Anathema
The Optimist


4.0
excellent

Review

by TalonsOfFire STAFF
June 9th, 2017 | 220 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Anathema present a darker vision and increased musical diversity in The Optimist.

Anathema have always thrived on change. After a consistent sounding three album cycle, it should come to no surprise that they have pursued yet another musical direction. Certainly not as drastic as their transition from doom metal to progressive rock twenty years ago, or their incredible comeback in 2010, but it’s noticeable. Because of their massive discography, Anathema now have the ability to revisit a past concept album, A Fine Day to Exit, and continue its style and narrative for a new project. They have become inspired to continue that story in The Optimist, featuring the same car and protagonist (the optimist) that was depicted in the album artwork and lyrics of A Fine Day to Exit. This makes for a darker and more conflicted sounding album than Weather Systems or Distant Satellites had presented a few years ago. The main traces of these albums are the electronics they had. These first come up in the album’s opening, after a brief intro track, in “Leaving it Behind,” with busy electronic beats acting as the support for the hard-hitting, rebellious vocals and looping guitar melodies. Despite being more energetic than most of the album, it sets the tone well. While maintaining the grandeur of Anathema’s recent musical direction, the lyrics and mood in The Optimist are darker and more conflicted.

The Optimist maintains the atmosphere of A Fine Day to Exit without retreading musically, mainly continuing that album’s concept and taking it in a new direction. The lyrics are open to interpretation, but the intense inner struggles that plagued the story’s protagonist in A Fine Day to Exit are continued here, with a darker musical vision to suit the lyrics. The opening intro track titled "32.63N 117.14W" are the coordinates of Silver Strand beach, where the end of A Fine Day to Exit saw the protagonist escaping to after being haunted by various trials and struggles in his life. Following it and “Leaving it Behind” is the hugely rewarding and diverse run of songs beginning with album highlight “Endless Ways” and ending with “Ghosts,” seeing Lee Douglas on lead vocals in many instances. The presence of three different singers throughout the album makes for an effective method of portraying the various inner voices in the protagonist’s head. In typical Anathema fashion, songs like “San Francisco,” “Can’t Let Go,” and “Wildfires” begin softly and gradually build to a loud, wall-of-sound crescendo to illustrate the din of emotions and thoughts swirling through the protagonist’s head. Most of The Optimist is a dark journey, with some tracks only having one or two lines of lyrics or spoken monologue. Many of them are short phrases repeating and clashing with one another, owing to the intense inner feelings of the optimist that are translated into the music. The final track, "Back to the Start," and its ending sample imply that the optimist overcame his trials and was able to take his life full circle, giving his story a peaceful resolution.

Most of The Optimist lacks the epic, triumphant compositions from their albums released earlier in this decade because it's going for a different feeling. The album sounds like another new direction for the group, and hardly resembles A Fine Day to Exit musically, but instead in tone and narrative. As well as the they do the emotionally impacting, dramatic compositions, it’s refreshing to hear more meditative songs like “San Francisco” and “Close Your Eyes,” both of which also marries jazz with electronica, almost resembling the music of a trip-hop group like Submotion Orchestra. Listening to The Optimist is an intense experience, and can have wild transitions from one song to the next given how different some tracks are from others. They are able to make it work though, being an adventurous and engaging continuation, and conclusion, of a past record's concept that still sees the band evolving in a rewarding fashion.




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user ratings (209)
Chart.
3.6
great
other reviews of this album
Chamberbelain (4)
A quick glance back and a giant leap forward....

Ocean of Noise (4)
Anathema push their sound in a myriad of new directions, as well as recalling a few old ones. For th...

Coldplaz (3.5)
While The Optimist is a pleasant record on its own, one can't get rid of a feeling that the band is ...



Comments:Add a Comment 
Flugmorph
June 9th 2017


17562 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

oh wait this is out already?

hype

EvoHavok
June 9th 2017


7305 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good stuff, Talons!

Dewinged
June 9th 2017


7010 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

YES

Digging: Motorpsycho - The Tower

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
June 9th 2017


16935 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Here it is!: http://smarturl.it/The_Optimist just copy & paste this link if clicking it doesn't work, the site can be weird with that stuff.

Digging: Tom Rogerson with Brian Eno - Finding Shore

Essence
June 9th 2017


5910 Comments


how are these lads this consistent, it's beyond my understanding

Underflow
June 9th 2017


3833 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Best Anathema album in a long while. Probably since A Natural Disaster.

