Anathema are premiering the first track from their forthcoming new studio album The Optimist entitled “Springfield”.
Daniel Cavanagh explains the song choice “Here we present the song ‘Springfield’, it’s actually the song that closed our unforgettable Wembley gig with Opeth and it seemed to be a track that just fell into place without much effort. It seemed to do itself. The song forms part of a narrative that runs through The Optimist album, it’s a narrative that begins where A Fine Day To Exit left off. The album is a journey. The songs are ambiguous. There is no right or wrong way to take them. Make of them what you will.”
Anathema’s eleventh full-length The Optimist is due for release on 9th June through Kscope, where the ambient rockers will reveal some of the darkest, most challenging and unexpected music the sextet have put their name to.
Anathema, led by brothers Daniel and Vincent Cavanagh, along with drummer John Douglas, singer Lee Douglas, bassist Jamie Cavanagh and drummer/keyboardist Daniel Cardoso began recording The Optimist in the winter of 2016 at Attica Audio in Donegal, Ireland and then finished at Castle Of Doom studios in Glasgow with producer Tony Doogan [Mogwai, Belle & Sebastian, Super Furry Animals] at the helm and was mastered at the legendary Abbey Road Studios.
40 page artwork book, with artwork from Travis Smith.
CD The Optimist 11 original album tracks
CD featuring 6 bonus tracks – 3 demo versions and 3 live demo recordings from their November 2016 dates
DVD-V The Optimist 11 original album tracks 24/96 LPCM Stereo & 24/96 DTS 5.1 surround mix
Blu-Ray disc The Optimist 11 original album tracks 24/96 LPCM Stereo, 24/96 LPCM 5.1 lossless surround mix & 24/96 DTS-HD Master Audio lossless 5.1 surround mix
2 Disc CD & DVDMediabook
24 page booklet
CD The Optimist 11 original album tracks
DVD-V The Optimist 11 original album tracks 24/96 LPCM Stereo & 24/96 DTS 5.1 surround mix
· The Optimist 11 original album tracks 24/96 LPCM Stereo, 24/96 LPCM 5.1 lossless surround mix & 24/96 DTS-HD Master Audio lossless 5.1 surround mix
· The Optimist11 original album tracks
Double gatefold 180g heavy weight LP featuring:
· The Optimist 11 original album tracks (with MP3 download code)
· Limited Edition red vinyl LP version (with MP3 download code) available exclusively through the band’s webstore
Digital download featuring:
· The Optimist 11 original album tracks with pre-orders receiving an instant download of “Springfield”
Anathema are set to tour worldwide to celebrate the release of The Optimist and have now confirmed their headline shows in Europe.
They’ll be accompanied by French blackgaze pioneers Alcest ( www.facebook.com/alcest.official ). Looking forward to the tour Daniel Cavanagh says “It’s really good to be touring with Alcest again, continuing our relationship that began in America in 2013. They are superb melodists and have a beautiful and unique voice.”
Tickets on sale from Monday 3rd April from 10am local time – see www.facebook.com/anathemamusic for details plus all other confirmed shows and festivals
If you are a fan of progressive rock and have not heard of Bader Nana then you could be doing yourself a great disservice! His earlier releases ‘Wormwood’ (2011) and ‘Anthology’ (2013) have been received with astonishment in light of them being home studio projects by fans and critics alike. Bader Nana is a one-man band releasing albums on which he plays/writes all instruments, produces, masters, and designs the artwork. His music has been featured on various rock/metal websites as well as getting radio airplay on several European radio stations. The level of musicianship and production has left many listeners dumbfounded that such a talent has not yet been picked up by a major record label.
‘Devolver’ has been in production for more than 3 years allowing Nana to explore new sonic and musical territory at his leisure to his complete satisfaction. The music remains on a progressive bedrock, as with previous releases, but is driven by a fresh message of hope. This hope is translated onto a diverse palette of musical arrangements ranging from cinematic orchestration, to soaring ballads, to dirty distorted rock anthems. This album features several guest appearances including guitar and vocal work by Ramzi Ramman (The JLP Show, Lebanon) and vocals by Omar Afuni (Omar Afuni, Dubai).
Mercenaries – 7:42
Victorious – 5:05
Without a Backward Glance – 5:37
Full Circle – 4:38
I am Alive – 10:42
Dust Within Me – 4:49
Desperate Times – 6:14
Devolver – 23:03
“Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .” ― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
“There is no surer foundation for a beautiful friendship than a mutual taste in music.” – (paraphrased from a quote by P.G. Wodehouse)
I’ve spent a large proportion of the last 3 or 4 years waxing lyrical about my musical discoveries and sharing them with the world at large (whether they liked it or not) but I’m man enough to admit that even I discover music from recommendations from friends and acquaintances.
