Anathema / Demians
7 November 2008
Islington Academy, London

Demians is the brainchild of Nicolas Chapel, a shy Frenchman who has being thrust into the limelight with glowing reviews of his Building An Empire album. In the live arena, Demians is rounded out by bassist Antoine Pohu and drummer Gaël Hallier. The album’s keyboard arrangements are currently provided by a backing track, due to the loss of the bands keyboard player and with Chapel the sole singer, the lush vocal harmonies from the album were absent.

The band lined up in front of a large backdrop based on the Building An Empire artwork as the intro tape to Sapphire commenced, Chapel joining in with the opening guitar line. Through the quiet verses the crowd remained respectful, before the lush chorus washed over us. The sound was not overly loud and spot on with each instrument crystal clear.

Naïve began with some beautiful guitar picking from Chapel before his distorted guitar crashed in and lulled away again into the melodic verse, before building to the memorable chorus. Previewing a new song, the drum driven Feel Alive was dedicated to Anathema and indicated Chapel has further good material up his sleeve.

Once again with an excellent guitar sound, Chapel led his band into Building An Empire bonus track Earth. Whilst perhaps less hooky than some of the other material on their debut album, the crowd still observed Demians intently. The ace card was however saved for set closer The Perfect Symmetry. This nine minute epic runs through a variety of light and shade, with Chapel showing no nerves as he really put his all into singing the finale of the song. At the close Demians received a very warm ovation and proved to be the perfect support for Anathema.

Demians set list:
Sapphire / Naïve / Feel Alive / Earth / The Perfect Symmetry

It’s been a long time since 2003’s A Natural Disaster and whilst Hindsight is more than just a stop gap, it does really feel like things are finally aligning again for Anathema. The Islington Academy is packed tonight with devoted fans, none of whom could have gone home disappointed.

Right from the opening of Deep, this crowd is in Anathema’s hands and it’s the sheer emotion of the performance that has us transfixed. Whilst the band has journeyed far from their beginnings, live they are able to reinvigorate older songs, seamlessly sitting them next to their new material. However, following Far Away, when Vinnie Cavanagh announces “This will be the last time you hear some of these old songs”, there’s an air of disappointment which changes to intrigue as he continued, “What comes next, mmm…..”.

Based upon that, who knows whether the newer songs Angels Walk Among Us and A Simple Mistake will actually be on Anathema’s next album. The latter was dedicated by Danny Cavanagh to Porcupine Tree’s Steve Wilson, who I understand is now involved in Anathema’s management which can only be a good thing.

Empty from Alternative 4 raises the pace, with Danny getting the crowd clapping along and Vinnie cheekily slipping in the lyrics from The Mighty Boosh’s Eels song at its conclusion. The Floyd like opening of Judgement then gave a brief respite of pace before the driving Panic took over.

Back to Alternative 4 as Shroud Of False tricked some into thinking Fragile Dreams was about to arrive, but instead the mournful Lost Control follows. As the crowd took over the chorus vocal, Vinnie looked visibly moved by the response. Danny’s guitar solo during the song was simply stunning, though he somehow matched it during Flying.

A beautiful acoustic rendition of Are You There led to a highlight of the evening. With Danny on keyboards, you could have heard a pin drop as Vinnie sang the heart wrenching One Last Goodbye, completely absorbed in the song. The true passion was electric and had the crowd calling for more. Noting the approaching curfew, Vinnie told us they were working out how many more songs they could squeeze in “Before we’re kicked out for the disco shit.”

Reaching deep to their past, modern representations of Angelica and Sleepless are warmly received, with Vinnie this time slipping lyrics from Voivod’s Chaosmongers in the latter. Moving right up to date, an instrumental called Hindsight was previewed and whilst looking round and seeing a few death metal t-shirts in the audience, I couldn’t help thinking how Anathema’s music could have cross over appeal to fans of the likes of Elbow. Fragile Dreams closed the set, but the door is open to very exciting times for fans of Anathema and we wait with baited breath for what happens next.

Anathema set list:
Deep / Closer / Far Away / Angels Walk Among Us / A Simple Mistake / Anyone Anywhere / Empty / Judgement / Panic / Shroud Of False / Lost Control / Hope / Flying / Are You There (Acoustic) / One Last Goodbye (Acoustic) / Angelica / Sleepless / Hindsight / Fragile Dreams