Anathema ~ “The Optimist” Album Review

Anathema ~ The Optimist
Album review by Philip Hernandez

Anathema is a Liverpool / Lancashire, England-based band. Formed in 1990 by guitar-playing brothers Vincent and Danny Cavanagh, with vocalist Darren White, bassist Duncan Patterson, and drummer John Douglas. Jamie Cavanagh later joined the band and is credited with bass, composer, and some percussion. The band has quite an extensive biography, that list a few lineup changes in the members over the years. Artists moods (or sound of music) are listed as : Brooding, Melancholy, Bleak, Gloomy, Somber, Wintry, Nocturnal, Weary, Ominous, Angst-Ridden….a short encompassing list I’d say, that sum’s it up overall.

Anathema first sparked interest with underground doom metal fans. Noted as having a part in creating a new strain of doom, referred to as doom / death. This new strain came heavily from atmospheric Goth metal with gruff death-style vocals. Their music styles are referred to as doom metal, Goth Metal, Heavy metal, and Death Metal.

The music of “The Optimist” track by track…

The first track 32.63N 117.14W 1:16

This is something of a visual encounter through sound. You hear what you could picture as a portion of a movie, that is depicting a scene that seems all to visually real as you listen. It leads you through the radio in the scene to a techno groove that leads you into track two.

Track Two ~ Leaving it Behind 4:28

Is a track continuation from the intro track one, with it adding voice over’s to the techno rhythm that was established. After just over a minute and a half of this, breaks into a groovy fast paced travel track that suit’s the title Leaving it behind. It utilizes that swelling, and what I call a looping of sound to drive that forward falling momentum that this track gives you to it’s dead end stop.

Track Three ~ Endless Ways 5:49

I absolutely love this track! My first impression of this track is it reminds me a bit of Tears for Fears. Opening with piano cords as a female voice echoes the lyrics  in a soft and lofty way for a minute and a half, and leads to this epic build up. As the instrumentation is introduced, as if they were guest to a dinner party, begin to establish this sense of epic journey and intensity that sounds like the very answer to carry you away to your own ‘Endless Ways”. Bass and drums kick up a pulsing rhythm that makes a platform for the guitar to drive an intense epileptic strumming that vibrates your ears, and is splashed by key’s and the voice of the woman who coaxes you along to a subtle last breath of an ending.

Track Four and title track ~ The Optimist 5:37

Beginning with piano, and a soft higher pitched male voice, this songs begins to sound like the very thinking process of The Optimist. Female vocals come to complement the male voice as the lyric is sung. Drums and bass establish  this slightly falling syncopated rhythm that carry’s to a break, that like a reaffirmed thought piano and synth are used together to build an established idea for the guitar to wail a resounding affirmation that one might say is the confirmation of decision of The Optimist.

Track Five ~ San Francisco 5:00

Starting with a gallop like piano melody rhythm, and some added hollow wood sounding percussion. Some synth comes along and is added to carry this for the length of this track that seems to become more of some type of interlude.

Track Six ~ Springfield 5:49

A smooth bass riff begins, and is accompanied by piano, then drums to establish a light sort of jazzy groove. Some brief female and male vocals interchange back and forth, and after two and a half minutes the guitar comes swelling in with wailing proportions till the four and a half minute mark. At this point a pause-full return to piano and light voice to conclude this song.

Track Seven ~ Ghosts 4:17

Piano, cymbal rhythms, and vocals lead this track to the drum groove at the minute and a half mark. This building formula of Anathema establishes the full ensemble just before the two and a half minute mark. Then the trailing off of the song by the three and a half minute mark until the end.

Track Eight ~ Can’t Let Go 5:00

This is an upbeat song from the get go…or rather Can’t Let Go. The song is one of those tunes that you could drive to, the way it cruises right through the whole song to its conclusion.

Track Nine ~ Close Your Eyes 3:38

As the title would lead you to imagine of a peaceful place. Piano and vocals loft through a somber guiding to a solitude. Then a lofty jazzy swank stirs about your thoughts briefly. Then the voice that affirms its just a dream. And to go back to sleep.

Track Ten ~ Wildfires 5:39

Beginning with piano, the sound of a descending stand up bass, and vocals stretching the repeated title of the song Wildfires. Just after three minutes, this song burst into flames with pounding drums with bass, and the pulse of grinding guitar. Keyboards soaring with additional sounds through to the five minute mark, where the bottom sounds like it just drops out. Then a short subtle ending, as if the rebirth of the forest has begun.

Track Eleven ~ Back To The Start 11:42

Definitely not a for radio edit at 11:42. This song starts after a brief guitar picking , and vocal repeating “you don’t understand”. The lofty mellow song takes off on a build up, to bring forth the platform to which this song travels Back To The Start. At the seven minute mark there is a depicted scene through sound that leads you to the door, and a voice asks “How are you?”, then the rest of the time stamp is void up until some excerpt like a tape recorder was turned on for the last remaining time???

All in all, an  interesting album. Some of the song may grab your liking, while others may grow on you if listened to a few times. I’d venture to say this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I did find that there is some music here that I will listen to again.

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