Alternative 4 – The Obscurants (2014) – This sophomore album from Liverpool doom rockers isn’t actually a doom metal record at all. Quite frankly, it’s not even a metal album. This time Duncan Patterson opted for a symphonic rock album that musically reminds me of Pink Floyd at their slowest and vocally reminds me of Depeche Mode at their most passionate. There’s even the inclusion of a female vocalist that backs up a few of new frontman Simon Flatley’s dark croons. There’s no doubt about it, Flately croons throughout the entire album making for something that sounds almost like The Cure in some instances, more towards their Pornography or Bloodflowers era; which are highly regarded as their best work. So you’ve got Depeche Mode, Pink Floyd and The Cure all making love on this one and it’s just as dreary as you might expect. But if you’ve certainly got to have dark music, then The Obscurants is an absolute must. The gothic crowd will and should be buying boatloads of this album, passing it around at festivals and just overly praising it on forums/social media. Yes folks, it’s really dark rock at its best and I personally haven’t heard anything like this in a long time. I’m reminded of so many bands that aren’t even in the running of metal influences, like early Audra and especially Black Tape For A Blue Girl at their darkest. I would certainly urge the listener to check out As One Aflame Led By Desire or Remnants Of A Deeper Purity or even Dead Can Dance’s work before Spiritchaser. You might shudder as to why I’m hammering out so many goth and darkwave releases, but that’s because the proof is in the pudding. Patterson obviously wanted to bring that sense of depression first unleashed in Alternative 4 to his own project given the same title. While I’ve no problem with the uplifting tones of current Anathema, listening to The Obscurants gives me a much needed appreciation for dark music again. This is the kind of album that I could whittle away at my keyboard describing, but it’s best to say that with the exception of the confusing “Closure 7:15” there is not one track on the record that feels misplaced or loses the feel of the atmosphere and that is a huge part of what The Obscurants is. You can separate a certain track that you like from others, but you would find that it just doesn’t flow in the same way. Trust me, as I’ve tried. I thought I could extract a piece or two from this release to listen to at my leisure in the form of a playlist, but that proved utterly impossible. “Mr. Black 5:19” is a genius piece, but it doesn’t work by itself. You’d have to listen to it within the context of the album. The only real issue I have with the disc is in its closer, “Closure” as I’ve mentioned earlier. Why I feel that the track doesn’t fit the mood of the rest of the album, is due to its beginning. The band adopted a more electronic approach that didn’t work well with Flately’s vocals, yet due to its length, it still manages to pick up the pieces and bring back the atmosphere. I am really not sure why the band decided to kill such an atmosphere for approximately five minutes towards the very end of the disc, but I’m wondering if such a thing can’t be ripped and re-stitched back into play via the use of an editing program. Is it actually possible to remove the entire electronic section and resume the piece as it picks back up into the original atmosphere, in essence preserving the entire experience untarnished? Well, you could either do that, or just remove “Closure” entirely I guess. Technically, that gives the album no closure though. But I guess you can listen to it and make your own opinion there. At any rate, I still highly recommend The Obscurants to all fans of dark rock and just plain dark music in general. It really is a monument and I think that in the coming months that opinion will be shared likewise. Since we haven’t heard a good bit of sorrow from The Cure in quite a while, it’s refreshing to hear it coming from another slew of Brits who are helping to keep that melancholic sound alive.
(8 Tracks, 49:00)