Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Anathema - Alternative 4 CD (album) cover



Experimental/Post Metal

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Bookmark and Share
4 stars For personal reasons i rarely listen to this album anymore, but there was a time when it was on rotation at least three times a week. There is a certain beauty, with the sparse doom sound of the silent enigma and pink floyd elements that comes from the overwhelming loneliness i feel when i listen to this album. The opening guitar on Fragile Dreams great,as is the rest of the song. Its one of the best on the cd. Empty is a short vent, with a great lead guitar. Its something that works brilliantly after the opener. I love inner silence the piano just cuts, and the lyircs are so beautiful, its like waking up and realising the one you love isnt there at the moment, its that split second of loss. The title track is also good the bass is quite cool, but the lyrics are rather average. Regret is my favourite song on the album, the accoustic guitar and the keyboard meld into this brilliant twisted riff thats haunting. On a side note the album title was taken from a Documentary/Book about a plan that would see humans living on mars, a plan called Alternative 3. I guess this album is about questioning where you are heading, its one of those valleys in life, the depression that can heal wounds. Some may see it as a little whiney, but I find some kind of honesty in Anathema's music that shines through on this album. Unlike other albums i dont feel there is much hope here, it was my favourite for a while, but now i reserve that for A fine day to exit.........
Report this review (#30109)
Posted Thursday, June 24, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars I finally found that my local record store has statred to carry this group's CD's so I picked this one up. I have to say I quite like it. I guess this was recorded when they started to transition from a metal to a more Prog. style. This is a very melancoly, yet not depressing album to me. I hear PINK FLOYD, TOOL/PERFECT CIRCLE, and PORCUPINE TREE styles mixed in. Yet in my experiences this sounds rather unique as a whole. Many of the tracks are founded in nice piano work as guitar, heavy drums, and keys work in and out of the sound. The vocals are rather haunting, reminding me of TOOL and sometimes the echo of FLOYD vocals. The guitars are not speed or technical but are added much like the later P.T. records they fade in and out powerfully to add a heavyness and punch to the soundscape. A big part of the sound is also very diliberate echoing drums at a slow, heavy, pace, reminding of early SABBATH, I really like it. There are also some nice acoustic guitar pieces that replace the piano as the foundation of the sound. It's quite well done, full sounding Prog. music. I find myself listening to this CD all the way through and being irritated if I'm interupted.
Report this review (#30111)
Posted Wednesday, December 29, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars When I began listening to Anathema's releases, I like Resonance the best, because most of the songs was played by acoustic guitar and piano, so softly and beautiful. But after a long time enjoying Alternative 4, I can see the truely beautiful and meaning of it. I love "Shroud of False", "Lost Control" and "Regret" very much. Sorry, my English is too bad so I can't write anymore. What a pity! Anathema is my favourite band, they're my soul, my life, my personality...
Report this review (#30112)
Posted Thursday, February 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Though I'm not a fan of this kind of rock/metal style, I found a series of great albums among these bands (Paradise Lost, Katatonia, Anathema, Lake Of Tears, etc.) But there are some albums that deserves to be listened by any music lover, and Alternative 4 is one of them. This is one of the albums that you can listen to from end to end, without changing the order of the tracks or something else. It's a quite brilliant album, my favourite tracks are Shroud Of False, Fragile Dreams, Empty (really great lyrics) and Lost Control. Inner Silence is one of the best too, like Re-Connect and Regret and Feel and... I'm going to list them all. It's just a great album. It worths listen to it...
Report this review (#30114)
Posted Thursday, March 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
The Crow
5 stars "Alternative 4" is, in my opinion, Anathema's masterpiece...

I just think is their most cohesionated work, their most perfect one... Maybe not in musical skills, but in composition. Taking the style of the previous "Eternity", perfectionating it, and adding a lot of melancholy, a sense of desperation in almost every song, and some of the most beautiful cello arrangements I've heard in a rock album...

Musically, there was a big progression since "Eternity", where Vincent sang to really well... But in "Alternative 4" he improved his vocals dramatically. He is even better in the most recent efforts, but in this album he sang deeply, dramatically and adding a lot of sadness to the great lyrics. The rest of the band was also very inspired... The guitars are really rich in comparision with their previous album, and it's obvious that Duncan Patterson is the main compositor... His bass is very dominant in almost every song, having a lot of protagonism through the album. Like in the dark tittle track.

The keyboards (specially the piano ones) are also very important here. This is the main difference between "Alternative 4" and the later "Judgement", where the guitars are the absolute protagonist, specially the acoustic ones... "Alternative 4" is maybe harder, with a stronger layer of bass and keyboards, and not so progressive. Is the most gothic and sad Anathema's album, and because of that it can be a bit difficult for the usual prog taste.

Maybe this album has not a track so impressive like One Last Goodbye from "Judgement", and is not so variated like "A Natural Disaster"... But every track included here is excellent. There is not a single second of bad or average music to be found in "Alternative 4". And this is the reason I give this album five stars. It's just the only flawless album Anathema has released.

Best tracks: all of them.

Conclusion: like I said before, "Alternative 4" is Anathema's best release, the one they have still to top... Really melancholic and incredibly beautiful. Their most gothic one and their most cohesionated collection of songs. Maybe is not their proggiest, so if you are looking for an usual prog album you'll not find here... But if you want to discover one of the most deep and captivating albums released in the 90's, please give "Alternative 4" an opportunity.

My rating: *****

Report this review (#40013)
Posted Friday, July 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
Tristan Mulders
4 stars Anathema - Alternative 4

I only had "A fine Day to exit" when I bought this release. I really loved that album, for its perfect blend of instrumentation, melodies, spheres and vocals, so I was curious whether I'd also like this release, since I heard a lot of things about this album, mainly that it was very heavy. Normally I don't mind music being heavy, but I did know that I liked the softer tracks on "A fine Day to exit" more than the heavy ones.

So, after buying it I listened to this album with that thought in the back of my mind. But I found out that I feared for something that wasn't there at all. I discovered that Anathema's power actually is that they can create something that can be heavy as well as beautiful at once;

Most songs are lending a bit to the heavy side, but they have very nice melodies and Vincent Cavanagh's vocals are beautiful. I can't really say that there's one outstanding track, but there's one song which I already knew before buying this album (heard it at their support show for PORCUPINE TREE I think) and that's Fragile Dreams, which is amazing. This song is different from the other tracks on the album, in that way that it features violin.

The song Re-Connect (see above) is in several ways representative for this album. It features both heavy parts as well as softer parts and it has nice vocals. In my opinion it isn't the best song on the album, so if you like it, there's lots of good music waiting for you!

Report this review (#43278)
Posted Thursday, August 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I just thought of Anathema 13 years ago.They were doing crestfallen then..You know people, Anathema's career is maybe the most honest from all other bands.They always played what they felt, and that's why they never did a bad album.When a person is honest with his music and reveals his real emotions,he will surely have a perfect result.Progressive means, these feelings that I am talking about, being not easily understood by the people because they are far from the certain time that are written.In addition to Anathema,in this album, feelings are easily understood, but they concern all of us.This album is not progressive, it's not technical,it's just how Anathema felt at that time..And this is what you get, Alternative 4, their best album.
Report this review (#44348)
Posted Friday, August 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album inscribes itself in the continuity of "Eternity". Being mostly composed by Duncan Patterson, it really shows the songwriting abilities of this artist (for anyone who likes this album, I'd suggest listening to another band featuring D. Patterson: Antimatter). Vincent Cavanagh has improved his voice further, which fits perfectly to the beautiful dark music.

After a short piano instrumental, "Shroud Of False", the song "Fragile Dreams" starts with violin before turning into some kind of more powerful version of Eternity's song "Angelica". "Empty" is a short forgettable song. "Lost Control" is a beautiful ballad- like song with violins again. "Re-connect" is another Anathema classic. "Inner Silence" is again a piano interlude before the title track, "Alternative 4", which is a song about what mankind would be able to do if life on Earth wasn't possible anymore (for those who know Antimatter, it's a track that would have perfectly fit on any Antimatter album). "Regret" is a much heavier song. The album ends with "Feel" (Pink Floyd type of song), and "Destiny" (a short track, very symetric with "Shroud Of False").

