Although a few years ago we had the chance to hear ANATHEMA in an acoustic setting, I believe that you share my opinion that you do not hear the band until you hear it in full force. Liverpool’s six-piece is a living proof of that. What we also missed the last time and what many have waited more eagerly to hear than the iconic English band is their support from France, the fantastic ALCEST. Just a few of the reasons why October 23 was marked red in the calendar.
The creation of one man, one creative mind, from the black metal solo project to one of the leading forces of the shoegaze genre, Neige has gone a long way. His Alcest now boasts a legacy containing five studio albums, several EPs and split editions. The band is also considered the pioneer of blackgaze/post-black metal genre by many, if you like to put labels on artwork. Because everything they have presented us with is exactly that.
In the spirit of the current album “Kodama” which came out last year, they started the set with the title track. The crowd was getting bigger more and more minute by minute. The people coming in were partly those attracted to the sounds coming from the stage and partly the fans of the band who were late because the concert started somewhat earlier than we are used to. The atmosphere was fairly soured, blurred with smoke and mystical lighting that depicted four figures on stage. Certainly, Neige could not hide his surprise and excitement how many band’s fans are in the audience. Every one of them, if not singing than with loud exclamations and applauds greeted the band and showed support for their music.
Spontaneously shy, perfectly intimate and foggy mystical Alcest fantastically fit into the moment, the audience and the hall of the Belgrade Youth Center. The gloomy tones and sadness of the Neige‘s voice occupied the space and embraced the crowd into a hug from which it was really difficult to get out. And why would anyone want to at all? Long and dreamy instrumental sections, which fell to the audience like snowflakes were scattered by frightening vocal gaps from the very depths of the darkness.
After “Là où naissent les couleurs nouvelles” off of the album “Les Voyages de l’Âme” published in 2012, the spotlight was again on the latest release. We were blown away by a powerful “Oiseaux de proie” at first, because that’s when we first heard Neige‘s black metal cries this evening and then “Eclosion”, which leaned great on it. In less than an hour it is incredible how much warmth Alcest gave away from the stage, which is in contrast to the music they play. How much sincere love and enjoyment of what they are doing they have shown and we could feel it as they walked us through their discography and the magical world their music creates. Wonderful performance of French post-metal and shoegaze dreamers, this is a prefect example how to leave a good first impression when you play for the first time in a new country.
After a half-hour break and the preparation of the stage and effects of the journey that started with “A Fine Day To Exist” and got it’s final chapter on the album “The Optimist”, release that carries the entire tour. Members of Anathema started getting out on stage one by one. Mixing the introductory theme of the song “San Francisco” and ovation of the full house of the Youth Center marked the beginning of a long-awaited performance.
Expertly, as the greatest do, Anathema immediately pulled out an ace from the sleeve and warmed the audience with spectacular performances of “Untouchable, Part 1” and “Untouchable, Part 2” to the general excitement of everyone present. The first crash of fantastic vocals greatly responsible for emphasizing the emotional side of this band. There followed a block of songs from the new album, “Can’t Let Go”, the title track and love song, as they themselves explained, “Endless Ways” during which Lee Douglas’ performance fascinated us all.
Although the older fans hoped that they would hear some tracks from the very beginnings of the band at this concert, Anathema still tuned their setlist and the entire performance to fit their newer works and sound far away from their roots, a period when they released many of their greatest albums. However, it did not prevent anyone from enjoying selected songs such as “The Lost Song, Part 3”, “Pressure”, “Dreaming Light”.
The end of the performance was reserved for another callback to “The Optimist” and tracks “Springfield” and “Back To The Start”, while “Distant Satellites” marked the definitive end. Well played and planned from the first to the last note with accompanying animations on the backdrop screen, Anathema led us through a newer era of the band perhaps in a little colder way than we expected, but still in accordance with their home land. An almost perfect rainy Monday in Belgrade.
Written by Jadranka Balaš