I discovered the wonderful Scottish progressive rock band Abel Ganz through my friend (and now colleague) at Bad Elephant Music, David Elliott and that has opened up a wealth of new musical treasures that have been brought to my attention by the wonderful guitar player Iain Sloan who, as well as playing with the Ganz boys, lends his not inconsiderable talents to a few other Scottish artists including The Wynntown Marshals and Findlay Napier to name but two, enabling me to dig out these musical treasures too.
Iain also plays with the talented Scottish folk musician Norrie McCulloch and it is through his recommendation that I sought Norrie out and am I glad that I did, discovering that he was just about to release his new album ‘Bare Along The Branches’.
‘Bare Along The Branches’ is Scottish Singer/Songwriter Norrie McCulloch’s third full-length album in as many years and is the follow up to 2016’s acclaimed ‘These Mountain Blues’. Featuring a backing band of regular collaborators: Dave McGowan, Stuart Kidd and Marco Rea with Iain Thompson and Iain Sloan also entering the fold for this new recording.
The album captures McCulloch writing about the human spirit, folklore, growing and belonging. A chance meeting with a Russian photographer gave him the albums cover imagery, its title and a new artistic relationship.
The album opens with the atmospheric Shutter with it’s melancholy driving piano line and echoing drums. Norrie’s world weary vocals take up the tale and you are immediately engrossed in the song. The banging shutter is the soundtrack to someone’s downward spiral, akin to a bell tolling and adding a slightly mournful note to this downcast, wistful tune. Like a well travelled troubadour Norrie’s brilliant voice just draws you in to the tale and the excellent music keeps you enthralled. Little Boat has a nostalgic feel to it from the first note, the delightful guitar tone is complemented by some wonderful keyboards and McCulloch’s sentimental vocals (channeling his inner Van Morrison) give a feel of longing and remembrance. It’s simple beauty is utterly captivating and uplifting, a look back at time when life was simpler and uncomplicated perhaps? When music is this good, why bother making it convoluted and arduous, the engaging Hammond organ being a case in point, I’m left with a knowing grin on my face as it comes to a satisfying close.
The opening to the wonderfully whimsical Lonely Boy is sublime and reminds me of why I love music so much, that keyboard note immediately grabs your attention and your heart. It develops into a brilliant song of reminiscence and sepia tinged memories. There is an emotive depth to this track, brought to the surface by Norrie’s heartfelt, earnest vocals, full of warmth and succor. The chorus is serene and tender, demanding that you sing along and reflect on your own past. Bluegrass, Americana, Country and Folk all combine to brilliant effect on Frozen River. A song of loss but one with an upbeat feel, epitomised by the whipcrack inticate notes eminating from the banjo and mandolin. It fairly speeds along and the skill of the musicians involved is something special, all held together by the vocals of Norrie McCulloch, a voice that is proving to be very special indeed.
A gentle acoustic guitar introduces Safe Keeping, a song full of emotion and sentiment, a story of life in a small town, the ties that keep us there and the battles to break them. A descriptive guitar sits in the background, played with a deft, sophisticated skill. There is a pared back sincerity to the song, a simplicity that has an infinite depth to it and the unadorned vocals sit perfectly alongside giving the whole song an uncomplicated grace. Country blues personified and with a great lap steel guitar running through the centre, Never Leave You Behind has the feel of a good time song played by good old boys and wouldn’t be out of place at The Grand Ole Opry. There a touch of Willie Nelson to the vocals and I’m just left tapping my foot and singing along to this feel good tune.
While researching for the album I got talking to Norrie about the next track This Time which, to me, is a favourite due to its simplicity and honesty. He had this to say,
“I’m surprised at how many folks are liking that song from the album, I was very close to leaving it off but nice that it seems to resonate with people.”
Well I’m exceedingly glad you did! Kept down to basics with the eerie, haunting pedal steel of the talented Iain Sloan, the beautiful and unforgettable piano of Dave McGowan and Norrie delivering a near-perfect vocal performance, this is a song that will live with me for a very long time. There’s a stark grandeur to this track, a primal honesty that has lasted the ages and it makes you stop and listen. The elegant music and sublime, rarefied vocals linger long in the memory after the final, exquisite note plays out. Turn To Dust is a wonderful, simple tribute to Norrie’s mother who passed away shortly before this song was recorded live and solo on acoustic guitar. It’s a remarkably personal piece of music and you almost feel as if you are intruding a little on his grief but you feel the deep, amazing love a son has for his mother in every note and I feel privileged that he felt he could share these feelings with us. I’ll not lie, there’s a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat as it comes to a close. A laid back country blues tune with a harmonica note full of pathos and not a little sorrow, Around The Bend brings to mind depression era America and a small town with dusty streets full of care-worn wooden buildings. The vocals mirror this feeling perfectly, people carrying a world full of issues on their shoulders but the music has a stark grace to it as if beauty can be found in any situation. The lap steel and banjo add even more poignancy to the song, giving hope that redemption may indeed be found ‘around the bend’.