Rating: 89/100

Report this review (#64722)
Posted Saturday, January 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars I don't think this is actually very progressive music. But they have their progressive moments, which are very interesting.Anathema is actually my brother's favourite band, so I had used to it.

Alternative 4 is album which kind of withers to the end. The first five songs are adherent but rest of songs are quite boring.

Shroud of False = very good intro-song. This brings the ambience of whole album in your ears. Fragile Dreams = The best song of album. So striking violin lead and very progressive guitarthings. Empty = I like the lyrics. They sit in the song perfect!

I have special edition of this album, which includes Bad Religion-cover Better Off Dead. It´s Wonderful and beautiful.

I recommend this album for fans of Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree.

Report this review (#71858)
Posted Tuesday, March 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
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 sé. 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.

Report this review (#73609)
Posted Thursday, March 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
Marc Baum
5 stars "We are just... a moment... in time..."

From the first melancholic piano notes and these words spoken by the warm and soft voice of Vincent Cavanagh, I started to think that it could be a great album... and song by song I became more and more sure of this... This album is pure anguish... yearning, emptiness and suicidal will perfectly combined to perform an album of rare beauty (I don't know another that gives the same emotions with so high levels).

Songs like "Lost control", "Inner silence" and the title-track are something I never heard before from any "depressive" group, the atmosphere of the whole album is resigned, defeated, dream-shattered and regretful. All is underlined by the blaring sound of the snaredrum (sometimes it seems a rifle-shot) and the gloomy beat of the bass drum (on "Inner Silence" it seems as a beating heart consuming itself), with bare but very effective patterns. The vocals are sometimes drowned cries of desperation, the melodies are sweet but at the same time involving.

On "Alternative 4" Anathema started to sound like a serious atmospheric, melancholic progressive rock/metal band, they threw all their doom/death metal roots overboard and became British's best and most intense "depressive" group. Fans of Pain Of Salvation, Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd or even such EMO-pop giants like Manic Street Preachers, Radiohead or Coldplay could have a soft spot for this great band I am shure. But remember, that Anathema still belong to the metal genre, even they reduced the metal elements up from this album more and more with any later release.

Anathema still try but fail to top "Alternative 4", their masterpiece in my book. There is not one weak song on this album, the whole record flues very well and wants some repeated listenings. Make your own mind and get this wonderful album, you won't regret it if you like beautiful, intense, melancholic and deep music.

Album rating: 9.5/10 points = 94 % on MPV scale = 5/5 stars

point-system: 0 - 3 points = 1 star / 3.5 - 5.5 points = 2 stars / 6 - 7 points = 3 stars / 7.5 - 8.5 points = 4 stars / 9 - 10 points = 5 stars

Report this review (#74435)
Posted Saturday, April 8, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Just a masterpiece. Pure emotion, great musicianship and voice, melancholy at its peak, aerial and tenseful atmospheres... As soon as "Shroud of False" begins, the general tone of this LP is given : sad but beautifully sad, if I can say. Special mention to the title track, the first 3 songs, "Regret" and "Feel". Anyway, no filler in this LP, just 10 great pieces of floydian- inspired slightly metallic music.
Report this review (#77614)
Posted Tuesday, May 9, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars I've always been a fan of progressive metal and I've also been a fan of doom metal. Anathema combines these two subgenres into one of the most wonderful albums I have ever known. I've simply never heard something that was this atmospheric and beautiful. Good examples of this sphere can be heard in 'Fragile Dreams' or 'Alternative 4': a pressing, dark, sad but also compelling sphere which will spin in your memory for days. Five stars is actually not enough for this masterpiece.
Report this review (#79340)
Posted Thursday, May 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars 'i wish i didn't know now, what i never knew...'

for those of you who didn't know, on the cover of the album is an astronaut may find some explanation if you learn more about the title... Alternative 1, 2 and 3 are the solutions that the leaders of the world have come up with, in case of the destruction of earth is upon us... so...this is alternative 4.... musically speaking, the, once leaders of Britain's (or even Europe's) doom/death scene along with Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride, continue their progress that began with 'Eternity' towards a more Floydish, dramatic sound.. heart ripping lyrics, Vinnie is just a moving performer and Duncan leaves its best songs before he leaves the band.. an astonishing album, truly influential, marked the 90's decade as well as our souls...

Report this review (#83635)
Posted Thursday, July 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Where Eternity was an elaborate expression overflowing with keyboards and lead guitar work, Alternative 4 is much more minimal. This is a more stripped down approach that features straightforward songwriting, devoid of guitar solos and keyboard experimentation. This minimalism is also reflected in the stark packaging, which contains lyrics in regular typed font and an all white background. However, this in no way takes away any of the emotion or atmosphere this band has become known for, as every song contained herein is expressed with all the emotion and passion that any fan of Anathema has become accustomed to. In fact, there are moments throughout this album that remind me of The Silent Enigma's bitter despair, some of which are Anathema's most downtrodden emotional pieces. "Lost Control" and "Regret" are examples. "Shroud Of False" opens the album with piano and the words "we are just a moment in time...a blink of an eye...." paving the way for "Fragile Dreams" showcasing Vincent's amazing growth as a vocalist. Now three albums in as the frontman, here he comes across more confident and convincing than ever. He also writes his first complete song in the form of "Re-connect", and for a first attempt, it is very impressive indeed. "Empty" is a strange track for this band. Certainly one of Anathema's most accessible songs, the drum loop and oddly structured vocal phrasings took me by surprise, yet it eventually grew on me. "Inner Silence" is a beautiful expression of sorrow, in homage to the Cavanagh's deceased mother.

For Alternative 4, songwriting was handled separately, with bassist Duncan Patterson (who wrote over 60% of the material on this album), Daniel and Vincent each writing their own songs individually. No co-writing at all, which hinted at possible inner turmoil within the ranks. Original drummer John Douglas departed after Eternity and here is replaced by former Solstice drummer Shaun Steels. In any case, Alternative 4 saw Anathema finally granted the production their material deserves courtesy of Kit Woolven, and once again provided their listeners with a sense of solace for even the darkest of times when everything seems to be nothing at all.

Report this review (#85983)
Posted Sunday, August 6, 2006 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
5 stars I have to quote Tom Ozric who had this to say about ANATHEMA's music : "I feel a strong, misreable Waters-like Floydian connection to their music and lyrics". There is a "The Wall" flavour that pops up evey once in a while, they even do covers of "Your Possible Pasts" and "Goodbye Cruel World" as bonus tracks.

"Shroud Of False" opens with piano. Vocals a minute in are almost whispered. A full sound follows. I really like "Fragile Dreams", it opens with violin, then the drums and guitar kick in as they rock hard. The vocals shine. Check out the guitar after 4 minutes. Great song. "Empty" is catchy and aggressive. Vincent almost spits out the lyrics. A calm with piano after 2 minutes before it kicks back in. "Lost Control" contrasts the piano with spoken vocals with the fuller sounding passages. Excellent lyrics as well like "Yes I am much longer till I hit the ground ? I can't tell you why i'm breaking down." Great sound after 3 minutes as we get a heavy, mid-paced melody. Nice bass. Violin after 4 minutes. "Re-connect" is another standout, it gets quite heavy, and the vocals are intense. "Inner Silence" is a beautiful song, it opens with piano and features some gorgeous guitar. Check out the lyrics: "When the light of your life sighs, and love dies in your eyes, only then will I realise, what you mean to me."

