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First of all, let's forget the whole EP/album thing, because that's not really helping Anathema or 'Pentecost III'. This release consists of 4 long songs and a shorter instrumental, leaving it partway between the two at a little short of 40 minutes (disregarding the hidden songs), which, if anyone was paying attention, is barely less than the band's debut album, clocking in at 42 minutes. Also, on a different note, if this is the third Pentecost, what happened to the other two? Whatever.
Anathema's style changed very rapidly in their early years and this release is not really that similar to any of the band's other work, though it shares more common ground with 'The Silent Enigma', which was released later the same year. 'Pentecost III' shares that album's preoccupation with atmosphere and morose subjects, the heavy guitars often refracting into delicate, contemplative clean sections that meander gradually, rarely rushing quickly onto the next movement, but instead progressively morphing into a new shape. As such, the doom metal influence here comes more in the form of pace, mood, and subject matter than actual grinding and trudging guitar riffs, which makes atmospheric success even more crucial. What Anathema do well here, and what also made 'The Silent Enigma' a worthwhile listen, was craft a very full sound that sounds broad, distant, and, if I may use such a term, shimmering, as if it the music were a huge mirage spreading across a dreamlike horizon. This is manifestly fitting for the subject matter about vast mountains, ever-present death, and the wrath of the gods, so the wide-screen quality plays to the band's favour.
On the other hand, songs recorded in the doom style should probably have something to hold the listener's attention beyond atmospheric features, which Anathema were never quite masters of, perhaps leading to their gradual shift of styles during the early to mid 90s. Even on 'Serenades', the band's debut, the riffs were often lacking in memorable qualities and frankly showed an inability to craft much of note beyond slow chugs and irritatingly percussive fills. The same thing happens here, with few heavy riffs really grasping out beyond the gentle sound, while those that do are never quite utilized to build up the songs, more as stand-alone parts. The rhythmic lurch that ends 'Kingdom' is fairly satisfying, though certainly doesn't maintain the mysterious atmosphere of the song's early portion, but the first four songs barely have 5 minutes of heavy music between them, pushing further in the band's future progressive direction. 'Memento Mori', however, plays like a song from earlier in Anathema's career and contains the most traditional guitar theme, creeping along at sinister low-register for several minutes, though still throwing in an ugly chug at 1:35, which goes nowhere and spoils the slow menace that is otherwise well-developed. This softness could be troublesome for metal fans, though for those with sufficient patience or an appreciation of prog rock structures, there may be something more on offer.
The Cavanagh brothers were always more successful at constructing wistful melodies than riffs, so it should be no surprise that most of the material here is decorated by spiralling guitar parts, often in the background rather than the foreground, which do a great deal for the mood, even if - from a musical point of view - it might have been nice to see them emphasized more. When, towards the end of 'We, the Gods', the band break into a united melodic movement, it sounds great and the heart swells to follow them, but all too often the quieter ideas are undone by their own simplicity and become boring rather than reflective or moody, as is the intention. The beginning of the same song, for example, is built around a ponderous bassline, which is joined by shimmering (there's that word again) feedback while Darren White leads us through most of the song's verses in one long narrative. At once, this is the greatest charm of 'Pentecost III' and its weakness, since the 3 minute section contains only one musical idea, yet it draws it out to a length that lies on the borderline between epic and tedious - slow and trudging and grand can fall on either side of that line. White's voice isn't quite emotive enough to really propel those sections, although he sounds suitably morose and serious, so the band occasionally slip into mindless repetition, meaning that some of the longer songs, particularly 'We, the Gods' and 'Memento Mori' might have benefitted from a little editing.
In all, 'Pentecost III' is a decent release that suffers from its uncertain status. If it were half an hour long and a certain EP, perhaps there would be less opportunity for the listener to feel tired with the slow progressions, while if it were made into a full album at 50 minutes or more, the atmosphere would have more scope to unfold gradually and the ideas more space to come to fruition. As it is, there is some good material here, even if there is little visceral content for more traditional doom metal fans. 'Pentecost III' is a brooding and contemplative prog doom chapter, though doesn't manage to tell the whole story.
The aim of music as a communicative artform is to present its thematic content in such a way that its expression transcends the particularity of context-specific events in order to portray universally acknowledged and eternal truths of internal and external experience. Anathema are experts in this art; choosing not to avoid the individuality of subjective experience, but to transcend it towards the universal by going straight through it in a process of honest self-analysis, the music of Anathema offers a very real and penetrating experience that involves painful awareness and soul-searching reflection, complete with the paralyzing fear and dread essential to the success of any doom metal album, but beautifying the experience through abstract compositions of dramatic movements and fluid harmonic development in the classical tradition, with a fantastic talent for the arrangement of grippingly sorrowful melodies, and production values that supply a refreshing presence of warm, organic sound.
