Anathema - The Kings Arms (New Zealand) - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Anathema - The Kings Arms (New Zealand)

by Warwick Stubbs Rating:9 Release Date:

Distant Satellites acoustic

Beginning your career as a death/doom metal band, with pretty consistent line-up changes, and ending up as an atmospheric and uplifting progressive rock band is quite a change to make. While any band can realistically move into acoustic territory without changing their genre, it was quite a surprise to find only three members of the six member UK band gracing the stage at Auckland’s Kings Arms Tavern for what turned out to be solid renditions of a lot of favourite Anathema songs from across the years. And uplifting renditions as well!

Comprising of Daniel and Vincent Cavanagh, and Lee Douglas, all three sharing vocals with Daniel and Vincent contributing guitar parts, the biggest surprise was to see Daniel using a loop pedal to set beats and chord harmonies that filled up the small venue when he wasn’t leaning over and adding keyboard harmonies as well! Quite a bit of audience participation was encouraged through clapping and singing along, with Vincent often turning his mic to the audience as Daniel let the guitar loops finish songs off.

The selection of songs stretched across two decades of albums but the majority being pulled from the last three albums of their new atmospheric prog-rock stage. Having listened to and knowing songs like ‘Deep’ from Judgement and ‘Fragile Dreams’ from the heavily gothic doom metal album Alternative 4, it was a joy to hear them in this setting without feeling like they had lost their impact. With these songs, Daniel would beat out a rhythm on the body of the guitar to set up a drum loop, and then overlay it with a simple harmony pattern before kicking into the main riff. It was these moments, when you might be trying to guess what song they had started playing, and finally recognising that main riff, that the audience exploded and gave Anathema even bigger cheers than they were already getting from perhaps some of the more recent and less rock songs. What also stood out was just how good the songs were in their acoustic settings – how good all the songs were. I say this acknowledging that I have not paid a great deal of attention to their most recent release Distant Satellites, finding it over-produced and overlayed with far too much keyboard, losing any sense of rawness and natural appeal. What the acoustic setting brought out was all those melodies already present in beautiful songs like ‘The Lost Song, Part 2’, ‘Ariel’ and the title song ‘Distant Satellites’, laying bare their simplicity without any forced emotion. And also, how easily they stood alongside such poetic beauties as ‘Temporary Peace’.

Danny got his solo spot just after the half way mark and performed ‘High Hopes’ by Pink Floyd – another song I had never paid too much attention to. Here Danny focussed his acoustic guitar in on exploiting the best parts of the song and made the performance very much worth paying attention to.

Three more songs followed – ‘Anathema’, ‘A Natural Disaster’, and ‘Fragile Dreams’ – before the three piece broke out a cover for Lee Douglas to sing on her own. And what a surprise it was for those of us who grew up in the post-grunge 90s to hear Portishead’s ‘Glory Box’ performed and sung by Lee with just as much passion as any of the other songs she had already sung up to that point.

The night was rounded off with another Pink Floyd cover - ‘Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2’ - somewhat of a cliché choice, yet it didn’t fail to raise an enormous singalong from the crowd with everyone cheering as the three members left the stage.

It is impressive for a band – even if it is only half the band – to travel so far and play with as much enthusiasm and sincerity that they would for any other larger crowd. The venue was small, the crowd was smaller, but the heart of Anathema shone bright and filled the room.

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