U.K. prog rock giants Anathema are back in 2017 with their 11th studio album, and it makes a statement. “The Optimist” picks up where their 2001 album “A Fine Day to Exit” left off in terms of concept. The album opens with - and also frequently goes back to – some assorted sounds, a la the way Dark Side of the Moon does, but with a little less of a insanity feel to it.
Anathema has slowly grown from a raw, angry black metal outfit to a seasoned, well polished and instrumentally sound progressive rock giant. The addition of an electronic element is something they pull off in a big way, and not a lot of bands can lay claim to that. Often older bands who try to delve into the electronic world come out with a sound that’s forced and doesn’t flow.
But on “The Optimist” you’d think Anathema had been a prog rock band from day 1. The album’s title track even delves into post-rock territory. What Anathema have done here is decide to go with something new, but commit to it 100%. At the album’s halfway point the one two punch of “San Francisco” and “Springfield” is an incredible one. The instrumentation on this album is flawless and later in the album it shifts from synths to piano.
The haunting vocals of the album in the later tracks create an atmosphere with the music as well. As a whole, the album isn’t a simple listen, not one you should listen to as background music. It’s one that deserves your full attention, it’s a lengthy album with multi-layers and should be listened to with a focus on it as a whole.