(Photo credit David Morrison)
The last song on the album is the bare simplicity and atmospheric refinement of Beggars Woods, a piece of music as timeless as it is elegant. There’s an echoing wonder to the guitar playing and a captivating tone to Norrie’s vocals, the song needs nothing more as it weaves its plaintive way through your heart and soul, pulling you along in its wake.
“When this life’s got you bare along the branches…”
A song about opening yourself to life, to all the good and bad that you will encounter, cleanse your soul and become something more. The incredible guitar solo feels full of pain and remorse and yet there is also a small bud of hope and a promise of redemption. Remember, nothing is set in stone and you make your own path, whatever you may have to overcome.
Music has become a way of life for me and it is releases like this that define my life and give it meaning. Norrie McCulloch writes songs that are mini works of art, songs about life and death that we can all relate to on a personal level. ‘Bare Along The Branches’ will take you on an admittedly stark and yet ultimately uplifting musical journey that will leave you in a much better place than when you first started.
Doom is a primal element of heavy metal, one of the tributaries that has been feeding the genre since Black Sabbath recorded songs like Electric Funeral, Black Sabbath and Under The Sun. The glacial pace, the mournful minor key, the rafter-rattling riff and the brontosaurus stomp of the rhythm section are essential ingredients. While the style has seen many changes over the years and numerous subgenres have formed around it; the core is still the same, still intensely powerful and in the right hands can still sound just as relevant as it did nearly 50 years ago.
However, it’s also a fairly simple form that requires adherence to certain elements to maintain the qualities of the form itself (similar to blues, you can only stretch it so far before it ceases to be blues). For every truly unique band in the genre you have another 50 that are seemingly happy recycling Sabbath and Candlemass riffs ad nauseum with minimal individuality. Despite those odds truly inspired bands do occasionally come along and progress the genre forward; while simultaneously staying true to the established roots. Pallbearer is one such act.
Hailing from Little Rock, Arkansas, Pallbearer has attracted an enviable amount of exposure over the past 5 years. Their debut album ‘Sorrow And Extinction’ was immediately hailed as a classic doom metal release; their purity of approach and obvious love for the genre was evident from the beginning, as was their unique spin on it. Their stock rose even further with the impressive follow-up ‘Foundations Of Burden’ in 2014, another widely praised and discussed album that ended up high on many best-of-the-year lists. Their combination of crushing heavy riffs, clean melodic vocals and progressive rock-influenced arrangements helped them create an identifiable niche in the genre and their sound was maturing at an impressive rate. Now with ‘Heartless’ they’ve crafted their singular personal statement, an album that takes all the promise shown on their prior releases and delivers an album that is distinctly Pallbearer.
The expansion of their sound is immediately discernible in opening track I Saw The End. The arrangement is more spacious and airy than the wall-of-sound approach on their prior albums; the guitar sound is a little lighter, a little drier than what they’ve employed previously. Instead of the riff being the driving force here it’s the melody of the song that carries the forward momentum. It attains a rare balance of accessibility without compromise, still carrying the heft the genre requires but with deft subtlety. The lovely vocal arrangement of the bridge section recalls the classic 70s mainstream progressive rock of Kansas or Boston while the ending instrumental segment with its gorgeous interweaving guitar lines had me simultaneously thinking about Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy at their most melodic.
The first single Thorns increases the weight a bit, the guitar sound leaning a little more toward the crush heard on their earlier releases, but with a newfound economy in the arrangement. At 5:25 it’s one of the most economical songs in their discography and demonstrates how quickly their songwriting has matured.
Lie Of Survival and the album-closing A Plea For Understanding are unabashed doom ballads. Heartfelt, majestic and fiercely emotional, these epic tracks unfold at a gloriously deliberate pace that gives the listener ample time to savor their beautifully detailed arrangements. One of the most obvious improvements on ‘Heartless’ are the lead vocals of Brett Campbell. His clean, melodic approach has been a defining element since their debut, but his confidence level has been growing exponentially with each release and he has fully come into his own on ‘Heartless’. He sings with passionate authority throughout, but his performance on these mellower excursions are the real highlight of the album and his tasteful restraint ensures they never fall into the trap of histrionics that ensnares so many metal vocalists. The same taste and restraint carries over to the impressive guitar work; from gentle classical-inspired sections to soaring, melodic leads, Campbell and fellow-guitarist Devon Holt have both put in career-best performances on ‘Heartless’.
The centerpiece of the album is the nearly 12-minute epic Dancing In Madness, Pallbearer really gets to show off the breadth of their sound on this piece. It begins fully in Pink Floyd territory, a beautifully lush wash of an arrangement tailor-made for a David Gilmour-esque flight of fantasy guitar solo. Then the mood turns more oppressive as the guitars enter in funeral-march lockstep and the psychedelic-tinged vocals add an air of disquiet to the proceedings. At the halfway point the first truly aggressive doom riff appears, a harkening back to their earlier sound, here made even more powerful by the unexpectedness of its arrival. The gang vocals that accompany it adding the perfect touch of cathartic menace. Then acoustic guitars segue us into the mournful final section.
