After Falling Deeper, Anathema's orchestral detour into greatest hitsville, the Liverpool band return with a true follow-up to We're Here Because We're Here. What Falling Deeper accomplished was to make the band comfortable with the string arrangements of Dave Stewart; they're used abundantly -- and to great benefit -- on Weather Systems (produced by Christer-Andre Cederberg with Daniel and Vincent Cavanagh). Guitarist Daniel has written a set of songs that are more daring, harmonically ambitious, and poetically sophisticated than anything he's previously attempted. Vocalist and occasional keyboardist Vincent arranges them for drummer John Douglas, vocalist Lee Helen Douglas, and help from Cederberg on bass. Piano, acoustic, and electric guitars continue to dominate Anathema's latter-day sound, but strings are now an immense part of their textural architecture. Anathema's brand of 21st century prog embraces pop's grandest scales and accessibility without mindless kitsch, shallowness, or phony detachment. This material, which is lyrically on the heavy end of the emotional scale, is offset by the sheer beauty of the compositions and orchestrations. The album explores the range of human emotions regarding death -- the acceptance of its inevitability and the transcendence of the fear it engenders -- which illuminates these nine songs. According to Daniel's lyrics, it's the ferocity of love that both bridges the mortal divide and renders fear impotent. While on the surface the piano and acoustic guitar intros on most of these songs may seem to be repetitive, they are merely feints, serving as guideposts to vast interiors, musically, sonically, and lyrically. It's a gorgeous whole, but there are standouts. The two parts of "Untouchable" feature Vincent and Douglas on alternate, contrasting leads. The first part is mostly driven by guitars and drums with strings added for depth; the second is drenched in strings and becomes the first part's mirror image. "Lightning Song" features Douglas. Her crystalline vocal helms the track as it gradually gathers intensity until explosive electric guitars transform it into an anthem, yet she rises above to carry it home. "Sunlight" begins quietly, but its drums and electric guitars gather into a storm force, yet the hook remains transparent. Closer "Internal Landscapes" -- introduced with ambient electronics and a field recording of a near-death experience -- breaks free from its initial weightiness with its sheer musicality and honest emotional expression from Vincent and Douglas. Weather Systems stands with Anathema's finest work. They've not only escaped the limitation of expectations, they've exceeded them.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek