Originally written by Ian Dreilinger.
In tune with the scores of other bands that have abandoned metal altogether and gone for something different is Anathema. With A Fine Day to Exit, they showed that their involvement with most anything heavy was over, and it was in fine form that they did so. It was anyone’s guess whether or not the follow up would feel as fresh and exciting, and it pains me to say that, for the most part, A Natural Disaster doesn’t live up. There are undoubtedly some wonderful pieces of music to be found here- even some surprising moments of relative heaviness, and there isn’t really anything truly bad to speak of, but as a whole, the album doesn’t mature well or captivate near enough to become anything more than an occasional casual listen. In trying to judge this album more fairly, I’ve tried time and time again to see if I only think it’s somewhat weak in comparison with A Fine Day to Exit, but even on its own it’s rather lackluster. It seems that there are three different varieties of song here; those that start slowly and take far too long to achieve anything, those that simply fail to go anywhere at all, and those that are actually a worthy listen. It’s disappointing that I’ve found myself coming to such a conclusion because at first it seemed like an album that would be a joy to listen to repeatedly and digest. Breaking the album up into the three aforementioned categories is pretty easy. Songs like Harmonium, Closer, Pulled Under at 2000 Meters a Second, and Flying begin differently than each other but all have the same effect; they all seem to have the potential to end up at a wonderful climax, but none do. Harmonium and Pulled Under are the closest things to heavy on A Natural Disaster, but it seems like a ploy to achieve intensity that went awry. Closer has cool vocoder vocal effects but they fail to mask an underdeveloped song. Flying is what appears to me to be an attempt at moody post rock that crescendos from a calm start to an underwhelming finish. Sadly, while none of these songs are bad or even unpleasant to hear, they fail to inspire awe and I think that’s what the goal of this type of music is. There are two tracks here that I find no pleasure at all in hearing. Oddly enough, one is the title track. A simple tune fronted by female vocals that spends six and a half going absolutely nowhere, it’s hard to get through even half the duration before it seems to have overstayed its welcome. There’s hardly any explanation for it other than that it might be a song thrown out by Antimatter from their latest album’s sessions. And to name an album after such an atrocity? I don’t know what they were thinking. The other song that’s completely useless is Childhood Dream. In their favor, it’s only a short two-minute time filler and tracks like this generally aren’t very appealing, but it still begs the question: why include it? On a lighter note, there are some very good songs on A Natural Disaster as well. Balance, Electricity, and Violence are all enjoyable, not growing tiresome with repeated listens. Electricity would have to be my favorite by a long shot; its subtleties become more apparent with every listen and it’s done with surprising sensitivity that may even top most of A Fine Day to Exit. Unfortunately, it’s far too short, keeping it from becoming the redeeming quality of an otherwise mostly bland album. Balance is good for the same reason as Electricity; there’s much attention paid to detail and the atmosphere that is created is a vast improvement over some of the lacking others. Where Electricity is too short, Violence is too long, but not so much so that it detracts from all the good things it has to offer. It’s an instrumental that spans over ten minutes although it fades into obscurity by the seven or eight minute mark and goes on, probably for no other reason than to extend the albums play time and so that they can say they made a ten-minute song. Are You There is the only track not yet mentioned and is the only one I’m still undecided on. That’s a good representation of the album as a whole. On the one hand, it’s often very pretty, but it seems a bit rushed and as though not enough attention was given to it to realize its potential. Sadly, A Natural Disaster is not something I can see myself wanting to listen to very often.