On Pentecost III, Anathema’s songcraft has become more epic in both duration and structure, featuring lengthy instrumental passages functioning like ambient soundscapes, the abstract nature of these songs providing a vast spatial quality which allows for the gradual establishment and sustainability of atmospheres ranging from tranquil to gothic, as well as more flexibility for the vocals which have evolved into a compromise between growling and moaning, still expressed with a lamenting spirit suitable for the somber imagery of the esoteric lyrics, with far less presence than on previous efforts, but the vocal phrases benefit from this more wide-open style of composition, propelled by a rhythm section of melodic bass-playing and a hard-hitting, physical, and dynamic drummer, whose playing, even during the slowest of movements but especially in more rhythmically urgent sections, remains thunderous and crashing, providing a foundational power in both sound and momentum. The guitar sound manages an intriguing balance in atmospheric sound with something peculiarly ethereal in the distorted feedback which envelopes the nostalgic riffs, interacting with the resounding energy of the rhythm section to produce a harmonious contrast between the serene and bombastic, clashing the dream-world with harsh reality in a unification of desire and purpose, transitionally flowing in arcane arrangements allowing yearning guitar melodies and solos to emerge like radiant sunlight through dark clouds.
"We do not need to climb a mountain
Or to cross unknown lands.....
....... Because we are Gods
And we will drown you
We will burn your homes"
The overall quality of the music’s design, execution, and impact reaches the pinnacle of doom metal, Anathema bringing to the genre a profundity of pure feeling the personal sincerity of which would be a challenge to find equaled in any kind of metal produced previously, simply because Anathema get deeper into themselves in order to discover universal truth, an inner exploration and analysis that is uncommon in this degree in metal of any style, and a seriousness towards their thematic content that is both humbling and transcendent, realizing its ultimate expressive potential in the mercilessly foreboding “Memento Mori”, a song of such Stygian proportions that its spirit could only have been conjured from the most terrifying of ancient times, the suspicion would be confirmed; the band’s compositional ability to stretch out expansive and beautiful melodies, and their artistic imagination towards the creation of captivating atmosphere, aided by soul-stirring guitar solos and delicate acoustic guitars contrasted with monumental rhythmic weight and dark, despondent riffs produces beautifully tragic and powerful music. Songs flow in seamless transition which gives the music a natural course of motion producing immersible atmosphere through a visionary structure of single compositions and the album as a whole, in turn creating music to be experienced rather than merely listened to.
Pentecost III is officially an EP, numbering five tracks (with a sixth hidden track) in a little over forty minutes, but its content is an essential piece of Anathema’s discography as it reveals important developments in each vital component of the band’s approach, which prepares the listener for the following effort, The Silent Enigma; but this work also carries importance for doom metal as a whole, because it not only manifests the essential elements of the genre, but delves deeper into those elements both aesthetically and thematically than perhaps any doom metal work that came before it. The work of guitarists Daniel and Vincent Cavanagh shines on this release, their unique usage of feedback for ambient affect, the talent for creating riffs that equally embody the spirit of dejection and hope, and the gorgeous, soulful lead playing make this band’s work one of the most compelling experiences of passionately expressive and moving music.
Now I usually don’t keep EPs, let alone download them, but the sheer melancholic beauty with this five track monolith deserves listening. I thought it was an album before checking it out here, so any joke is on me. “Kingdom” alone hooked me in with its highly romantic, yet empty build-up – that of which destroys worlds with each passing second. The effort put into each note and the echo it lays across the universe brings the scope of the EP past the plateau that many albums strive to reach; doom at its finest. Towards the end of the song it boiled down to straight power, losing its atmosphere.
The rest of the release didn’t have such a killer impact, but its authority was still grand. The songs have an overwhelming tone – like in the second track’s bridge or “Kingdom”’s aforementioned build-up. The riffs are thick, bellowing, and distorted enough to surround you and sometimes even your surroundings. On top of this we have the clean guitar tunes which capture whatever innocence we can find in such a monstrosity. The biggest impact (yes, another trait) comes from White, who creates the ultimate sense of gloom and leaves no emotions untouched. Sometimes they come off as sluggish and weak like early in “We, The Gods,” but that’s cause the song drags on like crazy. In “Kingdom” his mournful cleans sound majestic and honest. The growls are ok, but really lack the demonic touch and are only utilized during heavier parts.
Adding to the groove factor is the bass, but the guitar plays a greater role in the heaviness. Drums also lack any true distinctive qualities worth mentioning, so I wouldn’t go in expecting anything special from them. Regardless, the sound is unified and overall consistent with the bleak theme. Somehow I enjoyed the rhythm riffs moreso than the lead as the EP progressed, but it still is a spectacle worth remembering. The leadwork has the more symbolic and classical touches than the churning rhythm.
So yeah this EP is a keeper; it’s the rare breed that adds more character and says more about a band than most full-lengths. As much as I butchered it, the atmosphere and solace it gave upon first and subsequent listens allowed me to get into the band. This would be the last album for vocalist White, but it isn’t that much of a change from the immediate releases thereafter. It’s a great middle ground for newcomers and doesn’t disappoint for old timers; coupled with its initial addiction factor, it might just beat weed. Nah, fuck that weed conquers all…
Art comes in many different shapes, sizes, packages, etc… but it rarely comes in the form of music. While many “musicians” claim to be “artists”, less than a handful truly are. On this recording we see that music can be art and that it can also be heavy and moving.