Cruel Road offers the most unabashedly “metal moment” of the album with its galloping NWOBHM-inspired riffs and 80s style prog metal elements (bringing to mind Fates Warning among others). It is followed by the superlative title track, an 8-minute distillation of Pallbearer circa 2017 and my personal favorite on the album.
‘Heartless’ is also a great-sounding album. With a more expansive soundstage than the overly-compressed ‘Foundations Of Burden’, the spaciousness of the mix allowing the very detailed arrangements to fully come alive. As cliché as it may be, ‘Heartless’ is the kind of album you need to slowly absorb, as the details become more apparent with repeated exposure. I’m sure a certain element of their fanbase might be disappointed that ‘Heartless’ isn’t quite as dark and heavy as their prior albums, but it’s such an organic evolution I hope they can come to appreciate the artistry of it. What I hear is a group reaching the next level; ripe for continued crossover success and deserving of the hype.
THRESHOLD have parted ways with vocalist Damian Wilson. The band have chosen to start a new chapter without him and he has told them he respects their decision.
Wilson enjoyed three stints with THRESHOLD, performing on the band’s most recent records ‘For The Journey’ and ‘March Of Progress’ as well as their early releases ‘Wounded Land’ and ‘Extinct Instinct’ in the 1990’s. Damian Wilson has been a great frontman for THRESHOLD and the band would like to sincerely thank him and wish him every success in his future endeavours.
THRESHOLD‘s new frontman will be Glynn Morgan, the band’s former vocalist from 1994 to 1996. Morgan appeared on THRESHOLD‘s 1994 album ‘Psychedelicatessen’ and returned to work with the band in 2008 to record tracks for the singles box set ‘Paradox’.
Glynn Morgan commented: “I was over the moon when I got the phone call. To work with Karl and Richard and be a part of the mighty THRESHOLD story once more is a great honour. I can’t wait to start recording, the new material has me hooked already.”
You can watch Glynn Morgan in action with THRESHOLD in their 1994 video ‘Innocent’ here:
THRESHOLD are currently at Thin Ice Studios recording their 11th album ‘Legends Of The Shires’ due for release in the autumn. The band’s European tour kicks off in November with support from DAMNATION ANGELS and DAY SIX.
‘Legends Of The Shires’ Tour 2017 w/ DAMNATION ANGELS, DAY SIX Presented by: Rock Hard, Eclipsed, Rock It!, Blast!, Wacken Radio
28.11. NL Weert – De Bosuil
29.11. D Hamburg – Markthalle
30.11. D Berlin – Lido
01.12. D Aschaffenburg – Colos-Saal
02.12. D Munich – Feierwerk
03.12. CH Pratteln – Z7
05.12. D Stuttgart – Club Cann
06.12. D Hanover – Musikzentrum
07.12. B Kortrijk – De Kreun
08.12. D Essen – Turock
09.12. NL Zoetermeer – Boerderij 10.12. UK London – o2 Islington Academy
I discovered the talented Italian band The Barock Project after Nellie Pitts recommended their album ‘Skyline’ to me.
I took a gamble and sent her a postal order (or was it a cheque?). Anyway, the sound of young Mediterranean youth playing their hearts out soon won me over. They then upped the ante with an excellent live album, ‘Vivo‘. Live, they were even stronger, with some real power to their collective elbows.
They’ve now returned with their new album and it’s another quantum leap forward.
The old school vibe of the ‘Skyline’ project has been toughened up, the band are now firing on all six cylinders, and if the automotive metaphor was to be stretched to burst, this is a pole position worthy band ready to accelerate away from the pack.
I reviewed this after listening to it and conversing with a friend of the band as I listened, she was able to answer questions as they popped into my head-Amazing thing, technology.
Listening to Luca’s amazing piano playing, typing a query as I listen and someone hundreds of miles away answers it, the ultimate footnotes to the album. A new angle here, an interactive listening session
One example being my comments about that piano playing:-
Me: “he’s certainly versatile, from rippling flurries of classical notes to almost jazz chords
And traces of Jools Holland piano on The The’s“Uncertain Smile”:
My “source” – “Oh he’s amazing, classically trained, you can tell, he’s a real pianist, not a computer geek who prods keys”.
I’ve listened again and the depth of musicality is being uncovered.
Track 3, Happy To See has a pure Jon Lord Hammond solo that is pitched perfectly before the guitars slice through with a very Steve Luthaker tight controlled solo with a hint of Francis Dunnery in the note bending climax
There are hints of the “not singing in my native tongue” in the closing part of the song, but the vocals are still enunciated beautifully and the instrumental canvas is a pleasure to lose yourself in.
My source filled me in on this too.
Luca, who writes, plays keyboards and produced the album also sang on all the tracks as in a Spinal Tap type “gardening accident” the band lost their vocalist and front man during the recording of this album.
