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Anathema The Optimist album cover
3.55 | 188 ratings | 6 reviews | 16% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2017

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. 32.63N 117.14W (1:16)
2. Leaving It Behind (4:28)
3. Endless Ways (5:49)
4. The Optimist (5:37)
5. San Francisco (4:59)
6. Springfield (5:49)
7. Ghosts (4:17)
8. Can't Let Go (5:00)
9. Close Your Eyes (3:38)
10. Wildfires (5:39)
11. Back To The Start (7:30)
- (silence) (3:02)
- (untitled hidden track) (1:10)

Total time 58:14

Line-up / Musicians

- Lee Douglas / vocals
- Danny Cavanagh / electric & acoustic guitars, bass, grand piano, keyboards, vocals
- Vincent Cavanagh / keyboards, programming, guitar, bass, vocals, arrangements
- Jamie Cavanagh / bass
- John Douglas / drums, keyboards, programming
- Daniel Cardoso / drums

- Greg Lawson / violin
- Alistair Savage / violin
- Emily Ward / violin
- Kobus Frick / violin
- Liza Webb / violin
- Paul Medd / violin
- Tom Dunn / viola
- Sophie Rathbone / viola
- Robert Anderson / cello
- Duncan Lyall / double bass
- Michael Owers / trombone
- Gregor Reid / SFX editor

Releases information

Artwork: Travis Smith

CD Kscope ‎- kscope356 (2017, Europe)

2xLP Kscope ‎- Kscope944 (2017, Europe)

Thanks to mbzr48 for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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ANATHEMA The Optimist ratings distribution

(188 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(16%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(41%)
Good, but non-essential (29%)
Collectors/fans only (11%)
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)

ANATHEMA The Optimist reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by The Crow
2 stars Why, Anathema? Why?

Distant Satellites was by no means a bad album. It had even truly brilliant moments. But its experimental parts were too vague and disoriented. And The Optimist is sadly a follow-up of all this. We can hear a band trying to retrieve the alternative feeling of A Fine Day to Exit without achieving that, offering a monotonous and repetitive collection of songs unworthy of a band with this status.

32.63N 117.14W is just a brief introduction to Leave it Behind, which starts with the typical Anathema guitar, which automatically bring to mind the most alternative records of the band like the aforementioned A Fine Day to Exit or A Natural Disaster, despite its horrible electronic rhythm at the beginning of the song. But the song it's too repetitive to be considered a brilliant track, and the instrumental interlude is just awful.

Endless Ways brings the much appreciated Lee's voice and the album automatically get better. In addition, the orchestral arrangements of the song are beautiful. Sadly this track is also too repetitive for my taste, but better than The Optimist nevertheless, which is a dull and absolutely not inspired song, despite its fine guitar melodies towards the end. Till this point the quality of the album is not good, but acceptable.

But then we find San Francisco... A piano melody which repeats itself during four minutes without any kind of progression or interest, apart from its U2-type guitars. What the hell is that? Are you trying to cheat us, guys? And Springfield is even worse, another swindle with absurd lyrics and repetitive melodies... Again. Because that's the main problem of this album. The melodies and compositions are Ok, but the repetition of the same melodies again and again in almost every song give an impression of vagrancy and lack of compositional work that deeply disappoints me coming from one of my favorite bands.

Luckily, Ghosts is the best track of The Optimist. Very beautiful orchestral arrangements (this album is pretty symphonic) and vocal melodies from Lee, who sings a rather brief text. That's another interesting point of the album... The lyrics are pretty short in words and ideas. I don't really know the goal of this very minimalistic approach in the lyrics, but that's also a disappointment coming from a band with wonders like One Last Goodbye.

Can't Let Go is more lively and more guitar-oriented. Vincent's voice sounds very contained, like in the whole album... And that's also a shame, because his voice was so incredible in the previous albums! Nevertheless, it's a good song. In opposite to Close Your Eyes, another boring and insipid moment with uninspired lyrics. Only the final part with wind instruments which reminds me to Van Der Graaf Generator deserves a mention.

Wildfires is one of the lowest points of the album. Depressing, repetitive and with horrible vocal effects. I really don't know how a track like that could make it into the final record. Even the typical increase of intensity in its final part is foreseeable and lame. But Anathema had mercy of us and they managed to put a decent song at the end of the CD named Back to Start, which contains good verses with a warm interpretation from Vincent and good piano melodies. The chorus is not so good and so is the final part, unnecessarily bombastic and pretentious. This could have been a good ending for a better album... But after the average or directly bad content of The Optimist, Back to Start is just utterly overblown.

