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Hawkwind - Alien 4 CD (album) cover

ALIEN 4

Hawkwind

Psychedelic/Space Rock


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Proghead
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This album is pretty much as you expect from HAWKWIND, that means a bunch of excellent spacy hard rock, with '90s ambient experiments, such as the type they've been doing since "Electric Tepee". The band at this point consisted of Dave Brock, Alan Davey, and Richard Chadwick. Brock and Davey also handles the synthesizers (as well as of course the guitar and bass respectively). They also added new vocalist Ron Tree, who often got the Robert Calvert comparison. The funny thing is the LP (released as a double LP) actually features a song not featured on the CD (in this case, "Space Sex"), so you gotta own the LP to own everything (the LP is beautifully packaged with some great artwork in the gatefold, with a UFO theme, of course). The album seems to be a partial concept album on alien abduction. Anyway, this album is pretty much as you expect from HAWKWIND (doesn't give any new surprises here), but it's still worth having.
Report this review (#25685)
Posted Sunday, May 2, 2004 | Review Permalink
2 stars Unless you must have everything Hawkwind ever recorded this reviewer suggessts that you skip over this one. It`s main theme is is alien abduction which wears thin unless you are into the the UFO penomenom, perhaps then you would have some sort of fascination with this musically disappointing recording. Definitely give it a listen before purchase.
Report this review (#25686)
Posted Friday, September 24, 2004 | Review Permalink
Eetu Pellonpaa
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The material of this album was first known to me from "Love in Space" live album, which I regard as the most prolific album of the band's 1990's decade recordings. I was surprised how sterile and dull these studio versions of the songs sounded, when compared to that fine live double album.

"Abducted" opens the record, being a nice sci-fi soundscape and poem, leading to "Alien (I Am)". Now this did not appear vert very interesting, as I think it is lacking the dynamics an opening song demands, though it has some nice sounds in it. On "Reject Your Human Touch" I was irritated by the mechanic drum sounds, otherwise being a decent little "promenade" between the longer tracks (I'm not sure if using Moussorgy's piano piece as reference here is proper). Anyway, "Blue Skin" is a song about being in a tattooing machine and getting weird stuff painted to your skin. Again the drum sounds are not very pleasing, and the "Love in Space" version beats this out (like all of the tracks here, I have to admit). "Beam Me Up" is a slower ballad, but here I was not amused by the vocals nor overall sterile sounds. "Vega" is the great ambient moment here, truly touching cosmic sequence. "Xenomorph" morphs back to the rock phase, being also little cold in its appearance. "Journey" is another instrumental middle sequence, being OK but not exceptional or anything. "Sputnik Stan" starts with cosmic ambient sounds, and then shifts to quite heavy riff. An OK song, but the live is yet better. "Kapal" paints up an electronic sound realm, with some synthetic drumming in the end ruining the good parts of it. "Festivals" is another rocker in style of "Sputnik Stan", but not as good as that one. "Death Trap" opens the live CD in a great way, and that performance is also better again. "Wastelands" is a short intro to the final CD track "Are You Losing Your Mind?", being also a small anticlimax for me.

Sadly the promisingly named vinyl bonus track "Space Sex" hasn't yet reached my ears. Thus I think "Alien 4" is a decent album, but the "Love in Space" live is a masterpiece when compared to it, as there the music pulses both with life and energy, and also the programmed drums are played with real set of cans and sticks. My friend found a really neat vinyl version of that, I recommend hunting it down if you're in to this kind of space rock instead. I would leave this one to friends of techno/trance music who are abducted by aliens for sex experiments.

Report this review (#152431)
Posted Friday, November 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars This isn't a bad album at all and Ron Tree is a Robert Calvert-esque character and brings an edge to Hawkwind in both his singing and the spoken word. There aren't any bad tracks as such but in some parts the album seems to lose its way. The highlights though are worthwhile. Xenomorph has great sci-fi lyrics and a pulsing rhythym. Sputnik Stan is a classic, with sleazy Stan in charge of clearing away space junk - great chorus, great track. The spacey ambient stuff works well too, especially Vega. All in all, a good album from a great band during their declining years. Interestingly, a lot of these tracks appear on their live DVD Love In Space where they sound much better.

Report this review (#158275)
Posted Thursday, January 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Back to a four unit band, Hawkwind released another good sci-fi exercise.

Even if their glory days have passed, the band (Brock) is still rocking alright and some tracks really shine. One of the very few poor track amongst the whole is "Blue Skin". But one out of so many is far from being a nightmare.

