There are artists whose power comes from being interesting even though you were dead-on with your pre-conceptions of their music. When speculating about how a future release by them would sound like, you got all the points right: the instruments sound as you had imagined they would sound, the lyrics are familiar, the production is what it needs to be. Everything has been played as you had expected. And yet, the album is still incredibly powerful. Something about the way it’s put together, even if you saw it coming, takes your breath away and reminds you why all those things exist as they do. This is very much the case with Daniel Cavanagh‘s latest release, Monochrome.
Familiar to readers of the blog as one of the founding members of Anathema, Cavanagh’s sound in the last few years has been marked with the changes in the band’s sound. Their iconic Weather Systems has quickly become a classic release and its sound almost synonymous with the band’s in general for many fans. And Monochrome has Anneke Van Giersbergen. If you’ve perused the YouTube ecosystem around these artists, you’ve already heard their many collaborations (some of them covers to Anathema tracks). And so, the ground for you to predict exactly what this album sounds like has been laid. You can expect moving piano, huge choruses that sit on top of emotional build-ups, an air of optimistic melancholy and incredibly moving vocals.
Parts of it go so far as to sound like tracks on Weather Systems, like the emotional ending to “Soho”, whose lyrics are very familiar to those on that album or on Distant Satellites. But, and it’s a big one, this album has so much more on it. It has Cavanagh’s compositional talent unleashed, nowhere more extravagantly or successfully as on the longest track on the album, “The Silent Flight of the Raven Winged Hours”. Yes, you know how the drums sound and where the piano is going but just try and listen to this track and not be moved by the strings or the incredible movements conjured up in Cavanagh’s mind. The composition on those strings is a true marvel by the way, as it is on the rest of the album. It simply works. It recreates the same larger than life yet somehow intimate sensation of Weather Systems and then injects it with a new/old aspect. A variation on a theme.
Which isn’t to say that everything on it is completely predictable. The synth tones on “The Silent Flight” are absolutely incredible and a departure from the established Anathema sound. Instead, they hark back to more old-school influences. Coupled with the ethereal vocals samples that surround them, the middle passages of the track almost sound like a Lunatic Soul track, all electronic and melancholy ambience. This innovation also manifests in other parts of the album. The second track, “This Music”, for example is much more rock ballad than anything Cavanagh has done in Anathema. It draws inspiration more from his joint work with Van Giersbergen instead, channeling the bittersweet melodies of her incredible vocals into a more straightforward and uplifting track than we might have expected.
Oh, and by the way, Anneke Van Giersbergen is still god damn impossibly amazing. Her vocals just keep getting better with time and Cavanagh’s compositions on Monochrome fit her incredibly well. The power in her timbre is very much present on the album and wherever she’s featured, everything takes on an extra sheen of evocativeness. So, when you take her contributions, merge them with Cavanagh’s impressive composition abilities and that fact that this album scratches just the right itch you thought it would, Monochrome is simply a joy. It’s like a guilty pleasure that you don’t have to feel guilty for, an acceptance by an artist of their sound which allows them to also innovate on it.
Monochrome was released on October 13th, on Kscope Records. You can on over here to get it (you really should).