"Alternative IV" opens with spacey synths and drums, a scary atmosphere is created and joined by creepy vocals. Lots of atmosphere. Evil vocals in a haunting atmosphere 4 1/2 minutes in. Powerful song. "Regret" opens with acoustic guitar, synths then reserved vocals, this is contrasted with a fuller sound. Love the organ in the background, very Rick Wright-like. More meaningful lyrics like: "I wish I didn't know now, what I never knew then". "Feel" opens powerfully as the organ plays in the background at first then take the lead. Drums and vocals join in. I like the angry vocals after 3 1/2 minutes, very FLOYD-like.The organ continues. Nice heavy ending. Awesome tune ! "Destiny" is simply a sad way to end the album.The bonus tracks truly are all standouts and fit perfectly with what's gone on before.

Overall I think "Judgement" is better, but this is an amazing recording, and I highly recommend it as long as you don't mind the strong FLOYD flavour.

Report this review (#90570)
Posted Tuesday, September 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars I've got this album in my collection already since a couple of years and I've to say it didn't lose one small bit of its fascination for me during all this time. Admittedly the band ANATHEMA serves best my preferred musical direction that is dark and melancholic (some people call it also "depressive" but for me it has rather the opposite effect) harder-edged music. Starting from "Eternity", their first album after they changed drastically their style from Doom/Death Metal to more mellow and atmospheric rock with a strong Floydian influence they drove this particular type of music more and more into perfection and together with their previous album this one has to be considered their best work so far.

There's actually not one single track on here to niggle about at all. Starting from the opener "Shroud Of False" serving in fact just as an intro with its great line "We are just a moment in time" (which stands for the whole album) to the last track "Destiny" there's just fantastic music full of beauty to be found on here. "Fragile Dreams" is a true "ear whig" which keeps sticking in your mind but nonetheless a great track, dreamy and fully rocking at the same time. "Empty" is probably the most catchy one of this album and still quite rocking with great lyrics whereas "Lost Control" comes very dreamy and fragile, a song filled with sorrow and anxiety but as great as the ones before. "Re-connect" has a perfectly fitting title since this song is in a way re-connecting the band with the world and with rock with a superb presentation of all musicians and the singer in particular. With "Inner Silence" which is almost fully instrumental the overall mood is getting once again contemplative and dreamy. The mesmerizing psychedelic drums on its end are leading over into the rather experimental sounding title track. "Regret" starts quiet in an acoustic vein but becoming more rocking later on what's been continued in "Feel" with a fantastic psyche touch and great organ sound. A furious drum outro leads then over in the final "Destiny" which is rather short, mostly instrumental and a perfect closure for this great album.

Finally I just can say that "Alternative 4" is a fantastic musical experience and "trip" for anyone being more into this type of dark atmospheric type of rock music. I'm not sure if the band Anathema can be considered essential in prog metal generally and they might appear as derivative to some prog fans but I'd highly recommend them and especially this album to all fans of "The Dark Side Of Prog"!

Report this review (#96687)
Posted Wednesday, November 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Prog? Not really. Masterpiece? Oh, yes..

I really don't know how to review this album. It's like trying to explain to someone who doesn't know how the jasmine smells what it's like. He will never understand until he smells it his own. The same thing happens here. You won't understand how this album is like until you get to listen to it.

Anathema is a band that have changed their style and experimented on their music many times from the beginning of their career. They started of as a death-doom metal band always showing however that they had something different from other bands with songs like 'Everwake', 'J'Ai Fait une Promesse' among others. From 'Silent Enigma' you can see that the band has become less heavy and more lyrical. This becomes more obvious with the wonderful release 'Eternity' and then 'Alternative 4' came out. After this one they have released other masterpieces as well like 'Judgement', 'A Fine Day To Exit' and 'A Natural Disaster' but Alternative 4 still remains my favourite.

Like toolis says in his review : 'Alternative 1,2 and 3 where solutions that the leaders of the world have come up with, in case of the destruction of earth is upon us'. Other people say that Duncan Patterson had read Lealie Watkins book, 'Alternative 3'. Anyway the point is that what we get is Alternative 4. Memorable tracks, full of emotion and maybe the best lyrics I've ever seen. You can find the lyrics on the net if you don't have the album to get an idea of what I'm saying but the best thing you can do is read them while listening to the music. Truly amazing compositions and orchestrations beautifully performed by all four members. Cavanagh's vocals are so warm and expressive that can make you cry. It's an album that just couldn't have been better. If you could tell me that I could change one thing on this album, I would leave it as it is.

Anyway, this cd is very personal. It's probably the cd I've listened the most in my life. It was the best friend when I was sad or depressed or whenever I was having hard time in my life. Atmospheric, emotional, expressive, memorable, depressing are just a few words that may describe this cd. If this cd was in every house, in every cd collection, I want to belve this world would be less dead and cold.

'We are just a moment in time, A blink of an eye, A dream for the blind'

Report this review (#96762)
Posted Thursday, November 2, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Pink Floyd? Tool? Radiohead? Excellent regardless.

Anathema is one of those bands that is difficult to pin down. Their sound is reminiscent of many other bands, yet the sound has never been easy to express. In this manner, I would say the band is more like Agalloch, another band for which there are insufficient words in the English language to describe them properly. Alternative 4 is a dark, atmospheric piece of music with many surprisingly uplifting melodies.

I much prefer Cavanagh's vocals, which remind me somewhat of the vocals for Riverside in their warm, yet dark nature. The tracks are fairly consistent throughout, with no noticeable weak segments, with my favorite being Fragile Dreams, largely because of the "dark clean" verses which particularly captivate me.

I would also suggest this as one of the better places to start with the band. It's not as experimental as some of their later releases and not as doom oriented as their earlier ones, yet still maintains a professional artistic quality that is difficult to find. An atmospheric and impressive band that for some reason or another, never attracted much attention.

Report this review (#111025)
Posted Thursday, February 8, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars 4.5 stars. This is my second album from Anathema, and it certainly is no disappointment. Alternative 4 was Anathema's first album where they really started to move away from metal, although they still retained some metal elements on this album. It started a line of currently four excellent releases in a row.

Alternative 4 is a rather dark album when compared to their more recent material (at this point in time, I have yet to hear their albums before Eternity so I can't speak for them). There isn't a weak point on the entire album, and there are many highlight. Before I got this album, the first song I heard was "Fragile Dreams", and it still remains one of my favorites on the album. "Re-Connect" is another great song, my favorite part being when Vincent starts yelling. The title song is a very eerie and creepy sounding song, but it sounds so good. The next two songs, "Regret" and "Feel" might be my two favorites on the album. I love the guitar in background in "Feel". Like the other albums of Anathema I have, this one also has a lot of emotion infused with the music.

Alternative 4 is a fantastic album, I highly recommend it to anyone who likes music with emotion and a dark edge!

Report this review (#118201)
Posted Thursday, April 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
3 stars A fine album showing Anathema's slight shift towards a more textural and soft sound, but retaining enough heavy moments and delightfully depressing themes to please listeners coming from many different genres.

For all its praise, "Alternative 4" has some mixed song-writing and playing; however, it is more often than not strong, and always emotive. Cavanagh's vocals are exceptionally powerful (although a little too exposed on this album), and will make you reflect on some horribly depressing moment of your life at least once while listening to this album-- be prepared.

The Floyd comparisson is, I think, very unfair, since Anathema never sounds bluesy and Floyd never sounds this gloomy.

The band's playing remains fine, but some songs will stand out much more than others. A logical purchase for those who are hooked by their later (better) albums.

Songwriting: 3 Instrumental Performances: 3 Lyrics/Vocals: 3 Style/Emotion/Replay: 3

Report this review (#119012)
Posted Thursday, April 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Anathema is a very susceptible rock band that has changed it's stile relentlessly over the years. However their themes and motives have remained the same in spite of the variety of genres experimented by the band. Alternative IV is one of Anathema's best records and it focuses on a gothic metal style taken to progressive standards.

The first song is entitled "Shroud of False" and it features some excellent piano playing by the former My Dying Bride and Cradle of Filth keyboard an violin player, Martin Powell. The atmosphere is depressive, nevertheless, and it initiates the listener into an emphatic musical experience. The intro explodes in the end with bombastic guitar riffs... A perfect intro.