If most songs would have been of the caliber of "Alien", they could have well released an excellent album for a very long time.

There are extremely crafted songs ("Reject Your human Touch"), even emotional ones. When I listen to "Beam Me Up", I have to admit that it touches me: great space-rock even if it sounds at times as if you were embarking an Orlando Disney attraction (hi Febus!).

But if, like me, you like the combination of hard and space-rock, I guess that such a song will always leave a great mark on you. One of the best track here IMO.

When "Vega" starts, there is nothing to do: it just reminds me the great "Low" of whom you might know. Almost the same icy cold mood, magnificent synth parts. I guess that it is the essence of the genre. A great return to the good "Hawkwind sounds. And I like those ones.

The punkish ones (the sounds, I mean) are also available if you like. "Xenomorph" for instance. An excellent mix of punk-hard-space-rock. "Hawkwind" are really the only ones to be able to accomplish such a tour de force and incorporate so many opposed influences into a five minutes piece of music.

Another killer is "Sputnik Stan": this is a hell of a rocking song. A truly devastating track which is really shacking you like crazy. This album is full of good surprises so far. Some might say that in the long run, this album might sound repetitive, which is not untrue. The band would have been inspired to have cut a bit into the length of this album to avoid this feeling ("Festivals", "Death Trap").

Anyway IMO, this is the best "Hawkwind" effort since "Chronicle", some ten years prior to this one. The return of the giant Hawkwind.A good album: three stars (seven out of ten really).

Report this review (#172654)
Posted Saturday, May 31, 2008 | Review Permalink
Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
3 stars You'll never believe it. But I actually like this album a lot. I mean, the Calvert-clone singer is annoying, the sound is plastic and completely out of time for something from 1995 but somehow it works.

First of all, from a songwriting point of view, this is their first coherent album since Levitation. It's also one of the few Hawkiwind releases where everything falls into place. The space-rock, the songs, the ambient interludes, their punk spirit,... Everything is here in abundance and holds together very well. It does not feature classic pearls but Sputnik Stan comes close.

This fine album has become somehow irrelevant though. The excellent Love in Space live album features better live performances of all good songs here.

Report this review (#241253)
Posted Friday, September 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars With themes liberally borrowed from then-current alien abduction conspiracy theories, Alien 4 found Hawkwind's run of New Age-oriented albums steering back into rockier territory, with material from PXR 5, The Xenon Codex, and Quark, Strangeness and Charm being reworked alongside originals. New vocalist Ron Tree offers a bit of youthful energy, and the production is decent, but not quite as good as It Is the Business of the Future To Be Dangerous. On top of that, much of this material would end up getting a more lively rendition on the subsequent live album, Love In Space.

Still, for a concept album pondering whether the Greys are here to defend us against the New World Order or deliver us to it (and goodness knows there's plenty of those around), this is a fun trip which certainly demonstrates that even when Hawkwind are chasing the zeitgeist, they always put their own original spin on things.

Report this review (#623152)
Posted Monday, January 30, 2012 | Review Permalink
AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
2 stars "Alien 4" is a very weird entry in the Hawkwind catalogue with nice packaging and art work but little substance in terms of actual music. The band opt for quasi-punk vocals by Ron Tree such as on the awful 'Beam Me Up'. The voice overs are okay if you are in the mood but still wear thin after a while. The spacey psychedelic tones seem more forced and there simply as window dressing. The band really struggled on this one and there is little to recommend.

Of the songs worth listening to 'Festivals' is great with Brock saying "everyone is guilty though not everyone is bad" and actually is one of the better tracks as are all the ones sung by Brock, but this is quite a forgettable album. Once it ends I can't remember a single tune. The songs are rather repetitive and many sound more like bonus tracks rather than classic Hawkwind songs. Occasionally there are some great guitar breaks and innovation such as on 'Alien (I Am)' and 'Sputnik Stan'. 'Kapal' is an electronic experimental thing with some hyper strange effects, and reminds me of Pink Floyd's material on the studio "Ummagumma". The synthetic drums do the album no favour and neither does the retro keyboards. 'Death Trap' is a rocker that stands out for the cool riffing but I am not a fan of the punkish vocals, repetition and silly lyrics.

There is more filler on this than a taxi cab's passenger door, namely the instrumentals such as 'Wastelands' that really is just spacey kanoodling on synths. The narration on 'Abducted' is part of the concept of alien abduction but could have been done better, with creepier delivery and not so much in the synth department. The album ends with 'Are You Losing Your Mind?' which is a diversion into more synth soaked weirdness. The narration of having "a silicon chip in my head" may have worked if the music was any good. The problem with the album is the band are offering nothing new, merely revisiting old ground already accomplished with previous albums. Buy only if you must have everything the band churned out and for the terrific artwork.

