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Anathema: Exploring their past, their present and their future

Prog speaks to Prog Readers Poll winners Anathema, to get their story from the band’s extreme metal past, to the creation of The Optimist – arguably their best album yet

The day Anathema released their eleventh album, The Optimist, Danny and Vinnie Cavanagh were in different places. Not physically – the brothers were gearing up to play a show that evening in Russia, one of the many overseas strongholds their band has built up across their sometimes turbulent, frequently triumphant 28-year career.

But mentally, they were in separate headspaces. Danny, the band’s guitarist and chief songwriter, was online, scanning reviews of the new album. He was keen to see what people were saying about an album that he had poured heart and soul into. Most of the notices were positive, but there were one or two bloggers who were unimpressed.

“Yeah, I looked to see what people were saying,” he says, his Liverpool accent undimmed after several years of bouncing between other cities and other countries. “And anyone who doesn’t like it, I think they’re stupid. Because I know it’s brilliant. But at the end of the day, there are far more important things in life. Like health, family, mental well-being. They’re the things that really matter.”

By contrast, Vinnie – Anathema’s vocalist and guitarist, and Danny’s younger brother by 10 months – wasn’t remotely interested in what anyone else had to say. He knew the band had produced their best album yet, one that was simultaneously epic and intimate, tumultuous and cathartic.

“I have a different outlook,” he says. “No nerves. If I’m happy with a record, I’m bulletproof. We try to make albums that are a reflection of who we are and where we are and what we can do. If we can get that right, I’m happy. And I know we got it right.”

That’s as perfect a snapshot of the relationship at the heart of Anathema as you’ll get. Danny is Anathema’s emotional core, a man who wears his heart on his sleeve and gives the band the personal edge that many of their peers lack. Vinnie is the one who helps make those emotions real, the pragmatist who keeps things anchored, who holds things together when they threaten to fly apart (and they have threatened to fly apart more than once over the years).

It’s a combination that has worked for them. The Optimist isn’t just the best album in a career that has been marked with great records, but it’s also the best album of the year according to our Prog Readers’ Poll.


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