ANATHEMA — Alternative 4 — the ultimate metal music online community, from the creators of

ANATHEMA - Alternative 4 cover
4.07 | 53 ratings | 9 reviews
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Album · 1998

Filed under Metal Related


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: 44:57


Vincent Cavanagh - Guitar/Vocals
Daniel Cavanagh - Guitar
Duncan Patterson - Bass
Shaun Steels - Drums

About this release

Released by Peaceville records on August 11th,1998.

* Japanese and German versions have an orchestral version of "The Silent Enigma"
as a bonus track.
Japanese release date was August 25th.
Recorded at the Windings Jan / Feb '98.
Produced by Kit Woolven.
Assistant Engineer - Simon Dawson.
Mixed at Parkgate by Kit Woolven.
Assisted by Doug Cook.
Mastered at Transfermation by Noel Summerville.
All tracks published by Vile Music.
Piano and keyboards played by D. Cavanagh & D. Patterson.
Charming violin played by George Rucci.
Drum loops on "Empty" programmed by Andy Duncan.
Front cover artwork by Tim Spear.
Cover concept by D. Patterson.
Band photography by Lili Wilde.

Peaceville Re-release Bonus Tracks:
11. Your Possible Pasts (Pink Floyd cover) (4:28)
12. One of the Few (Pink Floyd cover) (1:50)
13. Better Off Dead (4:21) (Bad Religion cover)
14. Goodbye Cruel World (Pink Floyd cover) (1:39)
These 3 last tracks are sometimes mistaken for the ones on a supposed My Dying
Bride / Anathema split that does NOT exist. In fact, they are taken from the
1998 Peaceville compilation titled "Peaceville X" and are, respectively, track
1, 5 and 14.

Thanks to Prog Geo, Unitron, adg211288 for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

The Crow
"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 sounding 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: *****

This review was originally written for
If there's one negative with having a big music collection it's that i often don't get back to certain albums for a couple of years. This is certainly a case in point. I store my music by genre so i'll go through one genre then onto the next as i do have this rather large rotation. I mean't to go through my Metal collection(which is my first love) over a year ago(sorry "colt") but my heart wasn't in it at that time. Well it is now and i'm having a blast. The one thing i remembered about "Alternative IV" that bothered me back then was the PINK FLOYD flavour, but i was pleasantly surprised listening to this on the way to work that it wasn't as strong as i remembered. Man this is such a powerful and emotional beast at times. And i love the atmosphere too. A very melancholic album that hits me emotionally. This is how a friend of mine describes ANATHEMA : "I feel a strong, miserable Waters like Floydian connection to their music and lyrics". Amen brother. I think one of the reasons i like "Judgement" more is that it's more of their own sound. Still i love this record and highly recommend it.
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.
Alternative 4 is the first in a series of 3 astoundingly beautiful albums from Anathema. Their doom metal roots have all but 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.
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
Conor Fynes
'Alternative 4' - Anathema (7/10)

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.
Phonebook Eater
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. An essential Masterpiece for whoever loves metal and/or prog.

Members reviews

1967/ 1976
A Metal version of Peter Hammill 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 Van der Graaf Generator or Black Sabbath 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!
"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.

Ratings only

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