The title for Anathema’s eleventh full-length would also serve well in describing the Liverpool sextet’s uncompromising dedication to fearless artistry since forming in 1990. They’ve continually evolved by placing hope in the future – from leaving the underground scene they were fundamental in establishing to continually mesmerising the world with stargazing post- progressive alternative rock that knows no borders. Led by brothers Daniel and Vincent Cavanagh, along with drummer John Douglas, singer Lee Douglas, bassist Jamie Cavanagh and keyboardist/drummer Daniel Cardoso – this is a band that have forsaken all notion of expectation – highly evocative music simply pours out of them. And in a world of plastic conformists so desperately awaiting their moment of recognition, it’s a potent truth very much needed…
“We’ve been honest with ourselves from the start in writing deeply personal music,” admits lead singer/multi-instrumentalist Vincent. “It’s just that in the earlier days, it was cloaked in heavier instrumentation. When you’re a teenager, it’s natural to want to go ‘all or nothing’. We had a 23-minute ambient piece, classical ideas, multi-layered guitar harmonies, acoustic folky stu , reversed tape experiments, long psychedelic sections, spoken word… all of that. But we quickly learned that the best way to get to the core of emotion in music is to strip away the layers. Melody is everything, then lyrics, rhythm and bass. Is it meaningful? Does it move you? Start with that… if the answer is yes, then you can start to think about experimenting.”
Despite those early records being hailed as classics, the band left their heavier roots and transcended into a more emotional heaviness that resonated deep within the heart of the listener. Alternative 4 (1998), Judgement (1999), A Fine Day To Exit (2001) and A Natural Disaster (2003) marked an era of bold experimentation for the band – taking the notion of self-exploration to its furthest limits – before 2010’s We’re Here Because We’re Here truly cemented their stature as world-beating post-progressive kings.
“Any musical growth we have achieved has been a natural process,” says lead songwriter Daniel Cavanagh. “From our early bass player Duncan Patterson’s Pink Floyd-leanings onwards, we’ve never really looked back. We feel lucky to have developed into a writing team that at times can feel telepathic. Oh and by the way – if we wanted to sell out, we would never have changed at all.”
After 2012’s award-winning Weather Systems and 2014’s spellbinding Distant Satellites, the ambient rockers are back with their eleventh full-length, The Optimist: some of the darkest, most challenging and – quite frankly – unexpected music they’ve put their name to. It twists and turns like no album before it, bringing miraculous wide-eyed wonder to even the most well-versed of fans. Recorded in the winter of 2016 and produced by Tony Doogan [Mogwai, Belle & Sebastien, Super Furry Animals] at Attica Audio in Donegal and Castle Of Doom studios in Glasgow, the�11 tracks of The Optimist manage to somehow push more boundaries then ever before, yet remaining forever loyal to the heart of every song. It could very well be their greatest masterpiece yet – stemming from an idea rst planted in the artwork for A Fine Day To Exit all those years ago. Daniel Cavanagh explains how its front cover became an unlikely source of inspiration…