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Scanning the Skies for Solace: Anathema - "Lightning Song" and "Sunlight"

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Monday, Feb 17, 2014
The fourth and fifth songs on Anathema's latest masterpiece provide a calmer and more optimistic view on familiar thematic struggles.
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Weather Systems

(K-Scope; US: 24 Apr 2012; UK: 16 Apr 2012)

Review [25.Apr.2012]

In addition to a host of other remarkable qualities, Anathema’s Weather Systems is an album of exquisite dynamic and tonal deviation. The record features a constant shift between tranquil reflections and heated longing and acceptance; in fact, this approach serves as its own representation of our immense emotional spectrum. The last installment of this series explored that beautiful sonic apocalypse that is “The Gathering of the Clouds”, so it makes sense that the fourth and fifth pieces on the LP—”Lightning Song” and ”Sunlight”—strive for a calmer, more peaceful aesthetic overall. They’re not totally serene, but they’re definitely more hopeful and overtly soothing than the preceding trio.
In discussing the two tracks, Vincent Cavanagh remarks that they were written at the same time as We’re Here Because We’re Here; actually, they, along with “Internal Landscapes”, “The Gathering of the Clouds”, and “The Storm Before the Calm”, were meant to form an EP. Luckily, the group decided to write four more songs (the two “Untouchable” parts, “The Beginning and the End”, and “The Lost Child”) and create a full-length work. Honestly, some of the songs do feel more connected than others, so this explanation makes sense. Still, they all contribute to what makes Weather Systems so exquisite. As for “Lightning Song” and “Sunshine”, well, they feel as much like musical siblings as anything else offered.

The former track segues effortlessly out of “The Gathering of the Clouds”; its delicate opening emerges with reservation in the aftermath of its precursor’s concluding crescendo. Optimistic strings cover a descending guitar arpeggio, creating an instantly calming and inspiring essence. In a way, it feels like a sign of closure in response to the previous three outcries of uncertainly and struggle. Vocally, Lee Douglas leads the charge, allowing her angelic presence to guide the song. She sounds confident and bold, satiated with youthful sanguinity as she sings, “And here I lie, almost asleep / Reckoning in a place of peace”. Really, her voice soars in much the same way as Dutch singer Anneke van Giersbergen (who appeared on Falling Deeper, the remix album between We’re Here Because We’re Here and Weather Systems, as well as several Ayreon and Devin Townsend projects).

Rhythmically, the first two minutes or so contain no formal percussion; afterward, drummer John Douglas (Lee’s brother) adds some metronomic cymbal taps to provide just enough momentum. Meanwhile, his sister continues her positive declarations: “And I feel I found my place / In time and space / In hope and faith / And love I give / My mind is clear / I shed no tears / For you my dear”. The full band comes in moments later, with Daniel Cavanagh’s explosive guitar work being the most notable layer. Douglas harmonizes with herself near the end, and her final outlook—“Your world is everything you ever dreamed of / If only you could open up your mind and see the beauty that is here”— is the record’s most uplifting statement about moving on after loss. The track ends as it began, leaving listeners lost in introspection.

“Sunlight”, as the name suggests, is the warmest song on Weather Systems. It begins with a cyclical acoustic guitar pattern as Daniel Cavanagh handles the lead vocal duties. He sounds almost identical to his brother, actually. Like the former track, it focuses on recovery and perseverance following pain. He sings, “Sunlight failed but only for a while / In the moonlight pale someone made me smile…And in the morning life it graced me and I ran for miles”. Behind him, Vincent Cavanagh and Lee Douglas harmonize wonderfully. As the tempo increases and the music becomes more hectic, the duo echoes his words via countermelodies before all three join together for the final line—“Say you will love me until I leave the world”. Its enriching simplicity is the key to its grace and power.

Together, “Lightning Song” and “Sunlight” provide a nice calm after the prior fervent storms, as well as a nice prelude to the next track, “The Storm Before the Calm”. Things are about to get quite heavy again.

Previous installments:

*”Untouchable Pt. I” and “Untouchable Pt. II”
*”The Gathering of the Clouds”

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