In the best Prog tradition, following in the footsteps of that short bloke from Genesis and that American drummer with the Italian name that now plays with the quintessential British Prog band, he stepped up, and knocked off an albums worth of vocal, as you do.
There is another vocalist on the album too, a Mr P. Jones, Esq. that many of you know from his appearances fronting the lovely Tiger Moth Tales and the noisier Red Bazaar.
All these multi talented people, gathered together on one album, the sum is even greater than the parts.
I must confess to “assisting” with the lyrics of one track, but my involvement was very peripheral, merely a view of the lyrics written out in English, I was happy to be of some use as the lyrical flow presented here is a credit to Luca’s resolve to “get it right” and sing in a natural way using a second language so yet another string to his bow!
One Day starts with some neo classical guitar figures, before switching to a 12 string sound, a real “classic Prog” vibe here, my initial point of reference was BJH, there is that element of lush pastoral beauty to the melody , the classical piano underpinning adds to the “feel”.
It’s the classical background that comes over here, with a splash of flute bouncing across harpsichord and yes, it does go a bit Jethro Tull in the middle eight, but in a good way.
Secret Therapy starts with Tablas and fast acoustic guitar runs, along with a grand piano, in fact the more you listen, the more instrumentation you find in the mix.
Production is lush and warm, none of that awful tinny drum heavy sound that blights much modern rock, no here we have a soundscape constructed by someone whose palette expands beyond drums, pro tools and auto tune.
Rescue Me is very poppy with a catchy little riff.
It Bites almost, or should I be referencing Frost* now?
I could go on, but the beauty of this album is that it encapsulates you in it’s own universe completely.
You want to listen all the way from start to finish without skipping a track.
There are some beautiful guitar parts too, nothing too flashy or show boating, but they flow organically with the songs, they’re not bolted on or shoehorned in as is the case with some material.
There’s some melodic underpinning of the songs from Francesco on bass that enables the instrumentation to spread out and fill the room.
I get the feeling that this album was made by a band of friends in a room all at the same time, the old school way.
The way Bob Dylan and the Band recorded the basement tapes – music made for the joy of making music together. Like that album, we are privileged that the creators wish us to share their world.
I received this album to review without any preconceptions, save for the knowledge that the band are Italian, and I was greatly excited to dive in head first and try something new to keep the process fresh. My intention was to write a first listen ‘experience’ piece and then to reflect on this after further play-throughs, however there was a problem – I was worried about the ‘Englishness’ of the title.
My fears were confirmed when I realised that this album has vocals sung in English and my experiences are not great in the area of foreign bands not singing in their native language: Men of Lake I am looking at you! (one track reminds me of them, hence the reference). Anyway, I scrapped my initial approach after my first experience of the singing here.
Why sing in English, oh why?
Is it purely a commercial consideration if English is not your native tongue? Unless a singer has a fantastic voice or personality (to compensate by emoting) it rarely works. For Pandora we have male and female vocalists who, I can confidently say, sound infinitely better when singing in their native language. They both have good enough voices but, and this is probably a personnel thing, they fail to convey enough emotion to lift the music when singing in English.
Low end blues!
The expression ‘throwing in the kitchen sink’ applies to ‘Ten Years…’ we have new tracks, old tracks and cover versions here. The arrangements and compositions are also multi-faceted and stop-start and are perhaps being overly progressive for progressive rocks sake. The overall sound is heavily orchestrated and; to coin a new expression(?) ‘oversynthed’. The lead lines are too clean and don’t appear to sit well with the music. To exaggerate this there is a lack of both bass in the production, and also bass guitar in the mix. Many modern bands from Italy excel in the bass guitar department and the lack of such strength here is disappointing.
Nearly half of this record consists of cover versions, and whilst these are interesting and well done I ask myself the question why perform and publish them over original works? We have presented here Second Home By The Sea, Man of 1000 Faces, Ritual – Part 2 & Lucky Man plus a snippet of The Lamb Lies… A diverse selection of classics with enough deviation from the originals to be worth exploring, however, all suffer from the above mentioned vocal and production issues.
Advice: Give it a listen if you can and stay open-minded
In summary, this is actually a reasonably enjoyable recording that does improve with many plays, and it does have its own voice and style, it is just unfortunate that some of the execution and decision making drops it below the premium level that is being set; and perhaps demanded, by this listener.
1. a person who tends to be hopeful and confident about the future or the success of something.
2. a person who believes that this world is the best of all possible worlds or that good must ultimately prevail over evil.
After Anathema’s 2012 award-winning album ‘Weather Systems’ and 2014’s spellbinding ‘Distant Satellites’, the ambient rockers are back with their eleventh full-length, ‘The Optimist’. Due for release on 9th June through Kscope ‘The Optimist’ will soon reveal some of the darkest, most challenging and unexpected music the sextet have put their name to.
