HEROES OF K-SCOPE MUSIC: My Optimist Space May Be Anathema to Others

30 Jun

ABOVE: “Springfield“, the new single from Anathema’s new 2017 album The Optimist. The jury is still out on whether or not it’s a tribute to the long running animated show, “The Simpsons.”  

Remember the golden days of social media? NOT far back as Delphiforums or whatever dial up contraption that they called back in the day in order to chat with your buddies that you’d find on America Online.

I’m alluding to those days of myspace where not only could you make friends with every Playmate or porn star under the jizz stained covers – BUT all the musicians bands would pelt you with free samples of their works that you could download or sample for free.

Believe it or not, I still listen to a good handful of these acts of which FIRST got my attention through myspace including Gazpacho from Norway (of whom I already profiled here), Wolverine & Carptree from Sweden, Oceansize, Ayreon, and a quintet of 4 lads and a lass from Liverpool called Anathema.

After hearing snippets of their 2004 album A National Disaster album, I was hooked. Immediately found an import copy of it over at Amoeba Records and ever since that day, I never had the nerve to trade it in.

Anathema – such a strange name and probably a debate for subject of pronunciation. I first heard it pronounced as ANN – ATH- EMMA, but the current spelling on the promo sticker on their new 2017 K-Scope release suggests that it’s ANA – THEME – A.

BUT yet – dictionary.com INSISTS that it’s uh-nath-uh-muh    

I can already tell it’s going to be one of those “I say Sub -Mariner, you say SUBMARINE -ER. ” kind of things.

Dictionary defines the meaning of Anathema as thus:

  1. a person or thing detested or loathed:
  2. a person or thing accursed or consigned to damnation or destruction.
  3. a formal ecclesiastical curse involving excommunication.
  4. any imprecation of divine punishment.
  5. a curse; execration

How could anyone describe their music? I usually tell people who LATELY they sound something like as if Phillip Glass decided to wake up one morning and decided to wax off some ABBA covers (but the band members themselves would probably argue that it Tangerine Dream forced into a shotgun wedding with Talk Talk). But five albums later (and a long hiatus between 2004’s A National Disaster and their first album for K-Scope, We’re Here Because We’re Here in 2010 that had me worried on whether or not they decided to toss in the towel),they kind of throw some other musical type of trail mix such as electronica and folk into the blender, but most usually it isn’t an Anathema record these days without some monumental orchestra accompaniment.

The above video to “Closer” originally presented on 2004’s A Natural Disaster was what sold me to buy a one way ticket aboard the team Anathema bullet train. Recorded live at the ancient Roman theatre of Philippopolis for the live CD/DVD 2013 release, Universal– also available on K-Scope. 

One can attest that their surge in popularity (a theory I’m going to put to the test if and when I find out tickets are still available for the New York show in August I plan on flying out to attend) is that the writing between brothers Vincent & Daniel Cavanugh with drummer John Douglas has grown tighter or if its’ the addition of female vocalist Lee Douglas (brother to John) singing on its’ most heartfelt material that EVEN puts that overrated cow Adele to shame. I previously covered the velvety harmonizing and lead singing prowess of Lee in a previous K-scope entry wrote last summer here.

Personally I think their fame is chalked up to the fact that the band is more of a family affair which contributes to their endearing longevity. The band is led by three brothers, Vincent, Daniel, and Jamie and joined by two long time neighboring friends Lee and her brother John. The only outsider who joined the band after the release of their 2012 impeccable release, Weather Systems is keyboardist Daniel Cardoso.

They began life, believe it or not as a GOTH DEATH METAL band – much similar to other bands who have passed by the K-Scope roster that I’ve gravitated towards such as Ulver, Opeth, and Katatonia. (Anathema has toured with the latter two over the past few years) through the first five albums. It was until the release of 2001’s A Fine Day to Exit (which is essential that I need to pick up) that they began to attach themselves to a more alternative direction and referring back to the comparison I made earlier to Phillip Glass is a case of a minimalist approach to their writing. They love to make the music and lyrics as simplistic as they can with easy to memorize motifs that seem to aim towards a bombastic crescendo that can reach levels of euphoria that is rarely achievable in today’s music.

