Anathema - The Optimist review
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
Best Anathema album? No. Most chill and contemplative? Absolutely. While that does sum up my overall impression of the album, there is certainly much more to say. For one, The Optimist earned Album of the Year honors at the Progressive Music Awards, beating out a lot of entrenched prog veterans like Steve Hackett, Neal Morse, and Hawkwind plus a personal favorite of mine - Big Big Train. Since Distant Satellites left such an incredible impression on me, as I now consider it to be one of the ten best albums I have ever had the fortune to listen to in my life, it will come as little surprise that I enjoy The Optimist too.
But I wasn't initially a big fan of Anathema. I respected the work they did and the huge following they had achieved off the backs of legendary albums like Eternity and Judgement, but I was more of an Opeth / Emperor / Katatonia kind of guy. Then I saw a video on YouTube of the band sitting around in a hotel room and heard Vincent Cavanagh singing with only light acoustic guitar as accompaniment. I was legitimately blown away. I knew he was a solid vocalist but from that day forward I was well convinced that he had the most amazing voice in existence. Others may disagree, we all have our own tastes, but something about the moment just clicked with me.
From that point forward I was anticipating everything the band did and I wasn't disappointed as they were already toning down the metal portions of their music to let Vincent's voice take center stage. This did lead to a conflict, however, as Lee Douglas was also being utilized more by the band and, while she had a beautiful voice, she wasn't whom I was listening to Anathema to hear. This wasn't helped by A Natural Disaster, the first time I noticed her taking a more prominent role, which I consider to be their worst overall album.
With all that in mind, The Optimist is like the culmination of a long journey for acceptance as this is ultimately Lee's album. She has a significant portion of the lead vocals and the music has clearly been designed around her rather than Vincent. It does only seem right that with the incredible talent Lee has, and the great lengths she has gone to in order to add the right touches to past albums that were completely centered around Vincent, that the roles be reversed at least once. It also must be such a sweet cherry on top for Lee that it was this album, and not Distant Satellites, to be recognized with Album of the Year honors.
- In Short - The Optimist is both a culmination of the story started on A Fine Day To Exit and of the overall progression Anathema has made from the depths of depression to the summits of elation. This is a slow and moody album with some heavy lyrical content but the album never feels negative. The soothing piano in collaboration with the powerful guitar work is as engrossing as ever and somehow, 11 albums into a nearly 25-year run, the band has created yet another atmosphere that feels different from anything they've done in the past. Very much recommended if you don't much care what genre your music comes in and only care about it being good.
For A Taste, Check Out: "Leaving It Behind", "Springfield"
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