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Anathema - The Optimist CD (album) cover

THE OPTIMIST

Anathema

 

Experimental/Post Metal

3.56 | 120 ratings

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Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer
4 stars I've been a pretty huge fan of this band over the years so I was really pumped when I heard they were doing an album that was to close the chapter on "A Fine Day To Exit" from 2001. This isn't a new idea but one that is intriguing to say the least. But why bother? Well back in 2001 the critics were all over this band for the apparent positive spin on suicide based on that album cover showing a car parked on the beach with a man's clothes and shoes cast on the beach with him nowhere to be seen. In the car we see notes including one that has "A Fine Day To Exit" on it, plus there's beer cans, a liquor bottle, a cell phone with "missed call" on it, a bottle of pills and a gun. Also a picture of him, his wife and son. The man was on a mission to end his life but the question is why? And did he? Well there wouldn't be a part two if he had drowned in the water which I think is something you would know if you listened to the ending of that album. I stated in my review at the time that he was still alive based on that final track.

So maybe this is an answer to the critics but I also feel it's closure to an album that had more questions than answers. Having said that they really keep things close to the vest as to why he was going to end his life leaving a lot of hints on this record in the process. They seemed pretty intent on putting a positive spin on this one and hence on "A Fine Day To Exit" even with the title of this record. This feels like they're changing the perceived negativity that many had for "A Fine Day To Exit". Also they even have their name on this album spelled differently as ANA_THEMA. I would describe the music and lyrics as meaningful and emotional. More electronics than ever and the sound is fairly stripped down with plenty of piano at times. Travis Smith takes care of the art work once again.

So what's this all about? Well I can't be sure but based on a couple of things I think he may have lost his son which was the reason for the suicidal attitude. Just a hunch based on the album cover of "A Fine Day To Exit" which shows the face of a boy in that car parked on the beach. On the back cover of the same album the father is shown driving at night and seeing this boy on the road. Clearly a ghost and "The Optimist" has a song called "Ghosts" but perhaps the biggest detail is the final moments of this album where our subject pulls up to a house knocks on the door and as it opens there's a pause and then he says "How are you?"(he's back) then minutes of silence before we hear our subject years later I believe playing with his new baby son as birds chirp. He's so happy here unlike the recent past. The Optimist indeed.

"32.63N 117.14W" is the exact coordinates of Silver Strand Beach in San Diego California where our story takes place. Love the connection between the two albums as the seemingly never ending waves that ended "A Fine Day To Exit" start us off here as we hear our subject breathing very heavily as he gets back into his car and starts it up. Then he starts to find a radio station. It ends with electronic beats and this blends into "Leaving It Behind" a top three track for me. I really like the guitar that joins the beats as male vocals also join in. A fuller sound 1 1/2 minutes in and it's even fuller before 2 1/2 minutes as they rip it up here. Nice. Back to the beats and atmosphere before 3 minutes.

"Endless Ways" is where we hear the wondrous vocals of Lee Douglas. She joins the piano that opens the song then beats and strings are added before it kicks in to a more powerful sound a minute later. His cell phone can be heard ringing(poor wife). "The Optimist" starts with piano as male vocals join in. Lee comes in as well giving us a rare listen to ANATHEMA having male and female vocals working together. Strings too then we get a full sound after 2 minutes. A calm with strings before 3 minutes then it builds to a full instrumental sound as Lee then offers up some passionate vocal melodies. A calm after 5 minutes ends it.

"San Francisco" is maybe where our subject went eventually after not going through with the suicide. This is a fast paced instrumental as we get piano and electronic beats at first and there's more depth of sound before 3 1/2 minutes. A train can be heard to end it. "Springfield" is my favourite song on here. Relaxed guitar to start and it's sparse. Piano too along with atmosphere then drums. Lee comes in singing this line over and over "How did I get here, I don't belong here". Love the Post-Rock guitars that absolutely light up the soundscape. So much emotion here. Whispered male words with sirens in the background ends it.

"Ghosts" is spacey before Lee along with piano and drums take over. Her voice sounds so beautiful here after a minute. Lots of atmosphere too. "Can't Let Go" is a top three for me. Some energy here with busy drumming, guitar and male vocals. The music ends and then you can hear someone walking, opening and closing a door then turning on the radio. "Close Your Eyes" opens with relaxed piano in atmosphere as Lee comes in singing slowly. Some guest trombone before 2 1/2 minutes with a beat as the vocals step aside briefly. "Wild Fires" is something California knows all too well. Piano as male vocals come and go. Electronic beats after 2 minutes then it kicks in heavily before 3 1/2 minutes. It settles down before 5 minutes and waves can be heard as it blends into "Back To The Start" the almost 12 minute closer.

There are minutes of silence here which are important to the story. Acoustic guitar joins the waves then reserved male vocals. A fuller sound before 1 1/2 minutes minus the waves. Orchestral sounds after 4 minutes as the vocals stop. They're back after 5 minutes. The music fades away after 7 minutes as we hear a knock at a door and as it opens a pause before he says "How are you?" After minutes of silence which I believe represent years we get acoustic guitar along with birds chirping and the sound of a baby boy talking with his dad. Our subject is so happy to be with his new son. The optimist.

I'm probably way off here with my thoughts on what the two albums are all about but I have to say the concept adds to my rating here. The music while having many incredible moments needed that extra bump from the lyrics to be a 4 star album which I believe it is. I also know like Drew mentions in his review that months with this could bump it up even higher. Man has this band changed it's stripes over the years.

Mellotron Storm | 4/5 |

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