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Anathema - Alternative 4 CD (album) cover




Experimental/Post Metal

4.05 | 624 ratings

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4 stars Time to draw the attention to this truly wonderful band, and perhaps one of their most outstanding albums, once again. I fully realize this recording is not to everyone's taste on this particular site - but anyhow, Anathema being categorized in the 'prog metal'-division is highly incorrect altogether, and perhaps it shows very well with this particular album. This is not prog metal, as Anathema never overexposes technical qualities, but rather concentrates on conveying pure EMOTION and PASSION. It's indeed very questionable if this is in any case 'metal'-music at all. I'd rather say this is an exquisite collection of songs about fear, darkness, desperation, made out in beautiful, melodic, introspective Floydianesque melodies.

Yep, this album is a very sad one, perhaps the most desperate Anathema have ever made, and anyone who knows this band, knows that that's saying quite a lot. Not only did 1998 see Anathema's main personnel (the Cavanagh brothers) in deep despair because of a certain death in the family coming up - which would be addressed more explicitly on their follow-up "Judgement"-album - it also marked the last contribution of bass player and major composer Duncan Patterson, who had up till then been a very constructive force in the band, in more than one way of putting it, here.

Alright - now for addressing Alternative 4's songs. Starting off with the gorgeous "Shroud of False" - a simple but perfect tune carried by Danny Cavanagh's underestimated piano playing, the whole collection of songs on this album build up to a perfect ultimate combination - not one of them is a real 'stand alone', perhaps with the exception of the magnificent "Fragile Dreams", which up to today forms a highlight in the band's live performances, but the combination of all of them is true bliss for those who are susceptible for its beauty.

Dark, heavy minor chords form the introduction to guitarist/keyboard player/composer Danny's "Fragile Dreams"'s opening line - "Countless times I trusted you..." - and it's clear where we are going from here - this song is about desperation and despair, if anything. The experience of your dreams and high hopes being *shattered* by time and ultimate injustice, never ever before has been expressed as beautiful as happens here.

Bass-player Duncan Patterson's "Empty" and "Lost Control" express just that same feeling - but without Danny Cavanagh's, despite being in the minor key range, nearly 'joyful' power chords - in stead, these songs are rightout haunting of atmosphere. The first person asks himself, "How much longer till I hit the ground... Have I really lost control?" And the listener is left to answer this horrible question all by him/herself... with quite a bit of personal reflection involved as well, I suppose.

Singer/guitarist Vincent Cavanagh rarely contributes to the band's compositions - but "Re-connect" surely is a wonderful attempt. Perhaps one of the heaviest songs of this album, the composition is dark and haunting like the rest of them - but certainly not the worst attempt Vinnie's ever made, if I have any say in the matter.

Follows Danny's "Inner Silence", a short but powerful interlude on the piano and subsequent acoustic and electric guitar - and once again there's no question what this song's about - "Only then I realise, what you mean to me..."

The title song, "Alternative 4" is worth an essay by itself. Perhaps the darkest song ever recorded - haunting, with a very strong bass and melody line, we listen to the key words "I'll dance with Angels to celebrate the Holocaust...". I can only guess what composer Duncan Patterson is hinting at here, but I bet it isn't a pleasant experience.

Next is Danny's "Regret". A warm, tender melody, built up from subtle acoustic guitar playing in combination with a steaming hammond organ - and again, the subject is despair. "Visions of Love and Hate - A collage behind my eyes... [....} And sometimes I despair at who I've become - I have to come to terms with what I've done...", all of this intwined with truly lovely hammond organ sequences - what more could a proglover who estimates true PASSION a lot higher than mere technical qualities ever wish to hear?

Duncan's "Feel" is the perfect follow up to its predecessor - with again that wonderful organ intertwining with Vincent's desperate-but-beautiful vocals.

"Destiny" completes Alternative 4 - a perfect, subtle conclusion for this wonderful album, once again carried by acoustic guitars and Vincent's 'old-but- beautiful' (as one reviewer once very rightly so dubbed it) voice. "Angel, my destiny. Can you feel me?..."

After all these very positive words, 'why no 5 stars', you may ask. ] Well, that's because I realise that this album will only truly appeal to those who progrockers who consider PASSION and EMOTION far more important than exposing technical instrumental qualities per sť. I fully realise this album is not for 'everyone', but only for those people willing to give this truly heartbreaking but beautiful album the chance it deserves.

For me, this one is an ESSENTIAL, but I certainly understand people having a different opinion.

Antennas | 4/5 |


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