Scanning the Skies for Solace: Anathema - “The Lost Child”

[10 March 2014]

By Jordan Blum

Anathema has battered quite an emotional storm thus far on Weather Systems; each of the previous seven songs has managed to capture an aspect of the human condition with a level of confidence, beauty, and truth that is simply astounding. As you’d expect, the eighth (and second to last) track, “The Lost Child”, is another wonderful mesh of power, delicacy, poeticism, and raw sentiment. In a way, it’s the most surreal yet universal contribution to the record.

According to Vincent Cavanagh, the idea for the song appeared to his brother, Daniel, in a dream:

“We were in the middle of recording We’re Here Because We’re Here at like 4:00 A.M. and Danny came into the room and said, ‘I’ve just had this dream about this little boy who was on top of this huge building. All of a sudden, I turned and there was this vast square chasm on top of the building.’ Imagine you’re on top of a sky scraper and there’s a swimming pool that goes right down to the floor. This kid ended up there and Danny was looking down, singing this tune. It struck him, and then Danny was right at the bottom, looking up. He was next to the boy, who was rocking back and forth, singing the tune. It was such a strange, vivid dream, and it went off to this landscape of him being adrift at sea. He felt like he was being pulled under. He was being dragged out of these waves by himself…we immediately switched on the studio and recorded it. From there, we went to sleep and wrote about it more the next day.”

He goes on to say that it features “[Danny’s] best work in terms of his piano playing”, an opinion that’s hard to argue against considering how haunting yet serene the opening of “The Lost Child” is. Cavanagh hums the central melody as a prelude to his piano work, which is bold but fragile, with subtle string accompaniment. Eventually Vincent mimics the melody, singing, “The waves of a childhood dream / A far light hypnotized / A voice calls from paradise”. From here, the melody evolves as the percussion becomes more impactful, and Lee Douglas joins the vocal palette. She echoes Vincent’s chorus—“My light is fading now / My heart is breaking now”.

Behind them, Daniel’s piano continues its highly effective repetition as the strings swell more and more, as does John Douglas’ syncopation and the intensity of the vocalists. By the time they get to their final, continuous statement (“Save me”), Douglas and Cavanagh are literally pleading for help against the backdrop of mournful dissonance. Every instrument is going at full force by this point, making for an overwhelming experience. One gets the feeling that the group has just released something it has been holding in for years. Afterward, a tender outro consisting of more piano and strings leads into a reprise of the opening chord, which is lovely way to bring the music full circle.

“The Lost Child” is as revealing and enthralling as anything else on Weather Systems. Anathema has an uncanny ability to suffocate its listeners in a realm of sorrow, hope, and wondrously arranged instrumentation. This track is also one of the more dynamic pieces on the record, and its soft-heavy-soft cycle is masterfully executed. Best of all, it blends into the album’s closing track, “Internal Landscapes”, without warning. If Weather Systems hasn’t made you weep yet, just wait until the end.

Previous installments:

*”Untouchable Pt. I” and “Untouchable Pt. II”
*”The Gathering of the Clouds”
*”Lightning Song” and “Sunlight”
*”The Storm Before the Calm”
*”The Beginning and the End”

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