Distant Satellites

SKU: KSCOPE302
Label:
KScope Records
Category:
Post Progressive
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Standard edition comes (at the moment) with a slipcase "o" card wrapper.

"It’s been quite a past few years for the incredible Anathema. Honors have been bestowed upon them, they’ve released an instant classic album in “Weather Systems”, and last year they released one of the best live concert films I’ve ever seen, “Universal”. Anathema is on top of the world, and they are only getting bigger. With all of this on their shoulders, they approach the world once again with their new album, “Distant Satellites”, a fitting name for a massive album. Again, with all of their recent success creating huge expectations, can this band meet such critical reception? Needless to say, Vincent Cavanagh on vocals, Danny Cavanagh on guitar, Jamie Cavanagh on bass, John Douglas on percussion, Daniel Cardoso on drums, and Lee Douglas with her wonderful vocals were all up to the challenge.

“Distant Satellites” is a very different album from “Weather Systems”, or anything else they’ve done, for that matter. It is different, yet somehow instantly familiar. It includes everything that makes them Anathema, but adds new and exciting elements to their already excellent formula. If you’ve never heard Anathema, their formula (in their last few albums, anyways) includes soaring guitars, amazingly catchy melodies, spiritual lyrics, and emotional flow both vocally and structurally. They are the masters of melody, and they remain complex and progressive even while being simple and accessible. They are truly masters of their craft.

This new album, then, is no different in those terms. The melodies return in force, such as the serene beauty of “The Lost Song” parts 1-3. And, yet, there is something different here. The melodic lines are somewhat more complex, less in-your-face, and more organic. This especially shows in the song lengths, most of them being over five minutes. This allows for more growth and more progression. Indeed, then, the melodies on “Distant Satellites”, while not being as instantly lovable or recognizable, are certainly more difficult and possibly will have a longer “shelf life” in my mind. Yes, the orchestrations seem to be lower key, as well, allowing the vocalists to express themselves more personally then ever.

There are other improvements, too. I feel that the musicianship is more fervent and on a higher plateau of difficulty than Anathema has tried. Drummer John Douglas, especially, plays amazingly well from start to finish, accenting the music with awesome pounding and fills. The rest of the band are at their peak, too, with Vincent and Lee being especially great with emotional and meaningful vocal performances.

“Distant Satellites” is different in more meaningful ways, too. Utilizing post-rock/metal structures is nothing new for Anathema, but they really do perfect them here, as on “Dusk”, a dark, climactic song. Yet, there is a sense of continuity between tracks, too. This is obviously the case between the three parts of “The Lost Song”, but it’s also apparent throughout the album, as if Anathema is telling us a story, convincing us of our true selves and our connection with the universe and with each other.

This album is wonderful in the first half, but my excitement reached new heights in the second half. Anathema has taken it upon themselves to change things up a bit. They wanted to progress their sound, but make it all seem so natural. So, in the second half, the album climaxes with one of the best songs, simply called “Anathema”. But then, we are thrown for a loop somewhat, as “You’re Not Alone” features a hefty portion of electronic vibe. It’s great, but the best is still to come.

Next, “Firelight”, a darkly ethereal instrumental track that is completely electronic, is thrust upon us, and is followed up by what may possibly be the best song Anathema has ever produced, “Distant Satellites”. This track combines everything that has ever made Anathema great: soaring melodies, climactic structure, gentle spirituality, amazing vocals, and now an electronic beat that is both complex and catchy. Vibrant, mesmerizing, and pure, this track elates me every time I hear it. It takes this album, and my heart, to new heights. The album finishes with a gentle ballad that just seems so fitting, yet it still has the strong electronic influence.

