Two thirds of the way through 'Weather System''s lead track, 'Untouchable Pt 1', you'll already have given up.
Given up, that is, on trying to find reasons not to listen to the band because they're 'not Metal' anymore. For when singer Vincent Cavanagh takes you up in the arms of his emotive vocal, born on the wings of an imploringingly urgent drum and guitar backdrop, you can't fail but to want, really want, to go along for the ride.
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Sure, this ain't no stern-faced doom outfit anymore, but really, long term fans of the band accepted this fact with the turn of the century's revelatory 'Alternative 4' opus, and if you still harbour doubts about whether what this band is doing is for the best then, as duly noted, about four and a half minutes of the opening track should be enough to put your mind at rest.
'Untouchable' is simultaneously heart-wrenching and uplifting, the sort of music you'd expect to find under the tag 'emo' if emo didn't actually mean nasal-voiced, self obsessed, teen whining.
Cavanagh and vocal foil Lee Douglas take you to the brink of tears time and again on 'Weather Systems', before making it all better with a devastatingly well placed melody. "It's been an emotional rollercoaster" is a horribly overused cliché in 2012, but at this point I really can't think of a better way to describe this album.
When Douglas and Cavanagh duet over the frail piano framework of 'Untouchable Pt 2' you'll find your mood almost intangibly lift, even though the melancholy nature of the lyrics should be doing the opposite to you. This is powerful stuff. And when the other Cavanagh sibling, Daniel, takes the song over with some deliciously simple yet effective guitat figures you'll feel the goosebumps starting to rise – there's nothing you can do about it.
After the dozen or so minutes of emotional upheaval that is these two opening tracks you'd think that'd be it, time for something a little more prosaic, but then the band pitches into the effortlessly dramatic 'The Gathering Of The Clouds', and we're off again.
If anything, the relentless, urgent (though still quite sparse) instrumentation of TGotC is even more dramatic, strings slashing behind Douglas and Cavanagh's beautifully intermeshed vocals as percussionist John Douglas kicks the whole thing along with a simple kick drum.
'Lightning Song' is merely brilliant, and then everything the band has been trying to achieve coalesces and explodes beautifully on the mesmeric gorgeousness of 'Sunlight', where Danny's triumphant, chiming guitar will have you out of your seat and punching the air at the end of the song.
The first time I listened to this song, it was late and I was dozing. When this song exploded into life not only did it rouse me from my reveries, it plunged me into confusion, leaving me thinking that someone had slipped a never-before heard U2 song from around 1982 into the stereo. For the purposes of this review this is undoubtedly a good thing, and 'Sunlight' (rarely has a simple, single-worded song title been so apposite) is a truly great song.
'The Storm Before The Calm' is like a heavy version of what Pink Floyd were doing circa 'A Momentery Lapse Of Reason', which I suppose justifies the lazy 'prog' tag many people are trying to hang on this band. I truly do prefer to use the term Emo.
Few albums have such an intrinsically moving effect on me as 'Weather Systems', a relentless time and tide tugging of the heartstrings that simply doesn't let up for a second. This is emotional music of the highest order, even when Cavanagh comes close to singing the chorus of Ultravox classic 'Vienna' on the otherwise stupendous TSBtC.
It's very easy in these days of mass-produced, market saturated mediocrity to leap on an album that has one or two genuinely great tracks and proclaim it a masterpiece. There is no such danger here.
As 'Weather Systems' winds down through three more, beauteous, sumptuous tracks ('The Beginning And The End', the staggering 'The Lost Child' and the achingly touching 'Internal Landscapes') you'll find yourself reflecting that not one second has been wasted on this album, not one opportunity to twist the listener's responses this was and that has been spurned.
It's not Metal, not by any stretch of the imagination, but it is something else beginning with 'M'; 'Weather Systems' is a complete, unutterable masterpiece.
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