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'Distant Satellites'

scott adams


The Cavanagh brothers are back. And, in 'Distant Satellites' they've delivered another gorgeous slab of finely crafted prog rock in an ever-growing canon of grandiose epic music, the flow of which, thank the maker, shows no signs of drying up just yet.

The whole point of the progressive movement is, of course, the creation and maintenance of forward motion, the widening of boundaries and the conquering of new territory, and whilst Anathema don't quite tick all those boxes, they come close enough to proclaim this to be another step forward of considerable proportions in the band's journey.

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'Distant Satellites' finds the band resident now at their furthest point ever away from their doom/death roots, to the point where it seems barely conceivable that I once saw them - the same band - opening their festival set in a tent in the Netherlands nearly twenty years ago with a note-perfect cover of Metallica's 'Orion'.

Hell, even my favourite Anathema album – 1998s sumptuous 'Alternative 4' – sounds like the heaviest thing ever when placed next to '...Satellites', despite it being itself seen as something of a watering down of the essence of the Anthema sound in the dying days of the last century.

But where distant cousins Opeth have seen moving in a progressive sense as something which still requires an embracement of the spiky angularity of heavy music – even if their music too is a far cry from what it once was – Anathema have no qualms about utilizing melody – avalanches of the bloody stuff – and pure songwriting skill in the advancement of their cause.

There is nothing awkward about 'Distant Satellites', there are no nasty jazz chords sticking out at right angles to the rest of the music to remind you that you're listening to progressive rock, man; Instead there are ten deliriously beautiful pieces of music, utilising every last ounce of the band's talent to provide you with the ultimate in listening pleasure.

Whether they drone repetitively or move forward urgently on wave after wave of euphoric noise, the end result is the same – sheer aural bliss. And in final track Take Shelter the band has forged perhaps it's definitive musical statement to this point.

It is peerless, astoundingly good stuff, building on a fragile Vincent Cavanagh vocal into a pulsing, stadium-levelling refrain replete with throbbing, scittering percussion and a glorious, life affirming resolution that'll have you reaching for the repeat button as soon as the damn thing is over.

Sure, at times the smooth vocals of Lee Douglas will have you thinking of Everything But The Girl in places, and in Cavanagh's more wistful moments there's more than a hint of Coldplay seeping into the mix, but that's a small price to pay for music than in every other aspect is an unqualified success.

If this band keeps progressing at the current rate, then there is quite literally nothing they can't achieve. A complete and utter triumph.

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More Scott Adams right here.


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