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anathema theoptimist
Artist: Anathema
Title: The Optimist
Genre: Progressive / Alternative Rock
Release Date: 9th June 2017
Label: Kscope

Album Review

They say that it is the darkest and most ominous ANATHEMA material in a long time, and yet the eleventh album is titled ‘The Optimist’. Well, it is fair to say that there was always a bit of optimism involved with the band their music. Even at their most sad moments, the band retains a magical sense for the little things, the stuff that makes living worthwhile even if the stakes are high at the moment. To get to the starting point of their newest journey, we have to revisit the past and a place where a story seemingly ended, or where we lost track of it as it turned out. The coordinates that make up the intro/opening track of the album are just where we’ve last heard of the mysterious “Optimist” on ‘A Fine Day to Exit’ many years back. A clicks’n’cuts electronic track leads us right into ‘Leaving It Behind which quickly develops a pace and attitude we’ve Rarely gotten served by the band in recent years with guitars and Vincent battling for prevalence. Though there’s no clear winner it sure makes for a few rousing few minutes and shows the band at their most rocking.

For’ Endless Ways’; they’re all leaving the stage entirely to Lee Douglas who’s just joined by beautifully arranged piano and strings and again I’m seeing myself fools as the song takes a turn towards the epic and gripping rock piece that the band always has been particularly good at delivering, and just as the song is reaching its peak, it fades as gently as it has begun. Already arriving at the album’s centre piece ‘The Optimist’, we’re finding ourselves back with the trio of vocals, strings and piano which would work for me if it’d stayed like that for the entire song just as well. But then again, we know what band we’re talking about right now. The evolution this song is going through, though, is a bit different than that of its predecessors. Everything else would’ve destroyed what they were trying to build up with it entirely. It’s no uncharted territory. They’ve just put all their strengths into it and the outcome is a damn fine song. The instrumental ‘Springfield’ on the other hand for me represents a weak point on ‘The Optimist’ as it breaks the cohesive flow they’ve created up to this point.

It’s not about it being without any vocals; it’s about it not providing anything particularly interesting that would make me want to listen it through to the end. Same goes, even if to a lesser extent, goes for its follow-up ‘Springfield’. Don’t get me wrong. Judging the sound quality alone, it’s awesome. Even after repeated listens I don’t see where they wanted to go with this other than the same way they did earlier on the album, just more convincing and endearing. ‘Ghosts’ is where we just climb back out of that valley again. The first time I heard it, I already knew  it wouldn’t disappoint 30 seconds into the track. It is a poignant sadness that resonates within and between the notes, so dense it could make you cry. It leaves the rock attitude on the back-seat in favour of a classically driven instrumentation and female vocals. Just wow. Seeing as the album has been recorded with a live band setup and as we’re approaching ‘Can’t Let Go’, I can almost feel the energy circulating and how exhilarating it must've been playing this as a band even though the topic is not exactly what you’d call uplifting

I can see that one becoming a massive live favourite on the upcoming tour. ‘Close Your Eyes’ is much like a paradise bird. IT might not be the most colourful thing, not in a traditional sense at least. It shimmers in its own greyscale reality in a way as it is a string sonic reminder of a bygone era of jazz and it could very well be part of a film noir soundtrack. It does not raise its hand and says “Look how special I am”. It reveals its beauty to those with a keen ear and those with a special appreciation for the intimacy music can provide if you let it. 

Even at their worst day, this band probably would be capable of creating something special, as just happened with ‘The Optimist’. It is not  a perfect album by any means. A few time its stumbles, even falls but eventually does get back up again to raise its fist up in the  air. It’s not on par with past achievements and still it’s not a bad album. In a way it reflects the imperfections we all feel we have and which we are sometimes feeling the need to hide. As someone who more often than not faced mental struggles up to the point of developing physical symptoms, fighting those battles, I cannot stress enough how big of a deal them working this subject matter into the lyrics of that album and if ‘The Optimist’ even in the smallest way could make it better for those suffering, the band probably has achieved more than they might realize,


01. 32.63N 117.14W
02. Leaving It Behind
03. Endless Ways
04. The Optimist
05. San Francisco
06. Springfield
07. Ghosts
08. Can't Let Go
09. Close Your Eyes
10. Wildfires
11. Back To The Start


Vincent Cavanagh – vocals, guitar
Daniel Cavanagh – guitar, piano, keyboards, vocals
John Douglas – percussion, keyboards, guitars
Jamie Cavanagh – bass
Lee Douglas – vocals
Daniel Cardoso – keyboards

Website /

Cover Picture

anathema theoptimist


Music: 8
Sound: 9
Extras: Vinyl, Gatefold Vinyl, Media Book, Blu-Ray and more versions
Total: 8.5 / 10

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