Liverpool's Anathema have been on quite a critical wave of success over the last decade, releasing a string of albums that has seen the band re-invent themselves from their doom/death metal beginnings into a pure pop/prog machine whose albums reek of sophistication and one addicting hook after another. For their latest K-Scope release The Optimist, the band revisit the concept started with their 2001 album A Fine Day to Exit (could that be the same car?), but no fear if you haven't heard that previous opus, as The Optimist can clearly be judged on its own merits.
Some of the electronic elements that were hinted at on the bands previous album Distant Satellites can be heard pretty much at the outset here on the alluring "Leaving it Behind", a mix of ambient, alternative, metal, and pop, Vincent Cavanagh's vocals soaring over raging guitar riffs, synths, and electronic drums. The gorgeous vocals of Lee Douglas are put on fine display with "Endless Ways", a sublime slice of atmospheric pop, complete with a can't miss piano melody and plenty of symphonic orchestrations. Many of the more recent Anathema albums have that 'should have been a massive hit' song, and this one is clearly The Optimist's selection. The guitars from the Cavanagh brothers are extremely textured here, and with the irresistible vocals from Douglas, layers of synths, and both programmed and acoustic drums, this is a complete winner of a song that you'll want to play over and over again. The dreamy title track sees both Cavanagh and Douglas sharing vocals, and it's another lush, intoxicating experience, while fans of electronic and new age music will love the engaging instrumental "San Francisco". Surprisingly, the band puts two instrumentals back to back here, the second being "Springfield", this one rocks out a bit more, complete with some fast tremolo picked guitar sections that wouldn't sound out of place on a black metal record but mixed with plenty of wonderful synth orchestrations. "Ghosts" is another vehicle for the ethereal vocals of Douglas, and Anathema's penchant for majestic pop music is ripe throughout "Can't Let Go" and "Close Your Eyes", which again point out, in a perfect world, could Anathema be huge pop stars? Could and should be ladies and gentlemen. Closing out the album we have the haunting and quite dramatic "Wildfires" and the near 12-minute Pink Floyd/ELO styled journey that is "Back to the Start", complete with strings, loads of synths, and more of those soaring male & female vocal melodies. Glorious stuff.
While for some hard rock and metal fans The Optimist might be a tad mellow, there's just no denying the beauty of the material here, regardless of what your musical preferences might be. If you've followed along the Anathema journey so far and liked what you've heard on their last handful of releases, this one will be a complete joy to listen to.
See more about this release on our recent YouTube show!
01. 32.63N 117.14W
02. Leaving It Behind
03. Endless Ways
04. The Optimist
05. San Francisco
08. Can't Let Go
09. Close Your Eyes
11. Back to the Start