This is an artist who should need no introduction and as you should well know Daniel Cavanagh is a founding father of UK doom, death, atmospheric, emotive band (call em what you will as they have changed over the decades) Anathema. The Optimist is an album that I am still well and truly riding on the coattails of, still on rotation and certainly one of my albums of the year so far. ‘Monochrome’ however gives Danny the chance to go deeper into his own psyche and express things from a much more personal viewpoint, baring his soul in black and white if you will. He’s not totally alone though and over the course of these seven songs he is joined on three by another singer who likewise should need no introduction Anneke Van Giersbergen ex The Gathering and now with new band Vuur. Sounds like a marriage made in heaven especially when one considers acoustic shows performed in the past.
That is how things start with The Exorcist, don’t expect anything to make your head spin here, this is fragile and delicate, played out as a chilled sonata on a piano with Danny’s unmistakable plaintive, heart-bared tones. Melody is simple and it is totally natural sounding as it picks up and casually strolls off on a walk across the bay as the “sun sinks below the horizon” (one of his descriptions not mine). There’s a massive sense of emotion cast here and that should surprise nobody at all, there are also some weeping guitar lines, listeners to the day job will immediately pick up upon. ‘This Music’ sees Anneke joining in on things and the two of them do make such sweet music it has to be said, vocals hardly a contrast but a perfect match as they sing their separate parts, music piano led again as easy on the ears as their gentle tones. Well, all out rockers were never really going to be expected here. ‘Soho’ may have had the stuffing knocked out of it as a place but the slow build up into a fast flowing peak is the highlight of the album for me. Voices rise with the music and you are totally swept off your feet a bit like one may find themselves falling out of an establishment at 2AM in Brewer Street
Now here comes a bit of a niggle, with great vocal talents such as these should there really be the necessity for 2 long songs that are essentially instrumental? I wouldn’t have thought so and the album loses ground by doing so. Songs like “The Silent Flight Of The Raven Winged Hours” allegedly inspired by Poe a person who had so much to say in his writing surely should have a voice? I guess it has one in parts courtesy of Anna Phoebe’s violin solo, a retro synth sound and a bit of formless babbling but I wanted something more than just music here to haunt me. Likewise the case with album closer ‘Some Dreams Come True,’ which seems a bid of an exercise in padding things out.
So a bit of a mixed bag and one that can be a bit of a frustrating listen. There’s some great numbers here but a bit too much of an insular feel that can be difficult to fully engage with. So as much as I loved The Optimist I am going to have to be a bit more of a pessimist with the mark here
(7/10 Pete Woods)