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Anathema - Alternative 4 CD (album) cover




Experimental/Post Metal

4.06 | 647 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
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.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |


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