To many pre-existing fans of this band like myself, the announcement of an acoustic reworking of previous material may not cause them to run out and buy it immediately; after all, what we’re all waiting for is the highly anticipated new album that’s been six years in the making. So, in hindsight (pun intended), I can see I (and perhaps some others) was foolish enough to pass this record up until I decided to listen to it today. What a mistake to let this one go til now.
This isn’t a simple re-recording of previous material, but rather a more focused, well produced, and better performed rendition of some of Anathema’s best songs. You could say its a best-of collection (which is fine because this band doesn’t have one and certainly deserves one), but its more than that – the maturity and growth in all aspects of their craft Anathema has seen up to this point are utilized to recreate these songs to incredible effect. In short (if I may be so bold), this is the way these songs should be interpreted, because as great as these songs were originally, they’re even more moving and thought provoking this time around.
As for how it was advertised as an acoustic album, after listening to it I can say that its not quite. There’s use of synthesizers, some vocal effects, and a bit of studio magic that help the songs blossom to their full potential. But perhaps the greatest aspect of this record is not just its consistency, fluidity, and improved production, but the way some of the arrangements have been tweaked and improved upon to help the songs flow, impact, and translate better. Add to this fact that all the vocalists have increased their talents since the original recordings, and you have perhaps a masterpiece of mature and emotional audio cinema, an honest and well wrought expression of the human condition. The songs “Angelica” and “A Natural Disaster” are worth it for the price alone, not to mention the rest of these cuts.
This is the best reinterpretation of previous material I’ve heard from a band since Pain of Salvation’s live acoustic “12:5″ record (which is standard listening, as well) and is a mandatory musical experience for any music fan, including (and perhaps especially) Anathema fans. Again, don’t overlook this record – you’ll be missing something truly special.