David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 66: Anathema (Internal Landscapes)

July 1, 2020

Today, I break my rule of not catering to special occasions with the 365 artists in 365 songs series. Today is an important anniversary, of sorts, since 3 years ago I went into cardiac arrest and almost died, apparently as fragile as crystal, the modern gift for a 3-year anniversary.

That heart attack and eventual recovery brought me a lot of cool things, including the CD Weather Systems by Anathema, featuring the long, spooky final song "Internal Landscapes." The CD was a present from a work colleague while I recovered. I was pleasantly surprised that she had gone to that effort and outright floored by this CD from a band for which I only had the foggiest recognition.  (Even that seemed appropriate, given that I had lots of foggy recognitions during that summer.)

"Internal Landscapes" begins with a lengthy clip of an interview with Dr. Joseph Geraci who describes his "near-death experience," probably also from a cardiac arrest.  As his narrative gets more and more arresting, brushes of music fill in the canvas (faint presence of guitar, piano, and cymbals) providing texture to Geraci's frank admission of wanting to say goodbye to his wife. As he gets to describing the specifics of the "near death experience," the lead guitar starts to weave its way into the song, a defibrillator of the highest quality. Geraci wraps up his narrative with a vision of a hopeful death state: "I was peace/I was love/I was the brightness." I'm not sure if it is the quality of the original interview with Geraci, but his voice sounds more and more distant, fighting against white noise, perhaps even time, as his narrative goes along.

Since I had nothing like this (I collapse, 10 days later I awake, that's about it for my narrative), the experience draws me in, wondering how close I was to peace, to love, to brightness. If I came that close, I sure wish I would have taken a picture of it.

But back to "Internal Landscapes." As Geraci fades out, full Anathema kicks in, recognizing that "full" on most of this album is texture and not necessarily detail. Anathema features two great singers, Lee Stevens and Vincent Cavanaugh.  Stevens comes in first, playing the role of the survivor wife, before Cavanaugh plays the role of the dying man. "Goodbye my friend/love will never end" she croons over a recurring guitar riff, slow drum beat, the song stretching itself like a cat in the sun. Cavanaugh calls back "And I feel like you/And I breathe all truth." Stevens responds until the tempo eventually increases, setting up Cavanaugh's "And I know you somehow/as I hold you in my heart," fading husband describing the dying experience among full-on instrumental attack.  When Cavanaugh cries out "there's a light so bright/and I know it's you," Stevens as the light comes back in. The rest of the song has both of their voices, virtually indistinguishable from each other. In full crescendo, the song belts "there's a light so bright/and I know it's you."

Then the song sets, much like the day's spectacular sunset, and Geraci is back: "And it's just so beautiful/it was eternity." He wraps up his experience with a repetition of the "I was the brightness" and then the song is almost two more minutes of fade out on the same note.

I'm not sure what my internal landscape is and certainly didn't know what it was in July 2017. My belief has always been that when we die, our body shuts down with just a few neurons still firing away, refusing to give up the ghost. In those last few neurons, I hope it is concentrated brightness, concentrated peace, concentrated love. I know that when I emerged from my own near death experience I concentrated on these things so much more.

"Internal Landscapes." Weather Systems. Anathema. Kscope. 2012. Link here.

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Day 67: Sorrows "I Don't Like It Like That." ->

See full unfinished list here.