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26 January, 2005

Review: A Fine Day To Exit (Anathema, 2001)

I reviewed Anathema's most recent album, 'A Natural Disaster' ('AND') last week, and had been underwhelmed by it, but the recommendations of others, particularly Adam, suggested that it was atypical of their earlier output, and I ought to try another.

I'm very glad I gave them the second chance (which, I have to admit, I mightn't have done if H hadn't seen me looking at it in HMV on Saturday and bought it for me!), as I was much more impressed by 'A Fine Day To Exit'.  As Adam had said, it's slightly closer to the feel of Porcupine Tree album.  I suspect I'll play this quite frequently, whereas I doubt I'll bother with 'AND' more than annually, if indeed ever again.

I'm not going to write a detailed review, but in summary, the main elements I disliked in 'AND' are absent from its predecessor (which doesn't exactly inspire hope for their next release).
As I said in the earlier posting, the mismatch between 'hard' and 'soft' tracks diminished both; some of the 'ballads' (not the correct term, but I don't know what is) weren't bad in isolation, but didn't work when set against more driving rock tracks. Had they been on different albums, I might have appreciated them more. This time, the balance between 'hard' and 'soft' tracks is far better (i.e. more like 70-30 than 50-50), and that distinction is less apparent. It's intelligent, melodic rock, not metal, and nor are there any outright 'ballads'.

It's a downbeat album (of course - I wouldn't be remotely interested in 'life-affirming' fluff); some of the lyrics could be described as 'mopey' but the combination of guitar rock and keyboard textures retain some tension, and there's no maudlin wailing. Any gnashing of teeth is fairly genteel, too - energy is conveyed by the threat of all-out 'rawk', which actually arrives only rarely.

One lesser criticism I'd repeat is that as on 'AND', one track prominently features a female guest vocalist, which I still don't think adds anything worthwhile.

However... I can't be completely positive. Several bands achieve a high standard of musicianship, material and production, and 'A Fine Day To Exit' does display those characteristics, but some artists go further - they have an undefinable extra quality which elevates them from 'very good' to 'great'. I'm afraid that having listened to two Anathema albums, I've yet to hear that special 'it' that would truly grab me.


: )

Posted by Adam at January 28, 2005 06:06 PM
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