If you don’t believe me, you can ask former lead singer of Yes and now head maestro of ARW (Anderson, Rabin & Wakeman), Jon Anderson who by sheer chance, of wandering around a progressive rock theme cruise ship stumbled across their performance and was instantly flabbergasted that he nearly gobbled up their whatever they had available at their merch table.

And what bigger endorsement do you really need than that?


This year the band released THE OPTIMIST just a mere few weeks ago on June 9th, their first release in three years TO THE VERY DAY that they released their previous album, DISTANT SATELLITES on June 9th 2014. Distant Satellites was very electronica heavy, this new album is more organic and done in takes with the band in the studio as whole with Mogwai producer Tony Doogan

The concept of the album of which I take the liberty of lifting from Wikipedia goes a little like this: The album reportedly follows the concept of the band’s 2001 release A Fine Day To Exit. According to band members Daniel and Vincent Cavanagh, the idea came from writing a narrative, culminating on what must have happened with the guy from that album cover. Vincent commented that “The guy who disappeared – you never knew what happened to him. Did he start a new life? Did he succumb to his fate? It was never explained. The covers of both albums also show its narrative connections, as the former contains a car in an empty beach during the day, and the latter a car in a road at night.

Anathema press session © Scarlet Page

Like I mentioned before, I’m hoping to see Anathema perform on the east coast – which will give me the perfect excuse to go see my mom out in New Jersey – but I’m just puzzled with all the tour dates they mention in support of the new album, that there no dates announced for the West Coast of the US, (It’s just Europe and the US east coast for now) since the concept of the album is allegedly supposed to take place in SAN FRANCISCO. I’ve seen them live once before at the El Rey Theatre back in 2013, when I just started working at SAG-AFTRA and I just happened to stumble across the theater while I was walking past it during a lunch break. I remember my eyes widening in disbelief reading the marquee – and it was a mid-week show and on a ‘school’ night. I remember that night real well, Anathema was the last out of three bands to perform that night and it was a mostly acoustic performance since all the members couldn’t get the proper visas to perform, but LEE DOUGLAS certainly made men fall to their knees that night with her flawless rendition of the 2004’s title track to A National Disaster (which was definitely a mandatory bic lighter flickering moment). And since they were stripped down to the main three core members of Daniel, Vincent, and Lee, we all didn’t get the full monty of that 2012 Weather Systems (which has since won many numerous European music awards and accolades. So as long as they remain in vogue, I’ll always be on the hunt for the full frontal electric assault of the Anathema concert experience – no matter what part of the globe it may take place on.

Overall, I feel as with previous other Anathema exciting album listening adventures, It’s safe for me to say that The Optimist, so far to ME with lovely Lee Douglas led songs such as “Ghosts” and “Endless Ways“, and Daniel and Vincent working that duo rocking minimalist melodic magic on “Leaving It Behind” Springfield” and “Can’t Let Go” – it’s another year running as the top contender when it comes to year end best lists. If the Optimist turns out to be an actual sequel to A FINE DAY TO EXIT, then it’s the best mystery revealed backwards.

If you’re reading this in Europe, make sure to check out the band in full faithful ferocious fury this weekend July 1 at the Be Prog My Friend Festival taking place in Barcelona, Spain.






One Response to “HEROES OF K-SCOPE MUSIC: My Optimist Space May Be Anathema to Others”


  1. The Parsippany Persona Non Grata Picture Show Part II: Leap Frogging Over Lake Hiawatha | Purple Pinup Guru Panache Plaza - September 19, 2017

    […] Female co-lead vocalist Lee Douglas. I previously wrote about Lee and Anathema in these pair of  blog entries focusing on my current favorite female lead vocalists on Kscope Music and a profile and overview of the new album here. […]

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