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If I'd make a guess list of my most played albums through my lifetime, "Judgement" would be one of my top guesses. For about ten years this album has been a constant in my playlist, and still feels fairly fresh. Compared to "Alternative 4", its predecessor, "Judgement" represents a wider spectrum of feeling. Where "Alternative 4" was a ride through pure depression both lyrically and musically, this album represents a big change in sound and a slight change in lyricism in the band's future direction.
Opening track "Deep" is a good representation of the overall feeling. Detailed, textured layers of clean and semi distorted guitars portray a deep feeling of despair presented in a fine tuned progressive rock environment. One of the great things about "Judgement" is how the tracks seem to flow together flawlessly. During the first three songs the mood shifts from ethereal, almost willingly indulgent despair ("Deep") through angst filled sadness ("Pitiless") and finally into the alcoholic, defeated atmosphere of "Forgotten Hopes".
Despite the major changes, the individual songs flow like running water. Anathema make good use of interludes as well. "Destiny Is Dead" and "Parisienne Moonlight" serve as less intense pauses between the rather bombastic songs. I'm not a big fan of instrumentals or interludes, but on "Judgement" they are used in a perfect context.
Aesthetically, this album is much cleaner than earlier Anathema, both in terms of vocals and instruments. Vocally, all traces of screams and raw sound has been removed for a pure clean vocal approach. This is not a bad thing since "Judgement" features excellent vocals in terms of both technical performance and feeling. The gloomy, progressive song structures have also been trashed in favor of songs mostly based within a verse/chorus format with some slight variations. Once again not a bad thing, because Anathema never were about pure musical exploration for me, rather emotional expression.
Song structuring aside, the pure flow of the music has also improved, probably yet another effect of the more standardized song writing. Call me a pop loving bastard, but in this case it really works. As for standout songs in the second half of the album, I find it hard to find any since they're all about equally good. Expect what you hear when you hear "Deep", emotional bombast with instrumental precision in a progressive rock format.
I really fail to find anything negative to say about the album despite my best attempts. That probably means that it's damn good.