Review by Vinny for Anathema - The Silent Enigma (1995)
As I continue to explore doom metal and I get to revisit previously tested artists and albums I inevitably come across the good, the bad and the ugly. My patience is tested more than once on The Silent Enigma with its wailing theatrics and at times frankly dull passages. However, I find it hard to state that I do not enjoy the album overall. Even given my challenges with it, I cannot ignore that it is well written and commands an almost royal level of respect. Having heard precisely no Anathema going into this I have nothing to benchmark it against in terms of the discography as a whole and so I get to judge it purely on its own merits, of which their are many.
Vincent's vocals (when not in wailing mode) tread a path of aggressive and emotive expressions that suit the level of aggression behind the riffing and percussion remarkably well. There is never a sense of conflict with any of the component parts on the album, instead things feel measured and balanced and for the main part this delivers an album that sounds a lot more mature than a sophomore release normally would do, let alone one that had seen a significant line up change from the previous album. It is in the attempts at the more sincere moments that I find issue with the vocals. Whilst I understand the need for the drama, I just feel the vocals are a little over the top and get to the point of making me cringe in all honesty.
When they are in full flow, I find I have little to argue with though. Opening track Restless Oblivion is a perfect example of the content that appeals to me and even the instrumental track that closes the album has a real presence despite me not normally enjoying instrumental tracks as a rule. Tracks such as Alone or the ones that lose me, as they stray into the realm of meandering despite their obvious promise and instrumental prowess. I end up wanting to move the song along by the sheer will of my mind which is never a good sign on any record and usually results in me hitting the skip button. At the same time, the soothing density of the guitar tone on Sunset of Age is an unexpected pleasure following the aforementioned sleep-inducing track that precedes it.
So whilst I referenced the three different possible outputs in the opening line of my review, The Silent Enigma only contains the good and the bad and never actually displays any of the ugly. Even the bonus track version that my stream threw up to include the orchestral version of the title track and some unreleased track manages to hold the attention through its extras.