Anathema, led by brothers Daniel and Vincent Cavanagh, along with drummer John Douglas, singer Lee Douglas, bassist Jamie Cavanagh and keyboardist Daniel Cardoso began recording ‘The Optimist’ in the winter of 2016 at Attica Audio in Donegal, Ireland and then finished at Castle Of Doom studios in Glasgow with producer Tony Doogan [Mogwai, Belle & Sebastian, Super Furry Animals] at the helm. Vincent elaborates on Doogan’s influence on the recording process “he suggested that we record as a live band, which we hadn’t done for years. Having played a few tunes on the last tour, we were ready for that. Tony wanted to capture that energy you can only get with everyone facing each other… it makes a big difference. He was a superb guy to work with and I learned a lot making this record”
The idea for ‘The Optimist’ was born from the front cover artwork of the band’s 2001 album ‘A Fine Day To Exit’. Daniel Cavanagh explains “I suppose you might say the album is semi-autobiographical because this time we used a surrogate,” he says, of the character that is The Optimist “We put sound, feelings and crucially, our own hopes and fears into another person and made him the subject of the songs then weaving my own internal monologue into the narrative of The Optimist. It was John’s idea to write a narrative, so I took A Fine Day To Exit as the starting point”. Vincent elaborates further on the earlier album’s artwork influence “The guy who disappeared – you never knew what happened to him,didhe start a new life? Did he succumb to his fate? It was never explained. The opening track title is the exact coordinates for Silver Strand beach in San Diego – the last known location of The Optimist – shown on the cover of A Fine Day to Exit.”
To continue the theme further, the band brought back designer and illustrator Travis Smith to create the artwork for The Optimist. The artwork was created from a series of photographs Smith took on a West Coast road trip.
Withthe character’s unresolved destiny the three song writing members, meticulously brought the unfinished story to an end – and most strikingly of all – one which is decided by the listener.
32.63N 117.14W [01:18]
Leaving It Behind [04:27]
Endless Ways [05:49]
The Optimist [05:37]
San Francisco [04:59]
Can`t Let Go [05:00]
Close Your Eyes [03:39]
Back To The Start [11:41]
Anathema will be revealing more information on The Optimist very soon, album formats and further touring details.
Recently I had the privilege of talking to TEDDY – JAMES DRISCOLL from TELEPATHY, a band who are generating a fair bit of interest from the Press, with new album ‘Tempest’ (which I also had the opportunity to review for Progradar) and the single from it, Celebration of Decay.
Hi Kev, great to talk to you.
Things seem to be going quite well for the band at the moment with the new album garnering favourable reviews, the single release and with some upcoming tour dates to promote them you must be feeling quite pleased?
Yes absolutely, the band have had a good team behind them since before I joined in 2015 and we all have a lot more experience now. Various people do a great job of handling our press and promotions for UK & Europe, plus we are on a great label who are very responsive to what we need and want to do. We are pleased the album and single have had a good reception so far.
Reading the blogs you seem to thrive on touring, are you the sort of band that feeds off the audience rather than shoe gazing as you play?
Yes, we tour as much as possible, between day jobs. We obviously would like to do more gigs and it to be a full time thing. We like the immersive experience live, and have great crowds who always come to see us afterwards for a chat and it’s important to connect with them.
I notice that you have stayed over in some unusual places whilst touring, a converted meat freezer and an old bank/squat? It beats sleeping in the van but are these the most unusual places you have stayed and any odd incidents?
Last tour we did in Belgium, Pete, a tattoo artist, put us up in the squat, it was really nicely done up. It’s occupied by a left wing activist cooperative and they were really nice to us, although we have no political leanings and stay away from it with our music. We were in the vault and it was very cosy but a bit weird as it still had the huge vault door and we wouldn’t have wanted to get locked in. The next night we were put up in an old meat locker that has been re-purposed in Antwerp, with bunk beds and kitchen. You could still tell it was an abattoir but it had been cleared out and done up with a shower block upstairs.
Beats sleeping in our van that we tour in, nicknamed ‘Pumba’. The Turek brothers’ Dad usually does the driving for us, with Rich’s Girlfriend doing the Merch stand and my brother as roadie. But it will be just the band on these upcoming dates, all the gear squeezed in ‘Pumba’ with us. We are precious about the sound but at the moment tend to use house PA systems whilst trying for the best sound possible and it’s usually pretty good. We understand with the complex sound we need it as clear as we can and would like own sound guy eventually.
How do you find the audiences here and abroad, is it a wide age range, are they more male than female?
It tends to vary in regions rather than countries, an audience in London for instance may tend to be more serious than one up North where they like to have a bit of fun. In Europe, again it is different for various areas in each country as well. The audiences do tend to be predominantly male but we are starting to notice more females watching with a range of ages.
What happens on tour stays on tour, but who’s the ladies man out of you all?
All of us have girlfriends except Peter, we call him Mr December as he’s our calendar model, He’s such a good looking guy so definitely him. He always stands out when we have a photo shoot, but he’s no lothario and always a gentleman.
