Anathema – A Natural Disaster (2003)

I’ve recently been playing catch up with Anathema. They are a band I have now known about for years, but I only own a very small amount of their albums. Thank Zombie Jesus then, for the Amazon marketplace with it’s sometimes insanely cheap prices. A used copy of A Natural Disaster ended up costing me almost next to nothing. And to be honest, I’m really glad.

The first thing that surprised me about this record – often regarded I think as one of Anathema’s best – is that it’s an absolute disjointed mess. For the first few songs, I don’t think anybody really has any idea about what is going on; the band just drift from one song to the other with what seems like no real drive at all. It’s like it’s acoustic and floaty for the sake of being acoustic and floaty, and it goes nowhere until the start of track 3, “Closer”, just cuts in clumsily. Here at least, the album starts properly. “Closer” is a hell of bloody good tune, making (for once) good use of a vocoder or harmonizer, that builds and builds until it explodes in a post-rock-esque orgasm of sound. Good stuff!

“Are You There?” on the other hand is probably one of the worst things I have ever heard. “Childhood Dream” is almost as pointless, and then bam – another rocking track just cuts in rudely, the thankfully excellent “Pulled Under At 2000 Metres A Second”, which isn’t dissimilar in writing style to “Panic” from the previous Anathema record, A Fine Day To Exit. This album reminds me of Swans’ Soundtracks For The Blind, in the way that dreamlike ambiances and floaty acoustic passages mesh awkwardly with heavy-hitting, full-band pieces. It just doesn’t flow at all, in my opinion.

Thankfully though, things are a-okay from here on out; every track is a belter. “Flying” is an Anathema favourite of mine, with a chorus that has a through-the-roof sing-a-long factor. “Electricity” is a lesson in post-rock swelling and building done far better than by many of the restrictive genre’s current participants.

All in all, there are some brilliant songs here, it’s just this album suffers from a whole bunch of filler crap as well. Couple that with the “flow” issues and you really have one disappointing record, which is really inexcusable for a band with such passion, integrity, and musical dexterity as Anathema, especially on an album that is only 10 tracks long. I’m glad I bought this, as I can now move on with finishing my collection, but unless you really love this type of music, I’d look for my Anathema kicks elsewhere. That’s exactly what I’ll be doing, at least.