So, is “Distant Satellites” a winner? In every way! Is it their best album? I don’t know; it has the potential, but it might take time, just like “Weather Systems” did. What I can tell you is that this new album is more mature, more progressive, more interesting and eclectic, and less formulaic then anything Anathema has crafted yet. It does sacrifice some accessibility and some instant likability for these things, but I respect their decision massively, and I fully expect to see “Distant Satellites” at the tops of many lists at the end of 2014." - Progulator

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Catharsis and hope in the face of adversity is perhaps Karnataka’s bread and butter, and ‘Borderline’ is an almost perfect distillation of that duality. It’s followed by the highly dramatic ‘Fairytale Lies’, which is reminiscent of Within Temptation at their most balefully reflective, a glorious concoction of tumbling keys and a striking string arrangement, topped off by a lyric that is superb in its cynical acceptance of reality and Griffiths’ astonishing vocal, a masterclass in mood and atmosphere. Yet the mood lifts once again with the penultimate track, ‘Feels Like Home’, a pretty, touching ballad about discovering “the one” that happily avoids the trap many ballads fall into – the cardinal sin of over-sentimentality. The way it develops is compellingly cinematic: as the song goes on, more and more layers are added to the music and the vocal, as if the virtual camera is pulling slowly back to reveal more and more of the stage. It ends in a cascade of harmony vocals, like embers from a firework display drifting back down to earth, and is possibly one of the best ballads the band have ever delivered.After all this drama, it would take something very special indeed not to be anticlimactic, but the title track itself – all twenty minutes of it – is certainly not that. Karnataka have shown themselves to be masters of longer pieces before, never falling into the self-conscious prog trap of simply pasting together a bunch of disparate pieces of music and hoping for the best. Although this magnum opus is comprised of seven separately numbered and titled parts – count ‘em! – it somehow manages to feel organically grown rather than stitched together in a lab. In many ways, it’s the ultimate distillation of what the new-look Karnataka are all about: we have folky, Celtic sections featuring guest appearances from Nightwish’s Troy Donockley; delicate balladry; a pounding symphonic metal interlude, and some outright prog courtesy of penultimate section ‘In The Name Of God’, which opens like Marillion in their pomp and steadily dials up the intensity. The effect is almost total sensory overload, and it will likely take many listens to unlock all the detail, musically and lyrically. Any piece of this length has to end strongly, and happily Karnataka have saved their ace in the hole for the dying moments of the album, as everyone pulls out all the stops for the grand finale. Pinna delivers one of his most devastating solos; Donockley serves up a Uillean pipe solo to die for, and the rhythm section get stuck in as Cagri and the assembled string section provide a backdrop of dizzying beauty for Griffiths to deliver possibly her finest vocal to date. It’s unspeakably moving, a beautiful lament for the losers on the battlefields of life and love that will quite likely require more than one handkerchief.It feels wrong to call current vocalist Hayley Griffiths the “new vocalist”, since she’s been touring with the band since very early in 2012. With a background in large musical productions (Irish dance spectaculars Riverdance and Lord Of The Dance both feature in her quite extensive CV), fronting a rock band was something completely new for Griffiths, and it isn’t perhaps surprising that the first batch of dates she undertook with the band – where the live release New Light was recorded – saw her nailing the demanding vocal parts without breaking a sweat, but looking slightly self-conscious on stage. As anyone who has seen the band recently will attest, any inhibitions that Griffiths may once have had on stage are long since gone, and that confidence has found its way onto the album, where she delivers a flawless, powerful performance. From fiery rock vocals to the lofty, operatic extreme of her range, Griffiths is perfectly on point throughout, as at home with riff-based rockers like ‘Road to Cairo’ and ‘Poison Ivy’ as she is with the gothic balladry of ‘Fairytale Lies’. It’s a bravura showcase for a highly gifted performer, and it’s practically impossible to come away from hearing her in action here not having reached the conclusion that she is the perfect foil for the band. Powerfully charismatic, hugely versatile and technically magnificent, her vocals on the closing title track in particular shame many better known female rock vocalists.