Review Summary: Alchemist's latest release finds the band exploring their darker roots with a mixture of heavy, strange, and odd.
Alchemist is a progressive heavy metal band hailing from Australia. They are an interesting band to say the least. Although they have been around over 20 years constantly warping their sound to new levels, they haven’t seen much attention or even much positive word being shown their way from the metal community. It’s a shame because Alchemist is a talented band that keeps redefining metal with each passing record. Originally forming on the premise of creating death metal, Alchemist’s music has changed considerably and for better or worse has gotten weirder over time. “Tripsis” is the latest chapter in the Alchemist catalog and I have to say that they’ve made an impressive piece of music that fans from many different genres can be able to appreciate. Although not so much as an easy album to digest on first listen, it’s worth the time spent to analyze what Alchemist is capable of pulling with their music. Their music style doesn’t really have any drawing power with the typical metal audience. A lack of solos, catchy choruses, and blast beats will turn most away but it’s the guitar work that makes this album so brilliant.
Alchemist had dropped their death metal sound early in their career and replaced that edge to create a sound of their own. They became more intricate as time began to wane and started to experiment with their sound, layering their sound with synth programming and heavy guitars into something more in depth and complex then their predecessors. When I find a metal band I like to find someone who stands out from the pack. The greater musicians tend to do so I‘m not surprised I came across these guys. When I first heard about this band, the comparisons made towards this band made my mind bounce. Fear Factory, Killing Joke, Voivod, and early Nine Inch Nails was not what I was expecting but from what experience I have from any of these bands I can say are true enough. Their sound can be summed up as a cocktail of aggressive metal, incorporated with industrial loops and complex rhythms that shift with progressive tendencies. “Wrapped In Guilt” opens the album with a bang. Greeting you with a roaring synth line and a trippy guitar melody, the song takes you on a journey with punching riffs and aggressive drumming.
Coming in at 9 tracks and 42 minutes, the album has a reasonable length to it but is far from what you would expect to hear from your daily metal band. The vocal work is executed by the vocalist/guitarist Adam Agius. Far from being exceptional and far from being mediocre, Adam displays harshly delivered vocals in the form of semi aggressive growling and occasional shouting for the albums duration. What I noticed with his voice is that it oddly reminds me of a slightly less processed and restrained version of Burton C. Bell. I personally find the vocals to be demanding to the listener and a challenge to get into. I said before that even though the band has a synth programmer that this is strictly a guitar driven album. Adam and Roy are a great duo that show great prowess with their axe work. The guitar work is dense and complex, shifting from heavy power grooves to hallucination inducing melodies. These guys create some strange sounds with their guitars and it never ceases to amaze me with what they pull out of the bag next. The pace of the album revolves around mid tempo for a large part of the duration so automatically the drummer will have to keep up with the fast riffs. Rodney shows that he can play with speed as demonstrated by constant barrages of double bass and lightning quick fills. When necessary he makes a smooth transition with slower patterns. All in all, a great drum performance. Now on to the keyboard work. Not overbearing or dominating the soundscape with unnecessary or overpowering synth lines, Nik does a great job incorporating samples and catchy beats into the aggressive metal beast that is Tripsis. Tastefully executed and adding plenty of depth when present, the synthesizers really blend well with the music and the overall feel of the album.
Tripsis wouldn’t be complete without competent bass playing. John lays down some throbbing bass lines that sound pretty good when his role can be felt. Nothing too much, nothing too little, John plays a decent part in the Tripsis project. The production of the album is neither solid or horrible. The drumming and vocals are clear, the guitars are upfront, and the synthesizers are present but not out in front. Despite the instrumentation being cleanly heard, the production boasts a muddy tone to it. I have a feeling that the production scheme was intentional and was specifically designed for the experimental prowess that Alchemist were going for. As musicians, these guys know what they’re doing and craft songs that blend substance with heavy tendencies to a desirable effect. A major con stemming from this album for most people would be that this album really has no stand out tracks. They all boast similar qualities and differ from each other but lack the commercial sense designed to attract a new legion of fans. I guess this might be a part of the reason why these guys haven’t seen much success in America. Regardless, Alchemist have produced a solid yet overlooked album in the year 2007. Call it the dark horse contender if you will.