Report this review (#646034)
Posted Sunday, March 4, 2012 | Review Permalink
Aussie-Byrd-Brother
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars Inconsistent albums have definitely been a bit of a Hawkwind trademark over their many years, probably from about the late 70's onwards! You'd always get a couple of killer tracks, a few decent ones, a few duds, with the obligatory baffling remakes of previous tracks as well. Thankfully, 1995's `Alien 4' came at a time in the early Nineties when the band were in something of a period of renewed inspiration, with albums like `Space Bandits' and `Electric Teepee' being a step up in quality from several of the 80's releases. It incorporates many of the best elements of Hawkwind sounds past and present, and that includes sleek spacey instrumentals, plodding hard-rockers, ambient passages, spoken word diversions and even some industrial programming they also explored on the `It Is The Business...' album.

The established members - David Brock, Alan Davey and Richard Chadwick - were joined here by Ron Tree, more of a festival/performance artist than a truly competent singer, but he brings flair and colourful personality to the music. Opener `Abducted' is a spoken word passage aiming to capture the spirit of the old Michael Moorcock poems on the earlier albums like `Space Ritual' and `Warrior on the Edge of Time'. It moves straight into `Alien (I Am)', a gutsy memorable rocker with a killer chorus that transitions into a short guitar solo and gliding synth interlude with `Reject Your Human Touch'. Ron's wailing vocals over the relentless cold programmed beats of `Blue Skin' will shred your senses and shatter your sanity, and while `Beam Me Up' starts soothing and introspective, it quickly morphs into a schizophrenic breakdown of ranting vocals and spiky punky outbursts!

`Vega' is a beautiful and blissful ambient floating synth instrumental, `Xenoporph' one of those reliable punky rockers that Hawkwind do so well but with a nice sprightly electric piano solo in the middle over swirling synths that build with heavy riffing guitars in the finale. Instrumental `Journey' begins intimidating but soon turns wondrous, and `Sputnik Stan' is a relentless heavy metal/rock n roll blaster with a bit of menace to the riffing, melting liquid synths dripping all around and a nice dreamy break in the middle (nice thick bass from Alan Davey on both of these too, with a nice melodic solo from him as well on the latter!). Moody instrumental `Kapal' offers dark slinking beats over vocal samples and cold machine programming, and the album (more or less) closes on a Dave Brock punky rapid-fire rocker `Festivals' with a reliable chorus, lovely wavering synth and light reggae-styled groovy bass breaks throughout.

Then, of course, the band throw in some of those baffling covers of earlier Hawkwind pieces. `Death Trap' is from 1979's `PXR5', and while Ron's vocals are certainly deranged enough, the music needed to be a lot more manic and messy to compliment him, and only the raging guitar solo in the closing minute brings the right energy. `Wastelands' (aka `Wastelands of Sleep' from 1988's `The Xenon Codex') barely runs over a minute, but it's still a pretty ambient interlude that segues into `Are You Losing Your Mind?', a delirious re- recording of `The Iron Dream' off 1977's `Quark, Strangeness and Charm' with new spoken words lyrics. All of these remakes are perfectly adequate yet utterly forgettable and add nothing to the main parts of the album. At least they're all lumped together at the end of the disc, so it's best to treat them as mere bonus tracks, skip them and finish on `Festivals' instead.

Although the band would go on to offer many more albums after this, Hawkwind fell back into those annoying inconsistencies once again right from the very next album `Distant Horizons'. They wouldn't see another return to some form until 2010's `Blood of the Earth' and `Onward' two years after that. But while `Alien 4' isn't quite in the same league as their Seventies classics or even Eighties albums like `The Chronicle of the Black Sword (and the heavy live album of it!), there's still plenty of strong material for fans of Hawkwind and their different eras to enjoy.

Three and a half stars, rounded up to four.

Report this review (#1341297)
Posted Wednesday, January 7, 2015 | Review Permalink
friso
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Hawkwind - Alien 4 (1995)

The Hawkwind line-up of Brock, Davey and Chadwick is perhaps one of my favorite bands ever. Electronic Space Rock Records like Electric Tepee, Palace Springs (live), The Business Trip (live), Love in Space (live) and Alien 4 are totally up my alley. I have yet to try the more ambient records in between. The combination of almost Trance music-like electronic synth baths, seriously dark and effective compositions, a steady sounding band and well- produced albums (now that's rare in the Hawkwind catalogue..) make this a great period for the band.