"Fragile Dreams" is under constant pressure. It somehow continues the unfinished musical line of the first track by adding more elements to it. At first the piano receives violin backup and the guitar switches to acoustic from time to time. The lyrics are ok and in a strong correlation with the melody. The structure of the song is not special at all, but it's the composition that leaves a great artistic impression.

"Empty" is place strategically as the third track because it is the most dynamic song of the entire album. It's message can be translated within one word and one word only:FRUSTRATION. Strong bass gives that particular depressive attitude accompanied by wild guitar riffs and drums that blast off the air into the listener's ears. The climax of the track contains, surprisingly, a slow, melancholic piano that haunts the tensioned musical atmosphere, giving a strong feeling of relief, only to be followed by extreme agonizing metal acoustics.

In antithesis with "Empty", "Lost Control" is generally a rock ballad that features,once again, a lonely monotonous piano that sometimes is disturbed by the bass. The lyrics are very clear and intelligible which is why I believe that they are the main element of the song. However, the end is marked by great violin interpretation.

"Re-connect" is a classical metal track. It is special in it's own way, but I didn't enjoy it as the rest. A notable aspect of this song is that the solo guitar goes into psychedelic sound.

In my opinion, "Inner Silence" is an interlude that reattaches the first impressions of the intro to the core of the album. Although not very spectacular, the song is intelligently put in the middle and somehow reviews the first part of the record in order to prepare the listener for what is to come.

"Alternative 4" is a masterpiece of music about which many might say it pays tribute to psychedelic rock. I don't really agree, because in spite of the fact that the music is very profound, it doesn't cause any state of euphoria. It is as depressive as a song can get especially with those echoing drums and psychological keyboards on top of which stand strong and aggressive guitar riffs.

Anathema is a band strongly inspired by Pink Floyd. This is obvious in "Regret".

Comparing it to other moments of the record, "Feel" is quite an ecstatic song. It's style is familiar with Lake of Tears'.

The outro consists of "Destiny", a song marked by melancholy and a certain feeling that the album needs to be re listened. The voice goes over the melodic background amplifying the emotional atmosphere.

In conclusion, "Alternative 4" is a great album with a very good production but with lack of complexity which is why I cannot rate it as a masterpiece of prog music.

Report this review (#140725)
Posted Thursday, September 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is an excellent album......It starts off with mellow piano.....and moves into loud metal....Sometimes it reminds me of Tool, Dredg, Riverside and Pink Floyd......but it really does keep it's own identity all the way never sounds to me like a copy of anything...... And the vocals are well done....(no growling!).....Also, I would not hesitate to call this progressive music......there are enough mood and rhythym changes here throughout the album to always keep you on your toes.... 4 solid stars!
Report this review (#164593)
Posted Saturday, March 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars So here we have it, the fourth album by England's Anathema, an album best described as Pink Floyd influenced doom metal. That may sound like an interesting proposition but in fact its anything but. The doom metal part of Alternative 4 is the overriding main part of their sound, touched by a Wall era Pink Floyd style lead guitar. This actually sounds quite nice, and would make the music interesting if it wasn't for the fact that it was wholly predictable and sounded like a forced and clichéd attempt at introducing something different to the overall style and soundscape. The music ends up being slow and cumbersome, but its not the worst part of Alternative 4, that would be the vocals and lyrics of Vincent Cavanagh (well, the Cavanagh brothers and Patterson all wrote some songs, so they are all equally to blame in that department). Vincent's voice is dreary, monotonous and down right boring, bordering on sleep inducing and isn't helped by the over-the-top and frankly cringe worthy vocals, which typical of doom metal talk of death and betrayal. Avoid, go for the vastly superior Judgment.
Report this review (#164905)
Posted Tuesday, March 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Magic dust and majesty

"Alternative 4" was released in 1998, some 6 years after the debut EP "The Crestfallen". The dramatic change in style from the growling infested EPs and albums of the early days to this melody-fest is quite stunning. All of a sudden, we have real singing while being veritably spoilt by the magnificent sounds which prevail throughout. Those who, like myself could see the potential lurking in the band's earlier works but who were turned off by the doom laden growls and plodding riffs will be pleased to see that their faith was entirely with foundation.

The album title does not simply imply that this is the band's fourth album. The following is taken from a website called "President Eisenhower instructed the Jason Scholars to study mans impact on the Earth. They reached the conclusion that by, or shortly after, the year 2000 the planet would self-destruct due to increased population and man's exploitation of the environment, without any help from God or the Aliens. The Jason Society made three recommendations called 'Alternatives 1, 2, and 3'". This album is therefore Anathema's fourth "option".

There are definite similarities here with the music of Porcupine Tree, a band Anathema have supported on tour on many occasions, and with certain aspects of Pink Floyd's later work. While there remains a significant emphasis on atmospherics, this is no longer at the expense of accessibility, indeed the appeal of the music here can be instantaneous. From the opening solo piano recital of "Shroud of false" followed by the Roger Waters like assertion "We are just a moment in time, a blink of an eye" it is clear that the magic dust has finally settled upon the band. As "Shroud.." segues into "Fragile dreams" and the power is turned on, the full majesty of the album bursts into life.

While the instrumental line up is essentially unchanged, focusing on guitars, excellent use is also made of piano and violin; "Lost control" being a song which features the latter. At a smidgen short of 8 minutes, "Regret" is the longest track. The song features some superb use of organ to create a Floydian soundscape worthy of any of that band's post "Dark side.." releases. The album closes with the gently acoustic "Destiny", a sort of dream like piece

Lyrically, the set mirrors the type of depressive emotions often captured by Steve Wilson. The doom though is largely restricted to those lyrics, the mood of the album being generally along the lines of albums such as "Lightbulb sun" or "In absentia".

In short, this is a truly magnificent, not to say (for me) totally surprising album.

Embarrassingly, I have to admit that this album has lain gathering dust with the rest of my early Anathema albums, in the false assumption that it was simply more of the same. "Alternative 4" is in fact a revelation. Anathema can really sing! Anathema can really play! How did I miss this one?! Do not make the same mistake as I did.

Report this review (#174000)
Posted Sunday, June 15, 2008 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Alternative 4' - Anathema (7.5/10)

There have been few bands that have moved me on an emotional level to the extent that Anathema have with their music. Their gorgeous blend of art/alternative rock with the anguishing atmosphere of doom metal works very well, and consistently works as a vessel to help the listener feel some of the most sad, beautiful feelings around.

The album is very good in it's composition and performance. While I wouldn't necessarily call this music prog, theres more than enough intelligence in it to keep things interesting and not feel like a guilty-pleasure of sorts. While many prog bands feel the obligation to resort to the lowest common denominator and relingquish songwriting excellence with mindless soloing and wankery, Anathema manages to refrain, and keep the extent of their playing within the context of the song. This alone is a pretty refreshing change.

If I was to describe the music here, there's a strong influence of Pink Floyd here, mixed with a gothic/doom metal sensibility, with strong overtones of depression, loss and anguish. This is definately not music that would play at a dance club (although there was ever a spin of 'Inner Silence' at a club, I would be pleasantly suprised!) This is music to listen to while in reflection. While the recurring theme here is definately one of anguish, there are hints of hope and wavering optimism in some of the melodies ('Destiny' or 'Inner Silence,' for example.) While all but one (the weak point being the overdrawn 'Feel') song here are excellent, the two highlights would most likely be 'Re-Connect' and 'Inner Silence,' the latter of which being quite possibly the most moving song I've ever heard that's three minutes long.

The only issue with 'Alternative 4' is that at times it can get overly morose and angsty. Compared to later works such as the magnificent 'A Natural Disaster,' it seems a bit immature. At first, I rated this album five stars, but after a few months (and after buying their later material as well) I realized that 'Alternative 4' was, in fact flawed. The first impression was one of total awe though.

'Alternative 4' is a testament of proof that music is still alive, even in this gloomy age. A bit morose and immature at times, but beautiful.

