Tuesday, October 20, 2015

How Anathema conquered the world: 25 years and still going strong

Pete Clemons with his latest article for Coventry Telegraph...


How Anathema conquered the world: 25 years and still going strong

Anathema have been through a number of changes but in the last ten years has seen a steady line-up
Anathema have been releasing attention-grabbing music since they first came together as Pagan Angel way back in 1990.

Over the next 25 years they transformed themselves from a doom metal band through to the wonderfully alternative and atmospheric rock band you can hear today.

The last few years have seen Anathema gain huge worldwide attention which continues to grow. And with each new release comes the inevitable clutch of new listeners. They, in turn, will then descend on the bands amazing back catalogue.

This includes ten official releases along with a selection of compilation and live albums. But getting Anathema to this lofty position in rock music hierarchy has not been easy one. It has taken much hard work and dedication.
Anathema recently celebrated their entire history with a very special gig at London’s Shepherd Bush Empire. For me, lead guitarist Danny Cavanagh summed it up perfectly.
“To each other we owe a debt,” he said. “Our lives have been irrevocably intertwined; our musical and personal influence on each other’s history cannot be overstated.

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“Souls have resonated together in such a way as to be highly significant to each one of our life paths.
Anathema performing live


“Without each and every one of these people, Anathema could not have been born, could not have grown, and could not have survived and thrived in quite the way that it has. And for a very special occasion, these souls will share the stage once again, celebrating an entire history of pioneering musical searching.

“We will pay respect to every single era of Anathema history – and to all the significant souls we have been close to. From the present day musical landscapes, back through time, to the dawn of the group’s formation." 

At the heart of the band have been the Cavanagh brothers from Liverpool, Danny and Vincent, both multi-instrumentalists and songwriters, along with drummer John Douglas - although John did leave for a short while during the late 1990s. 

Another Cavanagh brother, Jamie (twin of Vincent), was a band member at Anathema’s inception but left quite early on. He rejoined in 2001 and has remained a fixture of the band ever since. 

Another important element of the band’s early years was that of the role played by bass player Duncan Patterson who, for a short while, was also a lead songwriter. 

A succession of other talented musicians has also been associated with the band, including vocalist Darren White, bass player Dave Pybus and drummer Shaun Steels. 

Arguably it has been in Europe and other areas of the world where Anathema attracted the greatest attention. 

But slowly, and particularly over the last ten years or so, that audience has included wider interest in the UK, along with a growth in the areas where they had already been popular. 

It has certainly been over the last ten years or so that has seen the band at its steadiest in terms of the line-up.





Late 2003 saw the release of Anathema’s seventh album A Natural Disaster. This was the last album the band would release on the Music For Nations label and the first to include the three Cavanagh brothers.

The line-up for that album was completed by John Douglas on drums and keyboard player Les Smith who had joined the band in 1999 from Cradle of Filth.

A Natural Disaster marked a recording debut for guest vocalist Lee Douglas, the sister to John. Previously Lee had been a backing vocalist at live events only.

The following few years saw Anathema gigging hard. They toured Europe both on their own and in support of bands such as Porcupine Tree. They even threw in some special acoustic shows - one I remember particularly included a small string section.

Then, seemingly out of the blue, May 2008 saw an announcement by Kscope that they were to release a semi acoustic album of re-workings of by Anathema called Hindsight. The album was released in August of that year, in lavish packaging and to great critical acclaim.

Sometime after, a further briefing was released which announced that Anathema were now working on their follow-up to Hindsight. It was to be an album of brand new material and the working title was Horizons. That briefing included the mouth-watering statement that ‘this is set to be an album beyond all expectations’.

The resulting album, now given a release title of We’re Here Because We’re Here, was issued in May 2010. And, for many listeners, it fully lived up to the hype. The rock media from across its wide spectrum were astonished, with many critics, announcing it as their album of the year. And who can forget that memorable gig when the band stopped off at the Leamington Assembly as part of the tour to support the album.

This would be, however, the last album to feature keyboard player Les Smith, but, significantly, it would be the first to feature vocalist Lee Douglas as an official member of the band.

There followed Falling Deeper - and it certainly did fall deep as it delved right back to the beginning of the band’s back catalogue.

Anathema albums Weather Systems (2012) and concert film Universal, released following its live European tour

Weather Systems was the next studio offering, released during May 2012. In support of this, Anathema set off on a lengthy worldwide tour. They also appeared at some spectacular venues. One of those concerts, where the band shared the stage with the Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra, was captured on tape so to speak and lavishly released on CD and LP later in the year.

To replace Les Smith, Anathema had drafted in the considerable talents of Portuguese born multi-instrumentalist Daniel Cardoso, who became a permanent member of the band during late 2012.

To bring things bang up-to-date, June 2014 saw the heralding in of Anathema’s very latest studio album, Distant Satellites. A couple of acoustic concerts were also announced. Yet again, the Assembly in Leamington was chosen along with a gig in the unique setting of Gloucester Cathedral.

The Gloucester gig was an unforgettable chapter for the band, and they were keen to reproduce the experience.

More cathedral gigs were arranged for early 2015, this time at Leeds, Exeter and Winchester. And this series of gigs culminated with a triumphant sold-out visit to the Anglican Cathedral in Anathema’s home city of Liverpool in March.

The gig was recorded and is set for release under the title A Sort of Homecoming at the end of this month.

With – at last – an appreciation of their music by a UK-wide audience, who knows what boundary-pushing direction Anathema will take for their next project.

But the word spectacular will not be far away.