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Anathema Alternative 4 album cover
4.06 | 647 ratings | 48 reviews | 41% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1998

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Shroud of False (1:36)
2. Fragile Dreams (5:32)
3. Empty (3:00)
4. Lost Control (5:49)
5. Re-Connect (3:52)
6. Inner Silence (3:08)
7. Alternative 4 (6:17)
8. Regret (7:58)
9. Feel (5:28)
10. Destiny (2:13)

Total Time: 44:58

Bonus tracks on 2003 remaster:
11. Your Possible Pasts (4:29)
12. One Of The Few (1:51)
13. Better Off Dead (4:23)
14. Goodbye Cruel World (1:41)

Line-up / Musicians

- Vincent Cavanagh / vocals, guitar, piano, keyboards
- Daniel Cavanagh / guitars
- Duncan Patterson / bass, piano, keyboards
- Shaun Steels / drums

- George Ricci / violin
- Andy Duncan / drum loops (3)

Releases information

Artwork: Tim Spear

CD Peaceville CDVILE 73 (1998, UK)
CD Peaceville/Snapper 62073 (1998, Europe)
CD Mayhem 11112 (1998, US)
CD Peaceville - CDVILED 73 (2003,UK) Remastered, with 4 bonus tracks

Other CD, LP and MC reissues

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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ANATHEMA Alternative 4 ratings distribution

(647 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(41%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(38%)
Good, but non-essential (15%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

ANATHEMA Alternative 4 reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by 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: *****

Review by 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!

Review by 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

Review by 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.

Review by hdfisch
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"!

Review by OpethGuitarist
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.

Review by 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

Review by sleeper
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.
Review by 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.

Review by 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.

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by EatThatPhonebook
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.

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by ZowieZiggy
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!

Review by Warthur
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.

Review by Negoba
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.

Review by FragileKings
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.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
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.

Review by Hector Enrique
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.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Once upon a time these guys were angsty/angry twentysomethings. And their raw, powerful music reflected this.

1. "Shroud of False" (1:37) badly recorded piano. (4/5)

2. "Fragile Dreams" (5:32) very repetitive CURE-like music. (8.5/10)

3. "Empty" (3:00) FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM-like with a powerful, impassioned vocal performance from Vince. (9/10)

4. "Lost Control" (5:50) more raw power and emotion. Another great lyric and vocal performance. (9.25/10)

5. "Re-Cnnncet" (3:52) interesting and well-executed tightrope walk between aggression and delicacy. (Perhaps songs/music like this provided the inspiration for Toby Driver and Maudlin of The Well.) (8.75/10)

6. "Inner Silence" (3:09) return of the poorly recorded piano sound with cheap-sounding synth strings in the background. Back down the volume of the guitar power chords and you have a song and palette more akin to the songs the band was producing in the 2010s. This one doesn't do much for me. (8.5/10)

7. "Alternative 4" (6:18) cool soundscape to open this one: distant, echo drums; rolling bass, distant floating synth notes. Vince's vocal starts out rather starkly; his voice does not lend itself well to narration-like approaches to singing. Not enough development; a failure for creating a truly creepy/eerie atmosphere. (8.25/10)

8. "Regret" (7:58) opens with cool acoustic guitar play over background synth washes. Entry of organ, bass, and vocals sounds so much like PINK FLOYD. Even the use of echo on the vocal is straight out of the PF playbook. After 90 seconds, the song begins to spill over into CURE-ish territory. (This is so much like the 2009 debut album/sound of AIRBAG!) When the pace picks up and the electric guitar power chords and drums kick in it becomes more ... generic. Vocalizations in the sixth minute do nothing. Roger Waters again comes to mind when the strumming acoustic guitar re-enters. (I keep waiting for Vince to ask, "Is anybody out there?") Then things amp up back into Fields of the Nephilim territory. (12.75/15)

9. "Feel" (5:28) 1980s power chords over Hammond organ. When Hammond is solo I feel as if I'm listening to 1970s URIAH HEEP. The song's simplistic chord structure is saved only by Vince's stellar little chorus: it stabs straight to the heart! "The now I'm coming back" line makes me think of all the bands on XM/Sirius radio's OXYGEN channel. (8.75/10)

10. "Destiny" (2:14) beautiful closing song. (4.5/5)

This is, to be sure, an album of powerful music--powerful, emotional performances. While I love the more atmospheric and subdued sounds and approaches of a lot of their 21st Century songs, I have to admit that their 20th Century version was very, very good.

B/four stars; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection and a strong product from a maturing ANATHEMA.

Latest members reviews

4 stars This is the beginning of the band's golden period. The most painful, desperate, depressing, angry release of Anathema - this is Alternative 4. This album, by the way, will be the last for Duncan Patterson and the only one in which the permanent drummer John Douglas did not take part (then he was rec ... (read more)

Report this review (#2504968) | Posted by Peacock Feather | Saturday, February 13, 2021 | Review Permanlink

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: w ... (read more)

Report this review (#2489734) | Posted by lukretio | Saturday, January 2, 2021 | Review Permanlink

5 stars An OMNI! 1 Shroud Of False the solemn intro that kills, but it's not hard, what are they doing? the voice, Vincent's voice that catches you off guard and the sonic violence that invades you 2 Fragile Dreams and this oriental bouzouki, this apoplectic rise, this drum kit with the dog mascot beating ... (read more)

Report this review (#2310875) | Posted by alainPP | Thursday, January 30, 2020 | Review Permanlink

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, excelle ... (read more)

Report this review (#1015183) | Posted by Memo_anathemo | Friday, August 9, 2013 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#999338) | Posted by voliveira | Tuesday, July 16, 2013 | Review Permanlink

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 percuss ... (read more)

Report this review (#956729) | Posted by bonestorm | Thursday, May 9, 2013 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#755984) | Posted by 1967/ 1976 | Monday, May 21, 2012 | Review Permanlink

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 it ... (read more)

Report this review (#649665) | Posted by Vobiscum | Wednesday, March 7, 2012 | Review Permanlink

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 m ... (read more)

Report this review (#469287) | Posted by Avtokrat | Saturday, June 25, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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 a ... (read more)

Report this review (#459140) | Posted by Alitare | Saturday, June 11, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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 s ... (read more)

Report this review (#457496) | Posted by stranded_starfish | Sunday, June 5, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#259373) | Posted by Sowilo | Tuesday, January 5, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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 voc ... (read more)

Report this review (#164593) | Posted by digdug | Saturday, March 22, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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 st ... (read more)

Report this review (#140725) | Posted by Zarec | Thursday, September 27, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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 rel ... (read more)

Report this review (#118201) | Posted by darkmatter | Thursday, April 12, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#96762) | Posted by sularetal | Thursday, November 2, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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 reflecte ... (read more)

Report this review (#85983) | Posted by bleak | Sunday, August 6, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#83635) | Posted by toolis | Thursday, July 13, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#79340) | Posted by Kasper | Thursday, May 25, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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, " ... (read more)

Report this review (#77614) | Posted by Philoops | Tuesday, May 9, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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