Report this review (#212620)
Posted Monday, April 27, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars Alternative 4 is the first in a series of 3 astoundingly beautiful albums from Anathema. Their doom metal roots have entirely disappeared and the raw emotion is distilled into dark but accessible rock music.

The style consists of the mix of latter day Pink Floyd with a strong UK post-punk heritage, of which the atmospheric doomrock of Fields Of The Nephilim is felt most prominently. The vocals are entirely Floydian though, so don't fear for any gruff zombie voices if that would be the sound of your nightmares.

As all Anathema albums, also this one coalesces into one harmonized listening experience that must be heard in its entity. 'Hearing' isn't even entirely appropriate here, this is music that must be felt, that you should submit yourself to. The focus isn't on technical tricks; it's on the emotive power of minor chords and on the brooding intensity of their emotive rock.

I think Alternative 4 serves as a perfect Anathema introduction. It should easily please all fans of the melancholic rock of Floyd albums such as The Wall, The Final Cut and Gilmour's first solo album. This album could as easily be rated 5 stars but since Anathema kept growing on the next albums. 4.99 wil have to do.

Report this review (#255714)
Posted Saturday, December 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Too much gloom with not enough doom.

On the whole, this is a very aesthetically pleasing album. All of the melodies and harmonies are finely crafted to make for a very smooth listen. But there is nothing here that makes me think 'wow, this is great stuff!' There are, perhaps, a few moments that hint at amazing climaxes (the high point of Re-Connect, the climatic melody of Regret) but it all falls a little short.

One of the big problems I have with this album, admittedly, is the lyrics. I'm not against depressing lyrics - they can make a good song great, when done right - but I'm also an advocate of the old writer's rule 'show, don't tell.' Admittedly, musicians aren't writers, and songs don't give as much leeway for literary greatness as regular poets would have to work with. But I also think you can start off a song better than 'Life has betrayed me once again.' The exception here, I think, would be the track Inner Silence, which is beautiful both lyrically and musically, and is probably my favorite song on the album. Other than that, most of the lyrics here are sort of overly bleak, which would be great for doom metal, a genre devoted to taking sorrow to extreme, but not so much for the music here. It just makes it all seem sort of shallow.

This album sort of marked a transition point for Anathema. Their previous album, Eternity, grasped to the final threads of their doom metal passed, but on Alterative 4 they were completely gone. Musically, anyway. They were now transitioning into something more similar to atmospheric rock, which I think they really mastered later on, but not here. This is a decent start to the band's new phase, but it was not their best moment. That would come on their following album, Judgment.

If you're not looking for a progressive masterpiece, but just maybe some really pretty rock music, I would recommend this album. The music here is undoubtedly pretty, but there's not much depth to it. Not yet.

Report this review (#259373)
Posted Tuesday, January 5, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars 8/10

"Alternative 4" really digs in your soul, creating a highly emotional impact.

I'm happy to see that I'm not the only one who loved this album. This was my first approach to Anathema, and honestly I didn't think it was going to be this good. "Alternative 4" is full of dark moments, but, like many modern prog bands (Tool, Riverside, Pain of Salvation, Porcupine Tree), the music really digs in your soul, creating a highly emotional impact.

After the beautiful intro, " Fragile Dreams" kicks in, and here you understand what I meant with high emotional impact. " Empty" is a short but effective song, very similar to Doom Metal. I would like to mention also the beautiful and sad " Inner Silence", amd of course the very original tile track, where again there are many doom influences.

As a conclusion, I would like to say how much I loved this album, because it gives so many emotions, and rarely music is this powerful. A fantastic album, for whoever loves metal and/or prog.

Report this review (#279178)
Posted Saturday, April 24, 2010 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars A dark portrait of betrayal, despair and isolation.

There were two reasons I was drawn to this album, my first Anathema album; the glowing reviews and that cover. I love the enigmatic power the cover exudes, an astronaut reflected visor, one of the most important images in history, the moon landing, merged with an angelic ghost. I do not know where it fits in with the music but it's a drawcard for me. I did not know what to expect, reading all the reviews that gush out praise, but I was pleasantly surprised.

At first listen I was reminded of the melancholy doominess of Opeth, primarily their beautiful acoustic work on "Damnation". So as I am a newbie to Anathema and from what I have read I have to assume a lot here. I have to assume that this is one of their quieter more sombre albums and that they are not as heavy here as on previous albums. This presents a problem, similar to Opeth, that I do not over rate it due to a knee jerk reaction on this one album performance. I am also reminded of Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd and Riverside at times; that is metal meets symphonic.

From the outset Anathema stamp their authority with an incredible opening number that builds in intensity and drops to the melancholy beautiful vocal performance of Vincent Cavanagh. His voice permeates every track, very heartfelt and emotionally resonant. The mix is an in-your-face ambience of soft guitars, and key pads that are heavily sustained and majestic. The feel is epic throughout the album both in arrangement and credibility. The choreography of light and dark textures are brave and powerful. Tension and release are created by aggressive distortion in the guitar work that are interwoven between huge passages of fragile keyboards; the music is a great marriage of all these elements to create a dynamism that commands attention.

Highlights for me are 'Feel' with its beautiful doom laden lyrics laced with betrayal, despair and desperation; especially the anger projected on the line; "Slipping away, I think I'm gonna crack, Misplaced trust, loyalty stabbed in the gut." The passion behind such lyrics embeds itself upon the emotions, and resonates on every listen; "I feel, I'm seeing so clear, I thought I was never gonna die. I feel, I'm seeing so clear, We need more time."

'Fragile Dreams' features tearful violin beauty and a powerhouse guitar riff, with melancholy vocals; "Tonight your soul sleeps, but one day you will feel real pain, maybe then you will see me as I am, A fragile wreck on a storm of emotion." The darkness of 'Inner Silence' is expressed with haunting piano and ethereal vocal work.

'Lost Control' has an atmosphere of impending dread created by sad melancholy piano, violin motifs and an extreme downbeat distorted guitar. The band are a force to be reckoned with when they lock in to that void of sheer unbridled isolation and alienation. The estranged vocals are in essence a part of the music, complimenting it with astounding finesse; "Life has betrayed me once again, I accept that some things will never change. I've let your tiny minds magnify my agony, and it's left me with a chemical dependency for sanity."

'Re-connect' is a heavier track with a wonderful bassline and elegantly performed vocals spouting Gothic imagery; "Black cold night I toss and turn, I'm sinking, feel so drained, Shroud me, blind me, sick, weak, empty, drag me into pain, I tried so hard, don't drown me, bound to me, self indulgently crazed, Black as coal, my sunken soul, will it ever be saved?" The nightmare imagery is juxtaposed with a more aggressive vocal with some expletives angrily spat out. There is a huge wall of sound created with keys and guitar and crashing drums. In fact the drums by Steels are incredible, pounding relentlessly in metrical patterns that would keep any metronome swinging busily.

I am pleased to be introduced to this band with this album as it was an excellent blend of metal and melancholia, but I am left wondering about other material from Anathema and whether this album was simply a break from tradition similar to what Opeth did on "Damnation". Having stated that, there is no way I could rate this less than 4 stars as it is a powerful, if rather bleak, experience that soaks itself in its own misery as a kind of catharsis, but always exuding it's own distinct atmosphere.

Report this review (#289922)
Posted Sunday, July 11, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars As a long habit of mine, I am reviewing this band as all the other ones: which means chronologically. The difference in style that can be experienced in their music is rather impressive. From a pure growling debut EP they have made their step towards a much more interesting style (at least it is how I feel, but I am apparently not the only one).

It is true that the opening (but very short) track has a "The Wall" affinity. But once "Fragile dreams" reaches your ears, something different is taking place: power, wildness but with a special touch.

The music from this band is not easy to describe: it is by no mean connected to some pure heavy metal or to this funny "Experimental/Post Metal" category in which they were thrown on PA. At this time of their development they are so much than that!

