Anathema are a band I have never quite been able to figure out. From their origins as a doom metal band, the group has shown a remarkable ability to evolve and change their sound while retaining a core “feel” that distinguishes them from some of the more avante-garde bands who shift genres with little regard for retaining their identities as a band. Anathema always sounds like Anathema. Their newest release Weather Systems is a monumental addition to the band’s ever changing, yet always distinctive musical legacy.

Weather Systems, like most of the band’s creations, is an album that requires your attention. It is not background noise. You will get as much out of this album as you give. With that said, the first two tracks “Untouchable Parts 1 and 2″ are meant to be listened to back to back. Beginning with a gorgeous finger picked guitar pattern, vocalist Vincent Cavanagh uses his well honed voice to create one of the most emotive soundscapes in recent memory. The song slowly builds, adding in distorted guitars and strings, until it comes to a climax, seamlessly transitioning to the gentler second part of the song. This song is equally as emotional, with female singer Lee Douglass simply transcendent in her performance, complimenting the interestingly crafted speed picked lead guitar melody. The crashing cymbals and rapid fire snare hits contrast fascinatingly with the mellow music.

“The Gathering of the Clouds” is a sorrowful piece that continues the use of quick picked acoustic guitar and introduces layered vocals that tugs at the heartstrings in a way few songs do. It’s immediate followup “Lightning Song” is my favorite on the album. It is a majestic female fronted ballad, where Lee’s voice literally transports the listener to a gentler, kinder, forgiving world. I can’t emphasis enough just how good this song is. “Sunlight” is another mellow, moody ballad of sorts that is probably the weakest song on the release. With that said, it is still a gentle, memorable journey describing the feeling of a listless summer day.

“The Storm Before the Calm”  is a bit of a curve ball, replacing the thus far melancholic, soft sound with a slightly industrialized, creepily atmospheric rock song. This is the heaviest track on the record, yet still remains fairly tame (especially considering the band’s origins). “The Beginning of the End” is definitely runner up for song of the album, kicking off with a deeply tragic piano melody and yet more emotive lyrics. This is a brief glimpse into the more alternative rock oriented Anathema, with the chorus being particularly heavy. All in all it is a meticulously crafted, highly memorable piece. As if to offset the increased testosterone of the previous song, the followup is a meandering, moody song piano and drums track that is best listened to in the darkness of near sleep.

Closing out the proceedings is “Internal Landscapes,” an atmospheric song about death, and the experience of returning from the edge. It begins with a distant melody and a man narrating his experience of dying, and returning to consciousness. The two singers really shine in this song, trading off slow, crooning melodies that, even without the beauty of the words, would still move the listener to the core. After a slow buildup, the track shifts into a heavier passage, really showcasing the emotional dynamic of the piece, finishing full circle with the narrator and distant melody. Production wise, this album is a marvel to behold. Every instrument is crystal clear and textured, with the sole intent of creating tangible emotion through the music. When all is said and done, this is a rare and treasured gem, a glorious tribute to the power of music and its ability to inspire and move listeners in a way no other medium can.