Saturday, September 14, 2013

Anathema at the Gramercy Theatre

Vincent Cavanagh
Three brothers from Liverpool, England, vocalist/guitarist Vincent Cavanagh, guitarist Daniel Cavanagh and bassist Jamie Cavanagh, formed a death metal band called Pagan Angel in 1990. After the initial personnel changes, the band was renamed Anathema and released its first album in 1993. More personnel changes occurred and Anathema started moving in a gothic metal direction. Additional lineup changes gradually led the group to become a progressive rock band around 1999. The line-up presently consists of the three Cavanagh brothers, siblings John Douglas on drums and Lee Douglas on vocals, and keyboardist Daniel Cardoso, the newest member. With nine studio albums already in its catalog, Anathema's live DVD and CD, Universal, became available this month; the concert was recorded in 2012 at the ancient Roman theatre of Philippopolis, Bulgaria, where the band was enhanced by the Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra.

Until this tour, Anathema had only performed twice as a full band in North America, at the Milwaukee Metal Fest in 2000 and 2001, so tonight’s sold out show at the Gramercy Theatre was its New York debut. Throughout the performance, however, Anathema showed little sign of its past as a doom metal or gothic metal band. Although the band rocked at times, most of the set was comprised of soft, atmospheric soundscapes. With compositions that were often slow and experimental in design, comparisons could continue to be made to Pink Floyd. Faithful to progressive rock tradition, each song was a suite of musical movements. Although some of the band’s albums have been held together with concept themes, the band played mixed selections from various albums, going as far back as 1999’s Judgment album, when the Anathema first solidified itself as a prog-rock band. Newer songs showcased how Lee Douglas’ light yet soulful vocals have assumed bolder significance. The band performed its intricate space-rock compositions well, offering the audience a showcase of musical talent as well as an excursion of the senses. In the end, the Cavanagh brothers acknowledged their fans’ decades-long wait to see them in concert, and so repeatedly promised that Anathema would return to the New York stage.

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