Çağrı Tozluoğlu, on keys, is a similarly impressive recruit. Eschewing the more traditional progressive rock influences of previous keysman Gonzalo Carrera, Tozluoğlu brings a welcome modernity to the band. His soloing is sparsely used, but when it does appear (as on ‘Poison Ivy’), it’s wonderfully fluid. Where Tozluoğlu excels is in his shaping of mood and his orchestrations: his epic approach to arrangement means that this is the biggest-sounding Karnataka album to date. The danger of dialling up the drama is that sonically the music is weighed down until it sounds overwrought, but Tozluoğlu knows exactly when a bit more is too much. Nowhere is this more evident than in the expansive title track, where the gradual crescendoes and sudden juddering launches into explosive instrumental sections are handled with a very fine hand. Even as the song builds more and more layers upon Tozluoğlu’s musical architecture, it never feels like drama for the sake of drama; it all feels natural, logical.Last of the new arrivals is the most recent one, French drummer Jimmy Pallagrosi, whose performance here is frankly the stuff of future legend. With all the energy of progressive legends like Mike Portnoy, Pallagrosi’s explosive playing lends the material added potency and urgency whilst anchoring it to earth, playing a key role in giving it real weight and momentum. His Bonham-esque voyages around his kit during ‘Road to Cairo’ are a joy to hear; at the same time, his restraint on some of the quieter pieces – such as ‘Fairytale Lies’ – demonstrates a keen musicality and a knowledge of where to leave space for the music to breathe. In a world seemingly filled with drummers who appear to treat every song as a drum solo, Pallagrosi’s keen sense of dynamics is both refreshing and exactly what the material needs. He is, in short, the right drummer at the right time.Secrets Of Angels is a triumph. Wonderfully melodic, hugely dramatic without being in any way corny, varied in feel yet somehow effortlessly cohesive, beautifully recorded and mixed, and very sympathetically mastered, it is fairly easily the best-sounding album the band have made. The material is fabulously strong, and managed to both tread new ground and sound like ‘classic’ Karnataka at the same time – no mean feat, especially with all the new blood involved in its writing. As the epic title track draws to a breathless close, the listener may find themselves exhausted – drained by an album that runs the full gamut of emotions and leaves no stone unturned in its quest to powerfully move anyone who takes the time to sit down with it and listen. Hands down, the band’s finest hour, and a validation of the belief and skills of the new-look band. The only difficulty Karnataka now face is how to top it." = Echoes And Dust
    $21.00
  • "When Rush issued Vapor Trails in 2002, they revealed that -- even after Neil Peart's personal tragedies in the 1990s had cast the group's future in doubt -- they were back with a vengeance. The sound was hard-hitting, direct, and extremely focused. Lyrically, Peart went right after the subject matter he was dealing with -- and it was in the aftermath of 9/11 as well, which couldn't help but influence his lyric writing. In 2004 the band issued a covers EP that was in one way a toss-off, but in another a riotous act of freewheeling joy that offered a side of the band no one had heard for 30 years. There were a couple of live offerings and a 30th anniversary project as well that kept fans happy perhaps, but broke -- though Rush in Rio was the kind of live album every band hopes to record. Snakes & Arrows represents the band's 18th studio album. Produced by Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Velvet Revolver, Superdrag), the record is another heavy guitar, bass, and drums...drums...and more drums record. The title came -- unconsciously according to Peart -- from a centuries-old Buddhist game of the same name about karma, and also from a play on the words of the children's game Chutes and Ladders. Its subject matter is heavy duty: faith and war. From the opening track (and first single), acoustic and electric guitars, bass hum, and Peart's crash-and-thrum urgency in the almighty riff are all present. When Geddy Lee opens his mouth, you know you are in for a ride: "Pariah dogs and wandering madmen/Barking at strangers and speaking in tongues/The ebb and flow of tidal fortune/Electrical charges are charging up the young/It's a far cry from the world we thought we'd inherit/It's a far cry from the way we thought we'd share it...." At the same time, inside the frame of the refrain, Lee refuses to be conquered in the face of chaos: "One day I feel like I'm ahead of the wheel/And the next it's rolling over me/I can get back on/I can get back