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Its amazing to think that the Anathema of today created this essentially death/doom metal full-length considering the musical road they have gone down in recent years, notably leaning more and more towards the atmospheric rock side of the spectrum. I'm not a fan of the Liverpool based band's latter works, or its previous full-length to this one, however i do quite enjoy this in parts. For me, this full-length, entitled 'The Silent Enigma' was a huge sign of potential when i first heard it a number of years ago. In part, this is brilliant. But on the other hand it also contains a lot of mediocrity. To be honest, overall i found this album to be highly disappointing. There are far too many nothing tracks for my liking but, on the other hand, some magnificent ones too.
Before the release of 'The Silent Enigma' the band were going through troubling times, as it has been well documented with the departure of the lead vocalist Daren White. His duties were filled by one of Anathema's then current guitarists, Vincent Cavanagh. This gave an extra dimension to the performance of Anathema with his unearthly screams and anti-exuberant whispers of desolation and torment. Vincent brought a more emotionally driven and intense sound to the band, which suited the music far better, at times depicting the grief Anathema This record contains four notable highlights; Restless Oblivion', 'Sunset of the Age', 'A Dying Wish' and 'Shroud of Forest'. All are emotionally draining, relentless in there approach and create a sonic wave of grief and sadness. With the use of acoustics and punchy rhythmic sections, Anathema play side-by-side with the painfully driven vocals from Vincent, creating a barrage of emotive sound up there with anything any death/doom metal band has produced in the past and present. The music has the ability to wrap its arms around you and slowly lead you into the abyss. I feel the lyrics to 'Shroud of Forest' are particularly useful in helping this process along:
'Help me to escape from this existence
I yearn for an answer... can you help me?
I'm drowning in a sea of abused visions and shattered dreams
In somnolent illusion... I'm paralysed'
The music paralyses its listener and sweeps you away with its mournful riffs and haunting atmospheric nature. I thoroughly enjoy the way in which Anathema creates its soundscapes through the ensuing agony of the bands heart and soul. However, the band does contain some negative aspects. First, as previously stated, there are far too many nothing tracks which spoil the atmosphere of the album and generally don't tend to add anything worthwhile to the piece. Second, the backbone of the full-length, or the middle of it, is very weak. There is a sequence of these nothing tracks which may perhaps deter the listener from continuing. Which is a shame considering the powerful end this album has. And last, the music has the unfortunate ability which sees a lot of it merge together. Sometimes, in certain genres, this isn't a bad thing, but it is here.