Conclusion: The Optimist would be an average release for a novel band. But talking about Anathema, this record is their worst album, including their doom metal ones. A repetitive, uninspired and pretentious collection of songs with a worrying lack of ideas and direction. The attempt to retrieve the alternative rock of A Fine Day to Exit failed, and despite the orchestral arrangements the musicians don't shine like in other records of the band.

I really hope that they make it better in their next album, because after the just decent Distant Satellites and this mediocre The Optimist, I am really not so optimistic about the future of the band.

Best Tracks: Ghosts, Can't Let go, Back to Start.

My rating: **

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
5 stars A collection of wonderfully engaging, melodic songs all melding together quite well.

1. "32.63n 117.14w" (1:18) more like a dramatic intro to a radio theatre play.

2. "Leaving It Behind" (4:27) computer rhythm track of pops and clicks with guitars and vocals for the first two minutes before the drums and full band join in. Driving and insistent and typical of the band, though a bit more hard and heavy than recent songs. Good song. (8/10)

3. "Endless Ways" (5:49) A sensitive piano-based song featuring the incredible vocal talents of Lee Douglas from start to finish, this is just one awesomely beautiful song--one of the best songs I've heard all year. In true Post Rock fashion, it builds and crescendos, yet it never loses its heart-wrenching, romantic spirit--thanks to the stupendous performance and presentation of Douglas's vocal. Plus, I adore its chosen message. "The dream I created." Say no more. (10/10)

4. "The Optimist" (5:37) opens as if a reprise of the previous song, but then one of the Cavanaugh brothers's voices enters to tell you differently. (Lee does pop up in the background at the end of the first and second minutes.) It does take over two minutes until the full band joins in, but that's about my only complaint to this beautiful song. I love it when the band use orchestral support (as in the album Falling Deeper--my favorite album they've ever done) and the fact that the final two minutes is a Post Rock instrumental, buildup, crescendo, and fade. (9/10)

5. "San Francisco" (4:59) again there is a tremendous familiarity to the piano opening of this song--like I've already heard it in a variation on this very same album--but then, as it plays out as an instrumental, we are treated to the buildup coming from--surprise--the computerized rhythms (and, later, synthesizers). It could almost qualify as a house/rave song! Still, a very satisfying, engaging song, start to finish. (9.5/10)

6. "Springfield" (5:49) a true Post Rock song with Lee Douglas's haunting background repetitions of "How did I get here?" and "I don't belong here" the most memorable parts. (8.5/10)

7. "Ghosts" (4:17) another stunning piano-based song featuring Lee Douglas on lead vocals. I like the drum play here very much. (9/10)

8. "Can't Let Go" (5:00) a true rock song--a good one! (8.5/10)

9. "Close Your Eyes" (3:39) a true jazz torch song. Very much like a sensitive, masterful Kate BUSH piano-based song from her last 50 Words for Snow album. Cool! (9/10)

10. "Wildfires" (5:40) could be an ULVER song (whichmakes sense since the Cavanaugh brothers have been working with Garm and crew a lot over the past few years)! Awesome and powerful! Amazing crescendo! (9.5/10)

11. "Back To The Start" (11:41) a great, sensitive 7-minute prog song (' la STEVEN WILSON) followed by four minutes of emptiness and then four minutes of vacuous family stuff that does not belong on the album. Too bad! (9/10)

A minor masterpiece of progressive rock music. I like their sound, love the songs, and, after five months with the album, I'm finally convinced that this one is ready for the elevated status.

Review by Mellotron Storm
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.

Latest members reviews

2 stars All of a sudden, brave creators from Liverpool decide to go back to their ideological roots, and not just anywhere, but straight to the fan-controversial A Fine Day to Exit, and decide to continue the story of the lyrical hero who eventually (spoiler!) changed his mind to drown in the ocean near the ... (read more)

Report this review (#2504976) | Posted by Peacock Feather | Saturday, February 13, 2021 | Review Permanlink

4 stars After three albums that treaded very similar musical territories, inevitably succumbing to the law of diminishing returns (We Are Here Because We Are Here/Weather Systems/Distant Satellites), with 2017's The Optimist Anathema finally changed direction and wrote an album that is a point of union betw ... (read more)

Report this review (#1787821) | Posted by lukretio | Wednesday, September 27, 2017 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I'll keep it simple on this one: next-to-perfect. After about 20 or so spins the anthematic (is that a word; if not it should be) Anathema rises from what some see as a recent slump of semi-decent albums (in my humble opinion) to an album I can't put down. The Optimist strikes such high notes - ... (read more)

Report this review (#1734180) | Posted by Timdano | Thursday, June 15, 2017 | Review Permanlink

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