Scanning the Skies for Solace: Anathema - "The Beginning and the End"
Anathema goes for a more straightforward (though no less involving) approach on the seventh track from Weather Systems.
Looking back over the previous six tracks on Weather Systems, you’ll notice several exceptional examples of how Anathema uses the chaotic imbalance of nature to serve as a metaphor for the spectrum of human emotion. However, the record also has several great songs that stray from this idea, such as “The Beginning and the End”. In fact, it’s the first entry since “Untouchable Pt. II” to do this; however, this lack of overt thematic connection, as well as its relatively clear-cut approach, doesn’t damage its power or relevancy in the collection. Really, it’s one of the most plaintive and riveting pieces the group has ever crafted.
“The Beginning and the End” starts off with its core piano melody, a simple yet weighty and reflective progression that evokes feelings of redemption and pensive awe (an aesthetic Daniel Cavanagh has mastered by now). Soon acoustic guitar and steady percussion is placed over it, and Vincent Cavanagh’s voice enters with tender depth, reflecting that “Inside this cold heart is a dream / That’s locked in a box that I keep / Buried a hundred miles deep / Deep in my soul, in a place that’s surrounded by aeons of silence”. Like the dozens of lines already discussed in this series, these words do a fantastic job of capturing the alienation of inner sorrow and doubt. Behind him, harmonies intensify the mood, and although it’s a somewhat straightforward approach thus far, it’s still quite absorbing.
Electric guitar is added to complement the second verse, which is equally revealing: “And somewhere inside is the key / To everything I want to feel / But the dark summer dawns of my memory / Are locked in a place that can never be”. Afterward, the music becomes more intense and dissonant, creating a wall of sound to complement Cavanagh’s increasingly fervent plea. He screams, “Can someone please show me the way? Can someone please help me? For I cannot see and the silence is raging / Silence / Silence / Fade into silence” with as much strength and heartache as he has ever shown, showcasing yet again why he’s one of the best vocalists in his genre.
Daniel Cavanagh plays a vicious guitar solo once Vincent stops singing; rather than follow a clear path, he chooses instead to lash out with a series of, well, melodic stabs that engulf the listener in pangs of heartache and anger. It provides a fine contrast for the lovely piano arpeggio (courtesy of Christer-André Cederberg, who also plays bass on the track) that serves as the outro. It cascades like rainwater on a lake, issuing a final thought as the rest of the music dissipates.
“The Beginning and the End” is noteworthy not just for the aforementioned aspects, but also because it doesn’t feature Lee Douglas. Of course this isn’t necessarily a bad thing (Vincent does a fine job on his own), but it’s still worth mentioning since her presence is such a substantial part of what makes Weather Systems so special. Still, the song's vitality and earnest message makes it a cherished addition to the fold.