Prog doom, maybe? Why not? I like both anyway. Still, when one listens to such a moving song as "Lost Control", it is obvious that one is facing quite a special band. Melody, tact AND power. I really like the combination. Of course, while "De-Connect" takes over, all the wildness of the band reappears.

The whole album switches between both feelings. The best example is the superb "Inner Silence" which is way too short as far as I am concerned. All the might of "Anathema" can be appreciated. What a great contrast with the start of the title track! Dark, tranquil but powerful. I have always written (even in my reviews from the early days) that their instrumental parts were splendid and on this "Alternative 4" album, their vocal performance, their song writing style are absolutely on par; which means that this album is a must listen.

For prog lovers who are willing to discover some special music, to doom lovers of course and globally to anybody who is interested in listening to a particular and different band, I can only recommend this album. A close link with a later "Porcupine Tree" is also quite remarkable ("Regret"). I guess that the fact that they toured together was not alien to this. It is my highlight from this very good album.

The last couple of songs are not as brilliant but I am rating this work with four stars. It is worth your interest by all means!

Report this review (#389666)
Posted Saturday, January 29, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars I must admit, I have something of a soft spot for Anathema, having seen them once in concert supporting porcupine tree, as well as seeing Danny Cavannagh performing a live acoustic set, and each time being blown away by their performances. So, this review is, perhaps, to be taken with a pinch of salt, in the knowledge that I may be a little biased.

Clearly, however, the fact that they perform so well playing live is a testament to the musicianship and energy of the band; these guys can play. They have, in their history, undergone a fairly stark transformation: from their doom metal origins, tied in with bands suck as My Dying Bride, to their current signature sound almost a cross between Katatonia and Porcupine Tree. This album falls a little after the tipping point of that transformation, and, as such, is full of beautiful melody. Nonetheless, it still, at moments, rumbles with all the heaviness of a steam train falling into an abyss.

For me, the highlight of this album is the numerous piano interludes that add texture and variety to the album, without dragging on so long so as to seem the core sonic theme. This is, manifestly, an album for rockers and metalheads; albeit a varied, beautiful, and thought- provoking one. The lyrics are pure poetry (a standard for this band), with words that drip with an aching sorrow and an isolated sense of loss and isolation.

For those listeners that are already fans of this bands work, it is noticeable that the tracks are not, perhaps, as memorable as some of their more recent works; one is left more emotionally affected than particularly with individual songs burned into the conscious. There is little here that could be described as catchy, or exactly sing-along friendly -though this was never intended to be the case. Devoid of all-time classics it may be, but this album is a moving, beautiful and attention-holding listening experience.

3.5/5 (rounded up to 4)

Report this review (#457496)
Posted Sunday, June 5, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Alternative 4 ? 1998

12 ? Best Song: Fragile Dreams

Oh, oh oh, I'm all a-fluster. This was originally the album that was recommended to me, but because I'm an OCD psychotic, I had to delve into their first records before getting to the 'good stuff'. I admit my insanity openly and without alarm. After all these years, maybe I always knew. This takes the full Tiamat swing and introduces gothic rock while taking all the singing to as much cleanliness as possible. The guitars are as melodic as hell, and can the chorus' vocal hook in 'Fragile Dreams' be beaten? Well, I suppose not any more than the violin/guitar melody could. Let me take a moment to ridicule All Music Guide once more by pointing out how they awarded Eternity with the highest 4 ½ out of 5, but turn around and give Alternative 4 a depressing, mediocre 3, when it's anything but. Okay, so it's a tad generic, but that doesn't mean all generic music is inferior to any other form of music, but it doesn't help. It's not that they tried gothic rock, per se, but they added a vitriolic, roasting POP element, and I don't mean Nickelback (ugh), I mean accessible. It's in nearly ever second of 'Empty'. In fact, this makes me want to go back through my Riverside reviews and include a segment on how these types of bands influenced them. (But both of 'em owe Wildhone some backrent).

The guitars are never ever stupid and the group has wholly divorced all black metal, death metal, growling, and unnecessary abrasion. There are a few sparse and subtle piano lines, but it's never unctuous or derivative. It's not too long ? a practical length, and there are even a few commendable Pink Floyd covers tossed on to the end of my copy as a set of fun bonus tracks. But hey, don't think by not abrasive I mean wimpy and weak. The crushing power in the opening crack of 'Reconnect' is a pack of bricks. It's simply that they've accepted concision and organic energy into their paradigm. Very respectably so.

Report this review (#459140)
Posted Saturday, June 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Semidark, quiet, powerful. These are the best terms to describe this album. Judgment 4 stands exactly half way between the heavy, melancholic and doomed "The Silent Enigma" and the bright, delicate and melodic "We're Here Because We're Here", thus representing an ideal turning point in their musical journey from darkness to light. In these perspective, I find rather hard (when not useless) trying to classify and describe the band's music (and the comparison with Pink Floyd is quite misleading in my opinion): suffice to say that they have their peculiar path with their unique, multiform and evolving (but every time successful and interesting) style. Going into details, these are my ratings of the single tracks: 1) Fragile Dreams **** 2) Empty *** 3) Lost Control **** 4) Re-connect *** 5) Inner Silence *** 6) Alternative 4 ***** 7) Regret ***** 8) Feel ***** 9) Destiny ****

My final rating is: 4 stars.

Report this review (#469287)
Posted Saturday, June 25, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Alternative 4 finds Anathema's Pink Floyd influence beginning to overwhelm them, and to be honest in a way which I can't say I enjoy. When the band use the echoing stutter effect on the vocals as used on Animals multiple times within the first few minutes of the album, I can't help but see it as hero worship overriding good compositional taste - it just comes across as them tossing in Floyd references for the sake of it without consideration of whether that's really what the composition calls for.

Their post-punk influences also seem to be rather muted and less distinctive and interesting, and on the whole the album just puts me to sleep. It'd be rude and inaccurate to call them doom metal's answer to Coldplay but the thought did cross my mind; still, people really keen on the idea of a Floyd/doom crossover might find more to enjoy than I did.

Report this review (#633453)
Posted Monday, February 13, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars "Alternative 4" was my first contact with "Anathema." The principle did not know what to expect, I had read that the band was "Doom metal". At the sound of a keyboard sadly beautiful, the voice of "Vincent Cavanagh" echoed in a poem that shows how the album will be, a short song but fatal in its melody and lyrics, a perfect combination. Somehow the names of the songs displayed on this album denote the feeling by the band and thus could not be different with "Fragile Dreams". The sound of music is simple, repetitive arrangements, chorus easy to remember. Not the best track on the album and the musicians do not have technical novelty here, the highlights are the lyrics. "Empty" carries a bit of "anger" in his interpretation in the voice of "Vincent Cavanagh." "Duncan Patterson" proves to be a great composer although not the same prominence with his instrument (bass). "Lost Control" is one of the most melancholic compositions of the band, the fingerings, the soft sound of bass, drums, keyboard and end the torturous sound of a violin. Again the letter stands. "Re-Connect" is more direct, with no initial arrangements. It's a short song on the album. The smoothness of certain times gives way to more aggressive moments and slowly returns to the initial softness. A little different from previous ones, this has the most variation. "Inner Silence" continues the premise of the album, sad and reflective lyrics with melodies supported the proposed theme. The title track "Alternative 4" album follows the pattern, does not propose much rhythmic variation. It's darker because the keyboard and guitar chords. Closing the album has the longest track "Regret," followed by "Feel" and the last "Destiny". The musicians are not the most technical and stylish with his arrangements and compositions but it is precisely in the community that this album stands out as excellent. Although not following conceptual ideas for all the tracks throughout the album.
Report this review (#649665)
Posted Wednesday, March 7, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars Well Written Modern Hard Rock

Anathema began as a sandpaper throated doom metal band that has slowly transformed into a more straightforward rock band with some atmospheric and gothic elements. Probably their best outing is this, ALTERNATIVE 4. At this point the doom elements are completely abandoned, all vocals are cleanly sung, and the songwriting is tight and user friendly. The Pink Floyd influence that had been sneaking in comes to full force on this album, including two cover tracks on the re-release. This happens to be my favorite Anathema album, but I continue to scratch my head regarding the Prog factor here.