This is arguably the bands best recording as it’s full of emotion on both straight forward and abstract levels. It’s truly a poetic movement from start to finish; even when the music is playing without the vocals the music has such a weight to it, that it’s unreal.
The production is pretty good (certainly their best to this point) and as such makes the music standout even more. The guitars are massive, monolithic and balls out heavy; however they are very melodic and harmonize in interesting places. They drone and yet never stagnate. There is certainly enough crunch to open chorded parts to appease all walks of Metal. The amount of atmosphere that is created without the usage of keyboards is astounding to say the least. There is even a solo of sorts on track three ‘We, the Gods’.
The bass wanders around the drums, both of which are near trance like with combined with the guitars. The vocals (the last to be heard from original vocalist Darren White) fit perfectly with the ponderous nature of this sprawling release. This is where he created the “moody” clean vocals that are still used by various Doomdeath/Doom Metal bands to this day. He only really growls on the last track, the rest is cleanly moaned/sung/shouted.
If there is any complaint to be had it is that this is only an EP and not a full length. This album is almost indescribable. It’s epic, mournful, and ponderous, yet it leaves the listener with a sense wonder and longing. The lyrics are rather abstract but fit in a beautifully poetic way. This is one of few instances (in the history of music) that a piece of music can truly be called ‘art’ without being clichéd.
Along with the dawn of an era, behold the dawn of a great band. Ladies and gentlemen, let me present you Anathema. Yes, I know this ain’t their debut album, but definitely it is the first one that can stand proudly next to “Silent Enigma”, “Alternative 4” and “Eternity” (since we’re talking metal here. Their alternative era is another glorious tale).
In 1994, and according to the booklet, a tragedy befell over the band members. If I am no wrong, some friend of theirs died in a car accident while he was way too young. This unfortunate event created this beast-dressed-in-black called “Pentecost III”. This album could truly be the soundtrack of a funeral ceremony. It is the most intense, obscure, grieving album I’ve ever laid ears on. The psychological condition of the band is absolutely reflected in these 5 songs of woe and sadness, while “Kingdom” starts the funeral march with its acoustical, dreamy intro. It begins to build up then with the entrance of heavy, low tuned guitars following the same rhythm as the intro, while Darren White wails his way in. And so the bleak voyage begins.
Good Lord, this guy is exceptional. His vocals truly show the voice of a man who mourns the loss of a beloved one. He is ripping my heart apart every time I listen to this album. His lyrics are also in the spirit, desperate, agonizing, obscure and doomy.
“Kingdom” moves his way further, as White speaks the famous “Only when tightened beyond recall….” verse. By that time, the Cavanagh bros begin to show their guitar potential with a MARVELLOUS, SPLENDID riff that begins to emerge through the ashes of the grave. The song meets its crescendo with White crying out the end, and by the end of the nine minutes, you are left astonished with the power and the desperation that this band can express. “Mine Is Yours To Drown In” is another really great song, and while it cannot be compared to “Kingdom” or “We, The Gods”, its quality is not to be underestimated. And then, there was despair. “We, The Gods” starts and begins to tear up everything in its way. Harsh power or a mournful cry to God, an elegy of bitter tears or a destructive symphony of nihilism? I really can’t answer that question, I just listen to that song over and over again. I suggest the same.
The drapery falls with the short instrumental “Pentecost III” and then the glorious “Memento Mori”, a song that is probably even more woeful than the previous ones. More doomy, less melodic, heavier and harshier, Darren White shows his deathmetal roots here with growling vocals and lyrics that bring images of loss, death and unstoppable mourning.
To sum up then. Anathema have two eras, two styles, aye? If we accept (accept it, this the sheer truth) that the end of their first era, “The Silent Enigma” is the best of that one, then “Pentecost III” gets the silver medal with no particular perspiration, easily. Its emotion, its deep pain really get you entangled in a obscure journey through desperation, death and tormenting life. And since I have already told too much, one word is enough to describe this one: Desperation.
I’ve heard countless things said about Anathema and how good they are. After hearing a few tracks, I just couldn’t understand how they were so great. That was, until I heard Pentecost III. The vocals on this album are fronted by Darren White, instead of Vincent Cavanagh. Darren’s vocals fit perfectly with the atmosphere and music on this album. He gives of a wailing that sounds very emotional throughout the album. On Memento Mori he growls bit, but does not forget his wailing vocals. The guitars are all handled excellently also. The melodies on this album fit perfectly with the heavier riffing. The rhythm section is also very solid. The production also fits the album perfectly.
All songs on this album are great, but the highlights are definitely Kingdoms and We, the Gods. Both create a very depressive and suffocating atmosphere for the listener. Pentecost III is a nice instrumental that leads perfectly into Memento Mori which is the most aggressive song on here. All tracks have one thing in common, they have a doomy atmosphere.
Over all Anathema have managed to create one very doomy album on this one. After listening to this masterpiece, you can only wonder what else this line-up would have created. Truly a Doom metal classic.