When I was in college I was really into Christian hardcore/punk/post-hardcore music. Unfortunately, you couldn’t just go to your local Christian book store and pick up that kind of music; it was very underground. Thankfully, I discovered a great website called christcoremusic.net. Christ-core-music featured exactly the kind of music I was into. It had reviews, interviews, articles and a huge database full of hundreds of bands. In addition, the site contained comparisons of various bands and had suggestions of what bands you might like. I would spend hours going through the lists of bands and I believe there was some sort of ranking system so I would right down all the bands with the highest rankings. Then I would go to the now defunct mp3.com and download songs from all the bands I had written down. One of those bands was Anathallo and the song of theirs I downloaded was “But Without Love…” (to give some reference I believe this was sometime in 2002). Some of you who know Anathallo might be wondering why they were featured on a Christian hardcore music website. Believe it or not they started out as a post-hardcore band and if you listen to the aforementioned song you can totally hear the post-hardcore roots.
Out of all the songs I downloaded, Anathallo’s song was the one that stuck with me the most. I listened to it all the time and I wanted more. I proceeded to find out as much about Anathallo as I could. Sadly not much information about them was available. They were very underground, so all I had was this one song. At this point in the story it would have been easy to let Anathallo drift into oblivion, but they had me hooked, so I simply tucked them away in the back of my mind.
Over the next year or so I would check in with Anathallo every so often hoping to find something new. Finally, they posted a new song on Purevolume. The song was called “Don’t Kid Yourself You Need a Physician.” It was a very different song from “But Without Love…” but it was still amazing and would later become one of my favorite songs of all time. By this time Anathallo also had a pretty active website. I spent a lot time checking their site and began to learn a couple of things. One, was how open they were about their faith. I certainly was able to pick up on the spiritual themes of the two songs I had heard but they also had these really thoughtful and spiritually themed blogs on their website. Secondly I learned that despite being such an obscure band, they were very well respected in the hardcore/punk scene and not just amongst Christian bands. All of this combined made me even more fascinated with this little band from Mount Pleasant, Michigan. However, I still only had the two songs. I didn’t even know for sure what albums they had and their CDs where really difficult to get one’s hand’s on. Once again I tucked Anathallo away in the back of mind… that is until November 4, 2005.
By this time I was living in Minneapolis, my wife Rachel and I were then dating, and I was going to concerts like it was going out of style. Daily I would check my favorite band’s respective websites and/or myspace pages to see if they would be making a stop in my new home. Then it happened… on a frequent visit to Anathallo’s website I learned they would be playing the Fallout Urban Art Center in Minneapolis. Even though I really didn’t know what to expect, I was thrilled. After following this band for a number of years with little more than two songs I would finally have the opportunity to experience them first hand.
The night of November 4, 2005 Rachel, myself and our friend Laura headed to the Fallout. We patiently waited through the opening bands and finally the time was upon us… Anathallo was about to take the stage. If you have never been to the Fallout the back room where the bands play is fairly small and kind of has the feel of a garage. The stage is small and low to the ground so it was a very intimate setting. As soon as Anathallo began to play a huge ear-to-ear smile formed on my face and never left through their entire set. Words can’t really describe what the experience was like but what comes to mind is beautiful, amazing, chilling, happy, etc. There were about seven people in the band and they each rotated around and played various instruments including but not limited to a huge bass drum, flugelhorn, trombone, bells, chains, sticks, socket wrenches and of course the usual guitar, bass, keyboard, drum combo. It was like a rock band married with a very intimate orchestra… or something like that. The only strange thing was that they didn’t play either of the two songs I knew, and the songs they did play didn’t sound very much like those songs. The only thing I knew about the songs they did play was something they mentioned about how several of them were influenced by a Japanese parable. But that didn’t matter much, I had just experienced something very special, easily the best live show I’d seen in my life up until that point.
Following the show I was excited to make my way to the merch table and see what albums they had for sale. The only CD they had was an album called “Sparrows.” I’d never heard of it but I bought it without question. I assumed the songs I heard that night must be on that album, however my assumption would prove wrong. The following day still high from the night before I began to take in “Sparrows.” I recognized none of the songs from their live set, and again the songs had a very different sound, more similar to songs I’d heard before. Although I liked the songs on “Sparrows” I couldn’t help but wonder where the songs they played live came from. It would be another six months before I would find the answer.
On May 8, 2006 Anathallo released their first nationally distributed full length album “Floating World.” And sure enough all the songs I heard that night at the Fallout where on that album. Floating World was incredible; unlike any other album I’d heard before. As they mentioned live, there were in fact four songs based on a Japanese parable called “Hanasakajijii.” In addition a number of the other songs had Japanese influences, they even sing in Japanese on a couple songs. A slightly less important detail but worth mentioning, Floating World features the best album art work I’ve ever seen. I’ll post a picture of it but you really have to see it to fully appreciate it.
Although Anathallo remains relatively obscure, Floating World definitely put them on the map, at least in the indie music scene. This allowed them to re-release their past albums some of which where out of print, digitally. Of course upon hearing this I bought all of it on iTunes, and finally was able to make sense of their discography. Their first album was “Luminous Luminescence in the Atlas Position” which featured the song “But Without Love…” Their second album was “Sparrows” which I bought at their show at the Fallout, they then released an EP called “Holiday at the Sea” which features the song “Don’t Kid Yourself You Need a Physician.” The whole history of Anathallo had come together and they had permanently cemented themselves as one of my favorite bands.
I don’t remember the date but I was able to see Anathallo again sometime in 2006 at The Varsity Theater. Again it was nothing short of amazing. Anathallo remains in my mind as the best live band I’ve ever seen. This Tuesday November 18, 2008 Anathallo will release “Canopy Glow” and I couldn’t be more excited. This is by far my most anticipated album of the year. You can be sure I’ll be posting a review of it sometime in the following weeks.
Sorry this was so long but if you’ve made it this far you can probably tell I’m very passionate about this band. With that said if you’ve never heard of Anathallo, you really should check them out, you won’t be disappointed. And be on the lookout because they are planning a national tour beginning at the end of February.