Review Summary: Organasm stays true to its name, and manages to be all at once a musical orgasm of creativity, and a living, breathing, flowing musical organism.
Alchemist are a band that have always held a special place in my heart. Apart from being from my native Australia, the band was also instrumental in delivering me far into the depths of the lands of prog and metal, and has always been that little band that I could claim as my own. In fact, it’s fair to say that the quartet from Oz have been with me for the vast majority of my musical journey, with my first contact with them coming as I was a maiden-loving fourteen year old. Taking their death metal roots, adding in a cup of Floyd-influenced prog-mindedness and letting it bake in the hot Australia sun for a few decades, Alchemist are one of Australia’s best kept secrets. Their fourth album, Organasm, is more often than not regarded as the gateway album for the band’s new fans, and ranks as their best release in many fans’ books.
As the opening didgeridoo strains of Austral Spectrum are joined by frontman Adam Agius’ vocals and thundering guitar, one thing is clear. Alchemist are not the band they were a few years ago. Though all four members of the quarter remained intact from their previous release, the band’s sound and direction has evolved and mutated once again. No longer the atmospheric, ultra-heavy space-metallers they once were, Alchemist have since adopted an earthier, more streamlined sound. The heavy yet strangely melodic guitars, the tribal drumming, rhythmic bass, atmospheric synths and Agius’ signature vocals all remain a key part of the boys from Oz’s formula. However, it is evident that Alchemist have learned from past mistakes, and even show a more metal influence this time around. Organasm is a great deal easier to listen to than their previous efforts, with the song writing given new focus and succinctness, while also being easier to grasp. Instead of focusing outwards on spacey, otherworldly sounds and electronics, Alchemist have also decided to turn fully inwards, embracing the Australian Aboriginal influences heard on their previous album with gay abandon, gleefully incorporating them into the music much more entirely. This newfound well of national pride does wonders for the band-Alchemist’s music instantly becomes easier for fans to enjoy, while simultaneously developing the band’s unique sound. However, never for one minute do Alchemist sacrifice their unique and incomparable sound, nor the progressive mindset.
The guitar parts in Organasm, while retaining their power and proficiency, have become far groovier and rhythmic, blending well with the increased focus on Aboriginal instrumentation. The guitar work is also more focused on riffery, and less on eerie melodies and arpeggios than previous albums. Songs like Rampant Macro Life (Part 2 of Organasm’s three part sequence on life) and Escape From the Black Hole provide spadeful upon spadeful of memorable riffery from Torkington and Agius. Although not as much focus is placed on Alchemist’s rhythm section this time around, the rhythm duo both display more than capable musicianship chops on Organasm. Holder’s drum assault has increased in focus, provides a solid backing for the band to march forward upon, adding in some killer fills around the album, even if he doesn’t use his wonderful tribal beats and odd tom arrangements as much as he could have. John Bray’s bass, while not as audible as on previous releases, holds down the rhythmic fort nicely enough, at times following the guitar duo, at others setting the rhythm to allow Agius and Torkington to launch off into their trademark psychedelic-inspired sections. Keyboard usage has decreased in presence on Organasm-but fret not. Songs like Part 3-Warring Tribes still contain Agius’ signature psychedelic keyboard usage, as refreshing and spaced out as ever.
Adam Agius once again proves that he is the master of his microphone on Organasm-his trademark throat-rending growls and roars have never sounded clearer or more aggressive. Unfortunately though, Agius’ range isn’t utilised to its fullest extent on Organasm, with his banshee screams and more oddball approaches to vocal work cast by the wayside. The newfound focus on all things Australiana has also found its way into Agius’ lyrics-most of the lyrics on Organasm deal with elements of the Australian environment and biology. Far from sounding out of place, Agius once again manages to make even the most unexpected lyrical topics work, even writing a three-part suite on the evolution of life. Thankfully, the production on Organasm is arguably Alchemist’s best to date. The guitar tones are crisp and fresh, the drums boom and quake, and the bass rumbles below the mix as Agius launches his vocal assault from above. Far less muddy than their previous releases, Organasm’s production lends power to the more aggressive and straightforward route the band has taken, and never once sounds overproduced.
Unfortunately, every release has its flaws, and Organasm is no exception. Although the band’s new sound is easier to appreciate, especially to the casual fan, many will lament the loss of the space-metal focus of previous releases. So too, the shorter songs and less liberal songwriting will leave many old fans feeling slightly disappointed with Organasm. Variety is also hampered on this release, with everything from the vocals to the instrumentation lacking the variety found on Spiritech. This loss is especially noticeable in the absence of almost all electronics besides keyboard backing. The fact that Organasm is slightly less progressive than past releases is both a blessing and a curse-the band lose some of their extremity and their slowly evolving songs, but gain a sound that is far easier to enjoy and more metal. With the culmination of these flaws, Organasm unfortunately feels less like a complete and cohesive journey and more like a collection of tracks, albeit good ones, and even manages to stumble a bit towards the middle.
With Organasm, Alchemist finally broke out into the wider Australian metal community, and it isn’t hard to see why. With their newly evolved sound, Alchemist have finally defined themselves with Organasm, and their homage to Australia truly sets them apart in the metal world. Organasm may not quite reach the dizzying heights of previous release Spiritech, but it barely ever lets up, alternately assaulting the ears with mind-bending progressive music or bone-crunching metal. Alchemist are a thinking man’s band, and it truly shows. Not one piece of music on this record is ever out of place. Even the name the band chose for this release-Organasm-is completely apt. Organasm truly is all at once a musical orgasm of creativity, and a living, breathing, flowing musical organism.