Some of the songs are extremely straightforward, though catchy, hard rock. "Fragile Dreams" is the big opener here and it is straight out of the 90's playbook. "Re-Connect" is much more interesting, and is in fact my favorite Anathema song in their entire catalog. The spooky low harmony and throbbing pulse answer the part of me that liked Fields of Nephilim, Sisters of Mercy, and Type O Negative's "October Rust." Anathema has brought in sounds from a variety of genres that were all channelling the same emotion, and the result is very satisfying. Vincent Cavanaugh's voice draws on both Pink Floyd singers, and then adds a touch of goth without getting into cartoonish vampire. (I happen to like that style, but it is a caricature.)

Needless to say, the mood of all of these songs is dark. Depressive themes of loss and occasionally anger (which is a nice change of pace) are certain to appeal to a certain teen angst mindset. Unlike the following album, JUDGEMENT, this mood doesn't get oppressive to the point of stagnation. The songwriting and arranging on this album are much better. Sections have variation while melodies have thematic movement that retains the listeners interest. Low male harmonies (an element I'm a huge sucker for) are used intermittently to great effect.

Perhaps you had to be on board at the time this album came out. The ideas may have been fresh in 1998. But everything that is interesting here has been borrowed and expanded in the intervening years. I'd much rather listen to Riverside, who clearly derive from Anathema. That band just has so much more going on in the music. But when I do have an urge to listen to the parent band, ALTERNATIVE 4 is my choice.

Good, but non-essential at best.

Report this review (#723539)
Posted Thursday, April 12, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars A version of Peter Hammill Metal with much of Pink Floyd spirit? Or, simply, a great album of "Dark Metal"? Meditating "Alternative 4" is nothing but the return of the 70's! Some things are said and metabolized in our minds, empty and ready-to the sound of MTV and similar crap! To me it hurts to have to explain to several people who hail MTV what is the real music, try to convey the true emotions well. "Alternative 4" can like or dislike. Not to be hated for this. Experiment with copying to innovate is not the language of "Alternative 4", but at the same time, do not seek joy in "Alternative 4". In it, look for the anger. It found the spring in a gloomy day. Sadly touching the nude body of a woman find a flower really huge and you will notice that the night is not dark. Driving in a mountain road at night without headlights, trying to make sense of life is not something to be sane. Probably listening VdGG or other similar bands will discover the same things. But do not you understand! Anathema with "Alternative 4", however, it is easy to understand because it speaks the language of our day, without mediation. It seems strange, impossible, to define this album as a product of 1998. In fact if it was an album of 70's would have the same language, sounds and hypnotic power!

Noting that trance is not just hypnosis but, more importantly, get to the sublimely absolute pleasure (orgasm?), remains quite incomprehensible to the outcome of pure pleasure to listen to music that we have to classify it so we were taught. Rolling Stones, and Anathema are only two rooms in the same pyramid, let's face it, it also contains Burzum and Yes. It is not for me to say if this is absolute truth. Certainly I can, however, try the same listening to like "Let It Bleed" or "Alternative 4". Because both albums are excellent pleasantly. And do not think I am wrong!

Report this review (#755984)
Posted Monday, May 21, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Anathema kick off "Alternative 4" with a haunting piano melody and the suitably pensive lyric, "We are just a moment in time, the blink of an eye." The song, "Shroud of False" serves as an intro to track 2, "Fragile Dreams".

Here we're greeted with a gorgeous violin sound, and as the percussion builds up, the same melody undergoes a metamorphosis into a thumping rock riff. This track combines the melodic and rock aspects brilliantly, and is one of the feature songs on the album.

Things get even better with "Lost Control". That haunting piano is back, along with a brooding bassline with a very effective syncopated meter. Once again the lyrics only add to the tone. "Yes, I am falling... how much longer 'till I hit the ground?" The coup de gras is the gorgeous acoustic guitar lead break. The violin also adds stunning texture over the top of power chords in the songs outtro. Without doubt my favourite track on the album.

The title track "Alternative 4" features another great build-up, leading to some of the heavier moments on the album. Much of the song is measured, brooding, with a great sense of tension. It feels as though it's about to explode at any moment. It never does quite pay off the way one might hope, but is still a very good track. Then at about the 6 minute mark there is what I would call a curious production moment. The power chords kick in again after more brooding, and it sounds as though the song is about to take us somewhere else. And then? A rather sharp fade to silence. It's almost as if someone in the control room made the snap decision to pull the master fader down while the song was still unresolved. Obviously it's an intentional decision, but to me it's a strange one.

"Regret" is a lovely acoustic number. The haunting, sorrowful theme of the album is sustained with lyrics such as "Sometimes I remember all the pain that I have seen." After a few minutes the tempo picks up and distorted guitar joins the fray, but that sense of sorrow and loss remains.

"Feel" features the solemn sounds of an organ with a nice acoustic riff over the top. The power chords return for the chorus, as with many of the tracks before. These dominate the final half of the track as it fades to silence. This segues nicely into the album closer, "Destiny", a short but gorgeous track that induces a feel of weightlessness and release.

This is a beautifully melancholic album full of great moments from Anathema and certainly one of their best.

Report this review (#956729)
Posted Thursday, May 9, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars 9/10

Know when the band takes a giant step in the evolution of your sound? It is.

Wow, that's good. Not as good as his two most recent works, but still a masterpiece. Continuing (or crowning) a change in her musicality that has been seen since Eternity, Anathema offers a mixture of gothic metal with progressive touches (Pink Floyds feelings), together with a prominent alternative sound. Doom metal? No more. And I am extremely grateful. Vincent's vocals continue to improve, although not yet at the level of Weather Systems.

There is a more extensive use of keyboards here, especially the piano (in baertura Shroud of False) and organ (giving an elegant beauty to Feel). There is also the presence of the violin, which highlights those who are the two best songs on the album: Fragile Dreams (I'm really in love with this song) and Lost Control. Other highlights are the short and energetic Empty the long Regret and the aforementioned Feel.

4.5 stars. A wonderful masterpiece.

Report this review (#999338)
Posted Tuesday, July 16, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Eternity was the album in which everything in the sound of Anathema was about to change. Alternative 4 was the turning point of that transition. An entire beautiful album, a complete masterpiece in music. An album full of delusion, craziness, sad songs, heavy movements, violins, piano, excellent drum sequences, Danny and Vincent showing what they are able to do with music. If you asked me, this album is completely influenced by THE WALL and THE FINAL CUT by Pink Floyd that even some say it can be considered THE WALL PART 3 . All the songs are incredible; the cohesion within and between them is logical and perfect. One of the best prog albums in history!
Report this review (#1015183)
Posted Friday, August 9, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars I've had this album for two years now and I have been hesitating to review it because I wasn't altogether thrilled about it after the first few listens. The album is about ill-placed trust and loyalty, betrayal, anger, and finally getting one's strength back. The theme didn't particularly appeal to me but more so I felt that the concept wasn't delivered in a truly convincing way but instead sounded rather juvenile.

The music is often pretty slow and when it picks up and tries to exhibit more tension and power, I feel it never quite reaches a satisfactory level. Vincent Cavanagh does his best to sound crestfallen, betrayed, hurt, and angered but somehow something's missing. There are a lot of references in vocal style to Pink Floyd's "The Final Cut", most noticeable when in several places Cavanagh repeats his words like an echo as we can hear on "The Wall" and "The Final Cut". "I've lost all control, control, control, control." He also gets a few good screams in their too as Waters did on the Floyd albums. It's no surprise then that the reissue comes with four bonus tracks, three of which are Pink Floyd covers from the two albums I mentioned. And actually, Cavanagh does a mighty fine job of singing like Roger Waters did on the originals.

