Review Summary: The Alchemy Project succeeds in both its integration of multiple guest musicians as well as allowing the band to step outside their established formula.
Epica weren’t joking around when it came to celebrating their twentieth anniversary. In this year alone, they’ve released remastered versions of two hard-to-find live albums from their earliest of days (We Will Take You With Us
and Live at Paradiso
), they completed a world tour, and they delivered an excellent livestream of their sold-out twentieth anniversary show featuring opening band Sahara Dust (which is really just Epica under their original name playing some old classics). As 2022 ends, it seems Epica aren’t finished with what has certainly been a flurry of activity. Epica’s final offering of the year comes in the form of the The Alchemy Project
, and it's not just some half-baked EP.
The Alchemy Project
is a collection of songs, each with its own selection of guest musicians twisting the Epica formula to their own style. The song most like traditional Epica is opening track “The Great Tribulation” which features Fleshgod Apocalypse. “The Great Tribulation” is the epic riff-fest of symphonic metal you would expect from this collaboration. My only real issue with this song is one of semantics. With the two bands’ styles featuring quite a bit of overlap, “The Great Tribulation” essentially sounds like a heavier Epica song or a lighter Fleshgod Apocalypse track featuring Simone Simons. Basically, it’s hard to tell where one band’s influence ends and the others begins. I also have no idea who is playing on the song (except for one shredding solo that likely came from one of the Fleshgod guys). The rest of the album, though, features a diverse cast that really brings out different sides of Epica’s music.
“Wake the World” features Phil Lanzon of Uriah Heep on keyboards and Tommy Karevik of Kamelot guesting on vocals. Phil Lanzon’s influence is immediately apparent in his old-school keyboard sound, bringing a 70s-style progressive vibe to the song which also features a proggy instrumental break and catchy chorus harmonized by Simone and Tommy. The next song, “The Final Lullaby”, features Shining as its special guest, but I can only really hear vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Jorgen Munkeby who provides vocals and even a saxophone solo. It’s hard to keep this review from becoming a straight up track-by-track because each song is really good, and also unique and worthy of discussion. There’s the moody “Sirens – Of Blood and Water” featuring Charlotte Wessel (ex-Delain) and Myrkur, there’s the old school death metal track “Human Devastation” featuring Henri Sattler (God Dethroned) and Sven de Caluwe (Aborted) that sounds nothing like Epica and rips through its 2:57 runtime – you get the idea.
Epica rolled into their twentieth anniversary on a mission to make the very most of it. They released long lost live albums, live streamed their anniversary concert, and even resurrected Sahara Dust – but apparently that wasn’t enough. Just in time to close out the year, Epica is releasing the excellent EP The Alchemy Project
featuring a ton of guest musicians. This EP is clearly a departure from what Epica normally do, and it seems intentional. The Alchemy Project
allows Epica to experiment with the various facets of their sound while integrating the unique influences of their special guests. This allows the band to dive into a collection of songs that bring out the aggressive and progressive elements more than they ever do normally – including a straight-ahead death metal song that is more God Dethroned than Epica when you consider three of the musicians have ties to that band. The Alchemy Project
is an ambitious way to close out Epica’s twentieth anniversary celebration, succeeding in both its integration of multiple guest musicians as well as allowing the band to step outside their established formula to deliver something fresh and enjoyable.