Album Review: Anathema – The Optimist

Anathema began their career all the way back in the 90s as, believe it or not, a doom metal band touring with the likes of Cannibal Corpse. They have come a stellar long way. The Liverpool, England band have had multiple lineup changes and have experimented with multiple sounds moving from their metal beginnings to a progressive, atmospheric, often anthemic style.

Led by brothers Vincent and Daniel Cavanaugh, the sextet shine bright on their newest record The Optimist due out June 9th on Kscope Records. The band sounds larger than ever pushing apart continents with airy, soaring, and earthen mini-symphonies that straddle rock, electronic, and global sounds. I am having a hard time understanding why they aren’t bigger in the states, and while unfortunate, they don’t necessarily need to be as their sound is much bigger than I think the US may be able to handle, in the same vein as Porcupine Tree or God Is An Astronaut.

The Optimist is full of songs that move through the body, ache in the moonlight, and disperse parts of them to reflect on later. The record has a central theme developed from the album art of A Fine Day to Exit wondering what happened to the character on the cover and is a solid offering.  “Leave It Behind” opens to a pulsating breakbeat with a driving guitar archipeggio overtop, sing-along vocals ensue. “Endless Ways” sees the song-bird Lee Douglas take over vocal duties  conducting a symphony of loss. “The Optimist” is a piano-driven walk on the beach during a summer storm. “Springfield” is a slow drive with Douglas chanting the “I don’t belong here”, and “how did I get here” as if she were singing from another dimension.”Can’t Let Go” is about as poppy as the band will ever get. “Close Your Eyes” is a smoky jazz number that transport the listened to the nearest den of iniquity.

The Optimist twists and twirls with despair around a maypole of lost hopes. Every song that Douglas sings feels as if sitting on a tombstone in a foggy cemetery. The rest offer a heavy sigh in the silence. These songs are monoliths that build on each other, beginning slow and steady, and opening up to soaring guitars, a chorus of vocals, and a steady beat to continue the journey. The only negative is that, the despair may carry on for longer than needed, unless that is exactly what you need at the moment. It’s a record that is not background music at a party, and needs concentration to fully comprehend.

Check out more from Anathema Here:

North American Tour dates:
August 16 Baltimore, MD Soundstage
August 17 New York, NY Gramercy Theater
August 18 Boston, MA Brighton Music Hall
August 19 Quebec, QC Saile Multi
August 20 Montreal, QC Astral
August 21 Toronto, ON Opera House
August 23 Chicago, IL Bottom Lounge
August 24 Cleveland, OH House of Blues
August 25 Philadelphia, PA Theatre of Living Arts
(addl touring incl west coast in early 2018)

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