So, I wasn't wowed and put off reviewing this album until the time was right for me and suddenly it struck me that I was ready. After a good listen I found my views had softened a little. Actually there's some good music on this album and a few highlights. I like the violin, especially at the beginning of "Fragile Dreams" as I first thought it sounded like an er-hu (a two-string Chinese violin). "Regret" has some nice "ah-ah" harmony vocals in a minor key that sound almost like they could push for pseudo-Gregorian chant with a bit more effort. The last minute of "Feel" is where things finally turn around for our protagonist and the music at last breaks free of its depressing mood, becoming powerful and charged. We also get some piano, organ, and acoustic guitar here and there.

None of the music is particularly complex, going more for mood and atmosphere. The lyrics sound a little trite at times but are sincere if not a bit tedious in their bitterness. Since purchasing this album, I have on occasion added a song or two on mixed playlists and have thus become more familiar with certain tracks and even having a couple of favourites. Now I don't think it's quite so bad an album after all, though I wouldn't call it essential unless you're a fan of the band. Good enough.

Report this review (#1279010)
Posted Thursday, September 18, 2014 | Review Permalink
Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
3 stars After starting out as a doom metal band, by their fourth album released in 1998, Anathema has taken steps in the right direction. "Alternative 4" still retains two of the original members, Vincent and Daniel Cavanaugh. Duncan Patterson is on bass and has been since just before 1991, so he's almost an original having replaced Jaimie Cavanaugh. However, the drummer is newcomer, Shaun Steels, and thus this is the only album that does not have John Douglas on it. Steels would only be in the band for this album and John would rejoin to remain with the band until present day. Steels does an adequate job however, it is hard to tell much difference in the sound of the percussion on this album.

So, by this point, the growling vocals have been replaced by clean vocals by Vincent, who sometimes almost sounds like Roger Waters from Pink Floyd. The vocals are definitely emotional and dymanic. Everything else is also in top form, except for one thing, they haven't quite found their sound yet. There are times on this album that are definitely top notch, but for the most part, there really isn't anything much that is progressive here. The band is no longer just doom metal, but more like a dark, hard rock with a lot of slow beautiful melodies mixed in. It's a good mix and a good sound, but it's still not as great as it will become.

Overall, this album is enjoyable, yet very dark and depressing. There is a lot of great heavy guitar here, enough keyboards to keep a certain degree of variety in the sound. Most of the sound that stands out here is in the guitar work, and that is the best part of this album. The band approaches a progressive sound, as in the title track, with some tricky percussion and rhythm, but the meter is still a basic 4/4. Not that this necessarily determines if it is progressive, because there is plenty of great progressive music that is in a basic meter. The songs and lyrics are not formulaic, but they do sound very much like a heavy metal attitude, just toned down to give a feeling of more variables in the music. This leaves the band open to explore some more mellow passages, which they do also.

So with there being a lot of variety in the sound, the songs don't seem to vary much in having their own personalities, they all seem to follow a similar sound. Aside from this, the album is good enough to listen to from time to time. The best parts of the album are in the title track and in "Regret" which coincidentally are the longest tracks on the album. It seems like there is more freedom to explore the music and things aren't quite so rushed. There is another degree added to the album in the bonus tracks that are available on the 2003 remaster. All four of the bonus tracks are covers, and three of those covers are Pink Floyd songs, so there is definitely a degree of their influence in the music the band was exploring at the time. The other cover is a Bad Religion cover "Better Off Dead", so there is part of the Alternative influence. This cover is absolutely amazing and emotional and I just love it. This is a good, heart-felt album, and the movement of the band is in the right direction here, but because of the degree of same-ness on this album, it's a strong 3 star album.

Report this review (#1945922)
Posted Saturday, July 7, 2018 | Review Permalink
4 stars Anathema begins to move away from his previous proposal, twinned with death metal and nuances similar to the heaviest doom. In that way, the band enters a more atmospheric territory with a recognizable Floydian influence, with some nods to Steven Wilson's Porcupine Tree and Clive Nolan's Arena.

Brothers Vincent and Daniel Cavanagh, together with bassist Duncan Patterson, compose a solid material and achieve; without losing their identity, locate the space where they develop at best their full potential. They do that with a greater presence of pianos, synthesizers, and guitars more related to the style of David Gilmour.

With pain and depression as recurring themes, there are no throwaway songs on Alternative 4, from the introductory Shroud of False with its delicate piano to the acoustic and heartfelt Destiny. All the work maintains a high level, anyway, both Regret with its almost 8 minutes of very well basted highs and lows and the powerful Feel, stand out especially.

The bonus disc of the album remastered in 2003 is an interesting little tribute to Pink Floyd (except Bad Religion's song Better Off Dead), but if it is about remembering their idols, I choose 24 minutes of the album's Floydian Memories Shadow Gallery Room V.

Report this review (#2416671)
Posted Wednesday, July 1, 2020 | Review Permalink
4 stars On Alternative 4, Anathema's fourth full-length album, the band continued to push the boundaries of their sound, moving further away from their doom/death origins and more into dark atmospheric rock territories. In a way, Alternative 4 begins where Eternity ? the band's previous album ? had ended: with a fascinating hybrid of metal and Roger Waters / Pink Floyd influences. However, the songwriting on Alternative 4 is sharper and more experimental, pushing to the fore the dark, experimental undertones of the music, while letting the metal aggression slip more into the background. Duncan Patterson, the band's bass player, is the person responsible for this evolution. A huge fan of Pink Floyd and Waters's solo work, Duncan took on much of the songwriting duties between Eternity and Alternative 4, penning 6 of the 10 songs of Alternative 4 and playing piano and keyboards in addition to bass on the album.

Piano and keys are indeed the instruments that probably stand out the most on Alternative 4. Spacey keyboard soundscapes and gloomy piano arpeggios form the backbone of many of the songs on this album, from opener "Shroud of False" to closer "Destiny", passing through the morose title-track. The guitars are used to create contrasting dynamics, the gentle keyboards suddenly giving way to walls of gritty distortion in the most dramatic passages of the music, bringing the songs to intense climaxes. The use of such stark dynamics is the other defining characteristic of the album: the songs often move sharply between quietest moments, with only Vincent Cavanagh's deep voice to accompany the piano, and louder parts with explosions of distorted guitars, drums and rougher singing. As a result, Alternative 4 is an album that feels very bold and dramatic, at times even unhinged in its vehemence. This matches well the themes of regret, betrayal, loneliness, insanity and death that are touched repeatedly throughout the album.

It is a heavy album ? not in the sense of heavy music, but in terms of dense atmosphere and bitter lyrical content. Yet, it is also a very melodic and harmonious album, containing some of the most accessible and beautiful tunes that Anathema have composed up to this point in their career. Songs like "Lost Control", "Regret" and "Feel" are perfectly balanced between melodic accessibility and claustrophobic gloom. "Fragile Dreams" is, to this day, one of Anathema's most beloved songs and a staple of live concerts. The title-track is a strange affair, dark and disturbing with its ominous keyboard soundscape, obsessive guitar arpeggio and pounding drums. It is one of the most experimental songs written by the band and perfectly encapsulates the essence of the album. I also love the trio of shorter, piano-based songs ("Shroud of False", "Inner Silence" and "Destiny") and how they are positioned in the tracklist (beginning, middle and end), giving a sense of flow and continuity to the album. On the other hand, "Empty" and especially "Re-Connect" are weaker and feel somewhat undeveloped, although this does not detract too much from the overall listening experience.

In short, Alternative 4 is a great album that finds the band on the cusp of their most accomplished releases (Judgment and A Fine Day to Exit). It is atmospheric and experimental, and very much influenced by Roger Waters and Pink Floyd, but still retaining the bite and power of metal. It perfectly connects the band's doom heritage with the alternative rock / post-metal sound they developed in later stages of their career. As such, it may be the ideal point of entry for those who are new to the band, or to either side of their 30-year career.

[Originally posted on]

Report this review (#2489734)
Posted Saturday, January 2, 2021 | Review Permalink

ANATHEMA Alternative 4 ratings only

chronological order | showing rating only

Post a review of ANATHEMA Alternative 4

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.