There is plenty of information on line but it seems to neatly sidestep personal details about you, is this a conscious effort on your parts to keep it separate and do you feel a need to retain a certain amount of privacy?
I didn’t realise there wasn’t more information on our site, I will check it out. We don’t feel we are big enough, for the amount of interest in us at the moment to be to be an issue. We don’t really mind people knowing about us, I hadn’t really thought about it until now and myself I’m quite an open person. We don’t tend to get asked those sort of questions usually just the generic press ones.
Outside of the music do any of you find time for hobbies or interests?
We all have day jobs, I work in a call centre which I enjoy. I go to kick boxing and have quite a busy social scene that takes up my time. Rich focuses his attention on the band out of work whilst Albert and Peter love their motorbikes. We don’t rehearse every day but it tends to build up in intensity more, nearer gig dates. Before the CD was released we spent the whole six months prior on the band. We are all focused and know where we want to be with the band and the level we want to achieve.
In your busy lives do you get time to listen to any other music and do you have a guilty music pleasure?
Good shout, I saw two gigs by ‘Everytime I Die’ before Xmas and love ’em. In the gym or car I tend to play metalcore & deathcore, bands like Killswitch Engage. That sort of music was popular when I was at college and I grew up with that sort of thing. The lads like to rib me about it. Guilty pleasure? We have Cyndi Lauper’s greatest hits in the van and have a good sing-along as a bit of light relief when we’re touring.
So how did you get together with the band and why this style of music?
I had my own business, a cafe which didn’t work out, was off looking for a new job and saw Rich’s message on a Facebook group looking for a bassist. I’d played guitar and though ‘F*** it’ I’d give it a go. I didn’t own a bass at the time so borrowed gear off a friend, rehearsed a few times learnt the first album. I tried out and it just clicked then we were straight into doing the new album. ‘Celebration’ was the only one already fully written when I joined so I had to learn it. The rest of the tracks were written as a band thing, all four in a room and we are all so opinionated. Peter is always writing riffs and I have a few riffs but the one in ‘Smoke From Distant Fires’ is my only one on this album.
We do it as a collaborative effort and all have our different ways, I tend to sit back and feed off the others. Having played guitar before, bass is a totally different discipline and I have had to teach myself, incorporating my own style into it. I like to emulate Geezer Butler he’s one of my main influences. I’m quite good at arranging so say my piece when we are doing this and that is probably where I am most involved, in the arrangements. There is more space on Tempest than on the previous album, which allows it to breathe and expand. It’s designed as a soundscape.
There has always been a need to categorise the style of music played, into genres and you describe yourselves as ‘furiously played progressive sludge, intricate soundscapes and a bucket-load of riffs’. Do you think labelling your style restricts you and the prospective audience as whilst I agree with most of the sentence, I wouldn’t call your sound ‘sludgey’?
Aw, thanks Kev. Thing is with us, I know it’s an old cliché but we don’t like labels. We get called post metal a lot among other titles and we definitely have that sort of influence, but try to put lots of different genres in, to me it’s ‘InstruMetal’ our own style.
On listening to the album I personally felt the absence of vocals (negating those briefly in the background of Echo of Souls) added rather than detracted. It allowed me to focus on the complex melodies. Did you plan to be an instrumental group?
When the band first started they were going to get a vocalist but things evolved and they felt one wasn’t needed. I did vocals on Echoes, for an effect and we may use vocals in future if it serves a specific song. I’m open to it if it works but if not leave it out. When I first watched the band before joining I thought vocals would be good, but now I’m in the band it feels more and more like they’re not needed.
How did the concept of the album come about?
When I first came into the writing process a few names for songs had been kicking around. We started writing and three or four songs in after demoing them we began to establish a theme in our minds and discuss what the music made us think of. Two themes in particular stood out water and earthquake ruins. We developed the story from that, with each new song bringing a new part of the story.
Peter played what became the intro to the album whilst we were working on tracks and we thought it would be a great start. As if someone woke on a beach to all of the devastation and go from there. You can get your own storyline from the music seeing it differently to the band. That’s the beauty of it being instrumental you can paint your own pictures.
You must all have dreams and ambitions but put on the spot where’s the one venue you would most like to play and why?
I have loads, but I would feel I’d made it if I could play Brixton Academy, headlining. We are happy for our progress to go up in small increments, start at small venues and sell them out, then build up hopefully.
I know you supported Raging Speedhorn and they are fans of yours, given the chance what other act would you like to play on the bill with and do you know of any other famous fans you have?
If I could chose from any bands, Mastadon, Gojira, or Tool. No famous fans that I know of other than Raging Speedhorn, their Bass player Dave wore a Telepathy t-shirt for one of their gigs we felt really honoured.
Are you technologically minded and gadget freaks or are you straight instrument and amps guys?
