's finest tracks of that era, all they do is take the simplest riff of that song and play it on a piano to some soft ambience for 4 minutes, missing out on some of the best riffs and melodies of the original along with the lyrics and structure that made the song so gripping. The remake of J'ai Fait Une Promesse is just totally pointless, the song was already a near-orchestral song and all they did here was make it sound softer and nearly double the length of it. They do it again on another track, Alone. Where this one is better than J'ai Fait Une Promesse, it just doesn't add anything to the original track. The doom metal tracks should have been the songs focussed on but they were pretty much thrown onto the backburner in favour of interludes that didn't need to be made any softer.
They attempt expanding one or two tracks, Sunset of Age for example but placed right at the end of the album it's too little too late. If they added to these songs in meaningful ways like Hindsight this could have been great, the soft and cool orchestral arrangements coupled with the ringing e-bow like feedback and the soft vocal interplay really does sound pleasant but it ends there. It takes meaningful, massive songs and turns them into trite ear-pleasing near-ambient. It's just not good enough when this band are capable of so much more.
Fans of their doom metal past will probably want to avoid this, but those who are unfamiliar with their doom metal material might get some enjoyment out of this if you don't look for anything meaningful. They could have done so much with this concept but they just didn't, and it just makes me ask why the hell they even bothered.
Anathema first re-recorded unplugged versions of their existing music with the album 'Hindsight'. Contrary to my expectations, I not only loved that album, but it became one of my favourite albums from this former doom, now-atmospheric rock group. Like most of my most loved modern artists, this is a band that keeps doing brilliant new things, and the second 'unplugged' release from these Liverpudlians proves that they have nowhere near exhausted their passion for making some of the most emotive music in recent times. Instead of merely doing a sequel to 'Hindsight', 'Falling Deeper' does something rather different. Anathema's latest sees them mellow out their music like never before, now to the point of being rightfully called ambient music. Although the turbulence of these doom classics has been squeezed out of them, they are now more beautiful and touching than ever.
In place of guitars or drums, Anathema rely mostly on gentle piano, and a fully realized string section to bring these new renditions to life. 'Hindsight' certainly changed most of its songs up into something new, but they were always recognizable in relation to the core material. 'Falling Deeper' is such a radical departure from the death-doom metal style that most of the songs here bear only a slight resemblance to the originals, to the point where one could even call this album a set of fresh material that pays homage to their early work over anything else. To call 'Falling Deeper' 'unplugged' would be misleading, seeing as the arrangements here are generally more complex than the originals, which were mostly led on by one or two guitars. The strings and piano instantly create a template with which to create some beautiful music, and Anathema do not disappoint. Each track here is very moving in a cinematic sense, and there is even a running flow to the music that assures the listener that once they fall into the trance of the music, they won't be roused out of it by some out-of-place track break.
There are vocals here as well from the Cavanagh brothers, as well as well-known Dutch vocalit Anneke Van Giersbergen, who coincidentally ranks among my favourite female singers. As opposed to letting the vocals take run with melodies, they are instead used almost as if the voices were no more an instrument than the violins or piano. The highlight 'Kingdom' is perfectly indicative of this, with soothing vocals doing more for the texture of the music, rather than taking hold of the listener's attention. This is most definitely ambient music, and that can also mean it is not something that is necessarily going to mesh with every whim and occasion. This is romantic, beautiful, soothing music to put on while either relaxing and reflecting, and to that extent, I may not like the homogeneity of this release over something like 'Hindsight', or one of the brilliant full-lengths they have done recently. For what it lacks in dynamic or variety though, Anathema nails down the one angle they aim for here, and once again, I have fallen in love with the music this group makes.