on." Alex Lifeson's guitars swell and Peart's crash cymbals ride the riff and push Lee to sing above the wailing fray. Great beginning."Armor and Sword" contains an instrumental surprise. After an initial ride-cymbal clash, the guitar and bassline sound exactly like King Crimson playing something from Red or Larks' Tongues in Aspic. The theme is repeated on an acoustic guitar before Lee begins singing about the shadowy side of human nature brought on by the many times children are scarred in development. The boom and crackle of electric guitars and bass are all there, but so is that sense of melody that Rush have trademarked as Lee states, "...No one gets to their heaven without a fight/We hold beliefs as a consolation/A way to take us out of ourselves...." There is no screed for or against religion per se, but a stake in the claim of hope and faith as absolutely necessary to accomplish anything, hence the refrain. Peart beautifully articulates the dark side of life's undersurface; he has been writing the best lyrics of his entire career on the band's last two studio records -- only two in the last ten years. The dynamic works against the melody and Lifeson's brief but screaming solo is a fine cap on it. "Workin' Them Angels" blends the acoustic against the electrics gorgeously, and Lee sings counterpoint to the guitars. "The Larger Bowl" is one of those Rush tunes that builds and builds both lyrically and musically, beginning with only Lee's voice and Lifeson's acoustic guitar. Its shift-and-knot rhythms and spatial dynamics offer the impression -- as does the rest of the album -- that the bandmembers are playing in the same room at the same time (it happened to a lesser degree on Vapor Trails, but here the impression is constant). The sounds -- both hard and soft -- blend together wonderfully. The live feel of the record with its sonic washes and overdubbed guitars and vocals creates near chaos without loss of control. It's like teetering on the edge of an abyss with one eye on both sides of it. Song by song, the notions of tension build, taking the listener to a place where hope and faith are challenged continually, not only in the face of the entire world, but in one's personal relationships -- check "Spindrift." Echoes of T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, Robert Frost, Matthew Arnold, and The Odyssey are glanced upon, as is The Dhammapada in the Buddhist scriptures -- with more of a thematic than referential purpose.Amid all this seriousness, there is a bit of humor. The instrumental track "Malignant Narcissism" references a line in the comedic film Team America: World Police from Matt Stone and Trey Parker of South Park fame. It comes from a line in the film that reveals how terrorists think. It's one of three absolutely stunning instrumentals; another is "The Main Monkey Business," which sounds like the closest Rush have gotten to jamming in the studio in over 20 years. Think of the intensity of 2112 with the musicianship of Vapor Trails, and you begin to get a picture: screaming guitars, deep bass thrum, soaring keyboards, and all those pop-and-boom drums from Peart's massive kit. "The Way the Wind Blows" is Rush taking on the blues in massive metallic style, and it feels more like Cream in the intro. Lee's vocal drives deep inside the lyric -- it's tense, paranoid, yet revelatory. It's about the perverse magnetism of religion and war, and how both are seemingly designed to be cause and effect: fanatical religiosity leads to war. There are different theories on this, but Peart distills them well, as if he's read (but not necessarily completely understood) René Girard's seminal work Violence and the Sacred. The album changes pace a bit with the instrumental "Hope," a largely 12-string acoustic guitar piece played off a medieval theme by Lifeson. "Faithless" is anything but. It's one of those Rush tracks where counterpoint vocals against the guitars and basslines create that unique welling of sound that occurs when the band is at its peak on-stage. The set ends with "We Hold On," a track that expresses the sum total of all the struggles life offers and holds. Here Eliot the poet is quoted directly at the end of the third verse. It's anthemic, with backmasked guitars, Peart playing actual breaks, and Lee's bass holding the chaos together with a constant pulsing throb, guiding the various knotty musical changes back to the center of the verse and refrain, which is the place where the cut just explodes in sonic fury. Snakes & Arrows is one of the tightest conceptual records the band has ever released. Musically, it is as strong as their very best material, without a lapse in texture, composition, production, musicianship, or sheer rock intensity. There are real heart and fire in this album. It was well worth waiting for." - Allmusic Guide
    $8.00