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Anathema - Resonance - 75%

NormanK, February 5th, 2011

In autumn 2006, when ongoing a brief visit to Scotland, I picked from retail several albums by Anathema (a name I had repeatedly heard in relation with Paradise Lost which at the time had reached its pinnacle in my listening habits). The first album for me to listen, still abroad and on the road, was by chance Resonance – a compilation of odd B-siders, covers and acoustic rearrangements from a period when the band was predominantly still that mid-1990ties death-doom act. Many albums have come between the now and then, and I have on occasions halted the Anathema-experience, but I will say, never forgot, and with the benefit of a retrospect some 4.5 years long, I will give this compilation the comprehensive attention it would not receive otherwise.

It all starts with Scars of the old stream - a 1:10 minute long ambiance made from looping the guitar, its feedback and whatnot, and serves an “intro” for the disc, even though its original context is nothing like this at all, being placed as the 7th track of the 1993 Serenades. A listener of that earlier album might hardly even notice track as it functions as something of a transition between the longer Sleep in Sanity and Under a Veil (of Black Lace). By bringing this track to the very front of the disc, Scars of the... very honestly sums up what to expect from much Resonance: a series dislocated soundscapes and short musical ideas that have now been brought to the foreground.

The first bulk of the compilation features three short tracks – Everwake, J'ai fait une promesse and Alone. Each comes from a different release, but the musical similarities make it obvious why the three come together. Adding a fully acoustic track with female vocals on a metal album is perhaps the first early sign of Anathema's inclination for new boundaries genre-wise, but it also allows a clearer vision of the band's development between 1992 (the time Everwake was released on their first EP Crestfallen) and 1996 (Alone coming out on The Silent Enigma album, J'ai fait... was released on the afore-mentioned Serenades). Alone clearly stands apart from the previous two tracks in being more complex but the minimalism of the sound is brought to the extreme, moving further away from what the band was intending to do in the future. If so, it is clear why it remained the last of its kind and perhaps it is only in AND's Electricity in 2003 that an Anathema song again entails a similar introspective reservedness (although the tone there is hardly cold).

Then follow three songs taken from the band's last truly (doom) metal album, Eternity, although in tone with the nature of Resonance, none of the pieces presented are particularly metal. Both Far Away and Eternity Part III are acoustic renditions of their heavier counterparts in the original album (the same acoustic versions did appear as bonus songs on Eternity's limited edition). Between the two retains its original form Eternity Part II - again one of the shorter pieces that originally stood as a transition in the centre of Eternity. All-in-all the altered songs stand well in comparison to their more metal counterparts – as neither has undergone any extensive changes like that would happen with acoustic remakes in the 2008 Hindsight compilation, they fully retain their gloominess, but being stripped to the bare essentials proves a refreshing change and works particularly well with Et. Part 3.

Onwards, there are a series of covers the band made for the Peaceville X compilation – Better Off Dead (originally by Bad Religion), One of the Few and Goodbye Cruel World (both by Pink Floyd). Better Off Dead is the greatest point of interest here, as it radically changes the upbeat punk rock original to a solemn piano-driven ballad. The two Pink Floyd adaptations are more faithful, though neither the originals or the covers have much content to work with and in the Peaceville's compilation, the two tracks serve as an intro and an outro for the album.

Finally, there are two tracks from Anathema's post-doom period – Inner Silence and Destiny from the Alternative 4 album. Inner Silence is perhaps the only track of the compilation that fits the definition of being one of the “best of” in Anathema's catalogue. Unchanged in any way, its effects are all the more devastating now that the song is one the heaviest on the album and grand culmination among the laid-back nature of the rest of the compilation. With Destiny, Resonance could very well come to its logical conclusion (in which case the track would retain its original position as the very last song), and for a moment we are led to believe so, but then the album continues for three more additional tracks that in whole form a sort of an “epilogue” to it.

Thirteenth on the songlist is an orchestral version of The Silent Engima, the title track of the band's second album. Next to the rendition of Better Off Dead, this is probably the second largest alteration, completely reversing the sombre aesthetics of the death-doom original. In essence, the track could be seen looking ten years into Anathema's future, but a certain lushness of sound is lacking for the result to be truly superb. Then a live version of Angelica – one of the key tracks on Eternity. The rough quality of the recording almost destroys the song but the very experience is fascinating in itself – with the frantic cheering and singing from the crowd, the track is probably the most honest example of an Anathema concert (up to the point where the band is asking the overly rowdy audience to “calm down”) and very much in contrast with the rest of the songs.

And lastly, the 15th track, Horses, which is not a song in its own right. Outside Resonance, it is not even separate track but rather a hidden segment you would reach after twelve minutes into the Memento Mori on the Pentecost III EP. So there would not have been an obscurer thing the band could have put to end a best-of compilation.

In total, the Resonance compilation is the sum of all the material that in its original context would largely pass unnoticed due to their insignificance, limited accessibility or both. As such, it gives new life to all these odd experimentations of early Anathema, although the independent value of the songs may be questionable. It all comes down to how much of a fan the listener is - as a collection of rare songs, Resonance is exemplary, but a broad overview of (early) Anathema it certainly is not.

(The original source: )