DoofusWainwright
Contributing Reviewer
June 9th 2017


17076 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

'Close Your Eyes' gets slated but I like it and think that it keeps to the spirit of Anathema - they've always had strange departures from trad song writing on their albums, like 'Barriers' off 'A Fine Day to Exit'. 'Wildfires' is interesting too.



Could see me bumping this to a 4 after five or so more listens maybe

ProjectFreak
June 9th 2017


2250 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Holy wow Endless Ways.

Drummerboy123
June 9th 2017


3021 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Cam't Let Go gives me Devin Townsend Ki vibes, very subdued.

Digging: Glassjaw - Material Control

benkim
June 9th 2017


3167 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Cannot wait to sink my teeth into this. Totally love Springfield.

jfromnj
June 9th 2017


11 Comments


Feel Vincent is underutilized on vox, even though he appears on more songs. Lee is great, no doubt, but Vince is just an impassioned lead singer. Can't help but feel there is something missing on this album compared to recent efforts.

Ocean of Noise
June 9th 2017


9815 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great album. There are some amazing tracks on here.

Digging: Carbon Based Lifeforms - Derelicts

OmairSh
June 9th 2017


14341 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Gotta get on this asap,though my expectations are reserved

Mongi123
Contributing Reviewer
June 10th 2017


18910 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This could grow to be one of my favorite Anathema's soon with a few more listens. Just brilliant.

DoofusWainwright
Contributing Reviewer
June 11th 2017


17076 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

How I rate/rank the Anathema Albums I know well, plus how many 5 star 'classic' songs on each:



1. Hindsight [4.4] (5 star songs: 2) underrated, their best release

2. Judgement [4.1] (5 star songs: 1) big Floyd influence, only weakness is lacks more classic songs

3. We're Here... [4.0] (5 star songs: 2) the start of the 'new Anathema', still also the best of the era

4. The Optimist [3.9] (5 star songs: 0) most consistent since 'We're Here', unique atmosphere

5. Weather Sysyems [3.7] (5 star songs: 3) first three songs are incredible...then a little patchy

6. Alternative 4 [3.6] (5 star songs: 2) highlights are amazing, a few clunky moments though

7. A Natural Diaster [3.5] (5 star songs: 1) transitional, lacks their newfound confidence

8. Distant Satellites [3.4] (5 star songs: 0) close to retread territory, scrappy feel to track flow

9. A Fine Day to Exit [3.2] (5 star songs: 1) slightly murky vaguely Radiohead feel to Side A, Side B is excellent



Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
June 11th 2017


39514 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

A Natural Disaster is their best by far

Digging: Glassjaw - Material Control

DoofusWainwright
Contributing Reviewer
June 11th 2017


17076 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This album ranked/rated:



1. The Optimist [4.5]

2. Can't Let Go [4.5]

3. Endless Ways [4.5]

4. Springfield [4.5]

5. San Francisco [4]

6. Wildfires [4]

7. Close Your Eyes [4]

8. Ghost [4]

9. Back to the Start [3.5]

10. Leaving it Behind [3]

DoofusWainwright
Contributing Reviewer
June 11th 2017


17076 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Row, there's something unappealing about the production on Natural D, most of the best songs are improved on 'Hindsight' for my personal taste. 'Electricity' is the best song Chris Martin never wrote and a big breakup song for me though. It's a 3.5 album that would have been a 4.5 if they recorded those same songs today with all they've learnt since 'We're Here...'

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
June 11th 2017


39514 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

you make a fair point about "lacks their newfound confidence" - that's exactly why all their new stuff has bored me to tears. they're so confident in their abilities to put in the base amount of effort and still make beautiful music that they don't stretch anywhere at all. everything is so competent and measured that all the edges have been completely sanded off. AND is for me their rawest, realest most genuine expression of what they can do - you've got the three-minute ballads (with Danny singing, still the band's stealth weapon that they have utterly failed to use since they came back), you've got Pushed Under at 2000 which shows more energy and life than anything on their last three albums, you've got the meandering 10-minute proggy tracks but it all feels real. even the title track, which totally paved the way for albums like this with the repetitive, technically beautiful but hollow stuff for 6 minutes, that song still managed to make it work because it was so at odds with the rest of the album, so dedicated to following its particular muse



/rant

DoofusWainwright
Contributing Reviewer
June 11th 2017


17076 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

For me something like 'Untouchable 1' or 'Gathering of the Clouds' just stomps over anything on that release in terms of pure focus and merciless production qualities.



They sound a million dollars...something like the t/t from 'Natural Disaster' just sounds somehow second rate. It's a shame as the song writing is more varied, they have got their needle stuck, esp the Lee ballads.



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