Pete and Rich have vast pedal boards with all kinds of effects, I wouldn’t even try to tell you what they do. I keep it simple with a tuner and distortion pedal, but I trigger samples between songs as well, as we don’t like to leave silence between tracks. The continuity is important to tie the tracks together. For the most part with the music sounds we generally use big distortion, wind and atmospheric noises, waves, birds etc.
Albert’s drumming makes it sound intense, without him we would sound totally different, he’s awesome. He doesn’t talk a big game but when you see us live everyone watches him, I know, I used to when I watched the band.
So what would you say has been your greatest extravagance to date?
Love to be able to tell you we’d trashed penthouse suites in hotels and partied all night, but we are just happy to get beers and food on our rider. We don’t have a lot of luxuries as a band as it is still very grass roots. It’s the kindness of others that gives us the extravagances like when we were given an apartment in Germany for one gig, fully stocked, next to the venue just a few steps away. It was really nice having our own space, in Tilburg.
We went out and bought 30 beers after the gig and drank them outside and that’s about as extravagant as we get. The generosity of others keep us going. Everyone has been so nice and helpful at the moment including the press. Yours is the best review I’ve ever seen, it’s cool that you really got what we are trying to do with the album.
So, to the the most important question of the day before we wrap up our chat, yoghurt and fruit or full English breakfast?
Oh, full English 100%, given the choice, every time. Especially on tour, continental breakfast just doesn’t fill you, definitely full English.
Well it’s been great talking to you Ted, thanks for taking the time out to chat with me. I hope all goes well with the release party and touring the new album. Who knows, I could be interviewing you in ten years time, with multi-platinum album sales after selling out Brixton Academy.
That would be awesome and if we’re up North, you must hook up, come to see us live and catch up, thanks Kev.
And with that we ended our chat. Ted’s a lovely bloke and I wish he and the band all the best in the future. I will certainly make the effort to try and see them live as well as meeting the rest of the band. Who knows, in ten years time….. Mind you, by then I don’t know if my zimmer frame will fit back stage.
“A four piece Instrumental band from Madrid who mix genres like Postmetal, Progressive, Sludge, Doom, Experimental… Our debut homonymous album is out now via Nooirax Producciones. Music for fans of Intronaut, Mastodon, Russian Circles, Opeth…”
I am an eclectic soul musically, maybe even a hoarder of music. I still have the original copy of the album of Disney’s Jungle Book on vinyl and my Thunderbirds maxi singles from the 60s. The result being I have physical collection of a true reflection of the development of my musical taste and how it has evolved since I was knee high to a phonograph. My boss Martin at Progradar seems to love sending me curve balls from the extreme ends of the musical spectrum that fits the loose term progressive. (It’s true, I do – Ed.)
Firmam3nt, hailing from “Mordor” (aka Villalba, Madrid) are one such band and their debut album from 2016 landed in my inbox last week. They are a four piece instrumental band consisting of Jorge Santana (Drums & Percussion), Alberto Garcia (Guitars), Txus Rosa – Guitars and Sergio González (Bass).
I honestly think the description from the top of the bandcamp site does them an actual disservice. The image musically is one of constant thrash and hammer & tongs metal when, in reality, that tells maybe 50% of the story. I will explain as I go along but this album is not constant chord of doom and despair but is, in fact, far more nuanced and subtle.
This is a four track album with the primary points of the compass as titles. Representative of the varied influences of the band or the mixed direction of travel they represent.
North opens with a riff of Sabbath proportions, the very essence of ‘the end of the world apocalypse’ travelling into a riffola of rich variety playing in the very metal pond then, inside three minutes, turns into a semi-classical themed electric guitar mellowness which cuts in unexpectedly, pleasantly surprisingly too, before the riffology cuts back in again, not letting you get too comfortable. This is pure guitar driven interplay and these guys are tight as a “gnats Chuff” (to paraphrase a friend). They sound like they know each other well musically and trust each other to follow where things may lead and land in a good place. In a few seconds under 14 minutes they travel a very long way and end this track in a double bass drum rolling thunderous attack that is not for the faint hearted.
The other tracks all fit this pattern, reflecting well crafted instrumental pieces with fine soloing from the guitarists Alberto and Txus. Textured layers with lots of time changes and unexpected lulls in the pace keep the ears interested enough to revisit the album.
The last track South reflects the slow and softer side of the band a lot more. Call it the Southern winds, light and warm, then building up into a storm of intensity closing with a piano that fades to a close.
I played it through about 10 times before considering how to address the review and found enough for me not to want to rush this out and do the band a real disservice.
Who is the audience for this album for then? It’s not for those with a pastoral bent or with a rigid idea of progressive music. If you like The Fierce and the Dead, the darker Porcupine Tree, older Opeth, and bits of Mastodon too then you will get something from this album. Like all instrumental music, if you are looking for songs or easy themes you are not going to find them. It is pure emotional response that gives the interpretation. It is also very hard to wax lyrical over insight and meaning for the same reason.