Now, most people would argue that the best songs of the Alien 4 record sound better on the great Love In Space live album and I would partially agree. However, the total atmosphere of this studio album is great in and of itself and the many dark symphonic passages between the rock songs are wel integrated. It's just another great space- rock album that progresses smoothly and uninterrupted. It's great to have different versions of song you like. I also like the spoken word performances on this recording. The material is not as legendary as Warrior on the Egde of Time, but so much more enjoyable en consistent.

Whereas I gave Love In Space five stars, Alien 4 deserves at least four. A great album for spacerock listeners. Listeners of progressive electronic and neo-prog should take a peak as well. I'm actually a bit amazed by how low the PA score for this fantastic album is, it should be right up there with Electric Tepee IMHO.

Report this review (#1642277)
Posted Monday, November 14, 2016 | Review Permalink
TCat
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Hawkwind, the band, until recently, that has been pretty much ignored by the masses, has been around for a lot of years. Even during their best years, during the 70s, not many people paid attention to them. Yet they are one of the pioneers of space rock and psychedelic music. As the band moved through the decades, Dave Brock has been the only constant. On "Alien 4", released in 1995, he has two other band members that he has worked with now for a few years, namely Alan Davey and Richard Chadwick. On this album, they are joined by Ron Tree, who will share lead vocal duties with Dave. Ron had worked with other small time bands and offered his voice for this album. The band also wanted to expand their stage performance to be more visually exciting, which was another reason for recruiting Ron.

This album's concept is mostly about Aliens. There is no cohesive story, just the topic of aliens. Of course, there is a lot of the Hawkwind sound of spacey music and plenty of synthesized and programmed sounds along with enough spacey guitar to keep Hawkwind fans happy. However, I don't think much was done to the sound to win over new fans. Yes there is the new vocalist here, which helps, but his vocals are a little rough for mass appeal. I feel it helps to add some variety to the songs, but other than that, it doesn't contribute much.

"Abducted" opens the album, but isn't really much of a track other than giving an idea as to what is going to be going on here music-wise. "Alien (I Am)" is the real opener here and it harkens back to the early Hawkwind days and gives some hope that this could be a decent album. Even the shorter track "Reject Your Human Touch" is a good follow up to this. However, "Blue Skin" sounds a little cheesy to me and suddenly the band sounds more like a cheap imitation of themselves, almost a satirical imitation and Tree's vocals aren't doing anything to save this album. And this is also a 7+ minute track, so it adds a bit of weight to the album. Things improve a bit on "Beam Me Up" but not enough to make us wonder if we might have a mediocre, if not worse, album on our hands.

"Vega" is a nice instrumental with an ambient feel, but it doesn't move anything forward much. "Xenomorph" has a great guitar hook and is a much more powerful song, even with Tree's rough vocals which actually kind of work here. The last half of this track is instrumental and builds quite well. "Journey" is a substandard instrumental which, while it is heavy enough, just doesn't build off of it's repetitive motif much. "Sputnik Stan" loses credibility at the beginning and end with Tree's vocals, and the words are stupid, but the instrumental break, which takes up a good part of the track, is great, dynamic and exciting, and actually a highlight of the album. "Kapal" is just a boring, repetitive instrumental with some spoken word vocals that are subdued and unintelligible. "Festivals" is more of Tree's punk-ish vocals that are almost completely tuneless in this instance, trying to give it a Sid Vicious style sound but instead it almost sounds like plastic rap during the verses. It is more like singing on the chorus, but the chorus is too simple and his voice just doesn't fit the simplicity very well. At this point, even the instrumental breaks can't save this track.

Three remakes follow, but nothing is really done to improve on them, so they are mostly just useless. Because they are remakes of vintage Hawkwind, they give a little more life to the album, but the originals already served well enough, and you just get the feeling they are added here to help boost interest in the album. Other than that, they don't accomplish anything. The Vinyl and 2010 CD editions contain a bonus track called "Space Sex" which I think was intended to be humorous, but it just comes off sounding dumb.

Overall, there are a few highlights here that prove that Hawkwind has good intentions, but they are few and far between. Tree's vocals might have worked better if they were utilized differently, but the often don't do anything to help given the material. The best part of the album are the instrumental breaks, but the only place they save the entire track is on "Alien (I Am)", "Sputnik Stan" and "Xenomorph". The rest of the album is mediocre or less. The album is okay, but nothing to get excited about.

Report this review (#1940908)
Posted Saturday, June 23, 2018 | Review Permalink

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