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A Death/Doom Relic - 60%

ZanJose, May 22nd, 2020
Written based on this version: 1993, CD, Peaceville Records

This week’s album was Serenades by Anathema, one of the death/doom classics and building blocks of the genre. Those are big labels to hold, so do they hold up to the expectations? Well… we can see the impact they had on the genre, but it doesn’t shine much beyond that and has become quite a product of its time.

The first thing you’ll notice is its predominant 90’s sound, which is unmistakable in the guitar’s tone and production, which on retrospective really helps it to solidify this album as a contemporary view of death/doom in the 90’s. the guitar work is thick and has got plenty of reverb. The leads intertwine with the gloomy guitar riffs in order to create the sense of waves of solitude, which really resonates with the listener. The bass is solid and is perfectly audible, maybe even too much to the point it feels shoehorned as it extends itself with the guitar riffs. The drums, specifically the bass drums sound great, they a have very good production and fit the music well despite its lack of technical qualities. It also implements soft interlude songs with acoustic guitars, which have stayed in some of the genre’s releases to this day (Mortiferum, Solothus, etc).

However, the album’s old sound isn’t all for good measures. It is clearly prototypical death/doom despite there being more congruent releases at the time of the same genre. The flow of the album is very fragile, and sometimes even ignored with songs such as Sleepless, whose intro discards anything built up and breaks off immersion. It is an objectively good song with its nice melody, and when seeing the song as a whole it has good progression, but it doesn’t not belong where its placed, both tracklist and album wise. This even extends to individual songs since they got plenty of great riffs and sections, but the artists are not necessarily the best when it comes to sewing them together. The vocals also feel incomplete in this abrupt sounding, not-so-growl growl. And the biggest insult is the final track, a 23 minute long “instrumental”. I was excited for this, some elements of this album seem to be picked up by funeral doom bands, so I was curious if this song would be some influencer in that genre, however it is gutless filler with some eerie synth air melody going through the run time. That raises a lot of questions, how is the album supposed to conclude? It is clear that such thing is not one of their priorities as later releases had bonus tracks which further decomposed the album’s tracklist.

Overall this album is a relic, a lighthouse of a shore, a genre’s demo. It has some very strong elements, the guitarwork is very good and strikes that sweet spot of equal doom and death, and the other instruments compliment that. Sure, some of it may be overshadowed by the mature scene of the genre now adays but its history is still significant. However, it has no clear big picture, with a huge gimmick to finish it off which left a sore taste in my mouth. Whilst frustrating, I can’t say it wasn’t enjoyable, far from it. It was a great experience to see where some of my favorite bands got their influences from.