Epica – The Alchemy Project (Album Review)

 

Epica has always been a band that has pushed the boundaries of heavy metal. They are global icons of the symphonic metal genre for that reason. That’s something that I’ve always liked about them. They make music that excites them and in turn that makes their audience love and adorn them. I have recently been on a catch-up splurge of all of the material from recent years and it amazes me that even after twenty-plus years of activity they are still coming up with new ways to entertain and mesmerise. Their new album The Alchemy Project is an exciting listening experience that really captures your attention. The band is accompanied by an all-star cast of industry legends and passionate performers to give their audience an Epica experience like no other. I was really impressed and they managed to incorporate many different styles and musical elements, whilst at the same time maintaining what is ultimately true to the core of the band.

From a pure production level, the album is an immense and, at times, overwhelming listening experience. Every single musical element is so well mixed with so many different vocal styles, instruments and effects the album has a terrific consistency that sounds so sweet and pleasant to the ear. A huge amount of respect for Epica, for working their way around and managing to integrate the musical talents of different performers. They clearly wrote each song with guest performers in mind and managed to tailor-make each track to the skill sets of musical guests. Be it the Dio-era Rainbow style of “Wake Of The World” which features Phil Lanzon or the gentle serenity and harmony of “Sirens – Of Blood And Water” which features Charlotte Wessels and Myrkur. The band really traversed musical styles, especially on the song “Human Devastation” which features God Dethroned’s Henri Sattler and Aborted’s Sven de Caluwé. That track manages to keep Epica’s heavier elements whilst accommodating the guest performers in a way I don’t think I’ve ever heard of Epica.

When I say it’s experimental, I mean by Epica’s standards. It’s still pretty typical for the symphonic and progressive metal landscape. They’re not pushing sonic boundaries, nor is this a deconstruction of music style record. It almost feels like an Epica-produced mixtape taking you on a journey of all the components that make up Epica and all the styles of metal that the band enjoy. As much as I like this album, I would say it grew on me, more than having an instantaneous connection to the music. There were definitely parts of the album I had to listen to multiple times, for lack of a better term, to get it. I think the opening song “The Great Tribulation” is pretty weak and my least favourite on the album. Nothing sticks out about the song and I think Fleshgod Apocalypse doesn’t really add much to the song. With the other songs, I couldn’t imagine Epica doing them on their own, however, this track is still a fairly standard Epica song and the featured guest performance doesn’t enhance the experience like the other tracks.

I will say this is an ambitious effort that is the result of Epica having a fair amount of clout in the metal community. I think the album is overall worth listening to. It is a very unique listening experience and allows you to hear Epica in a new way. Which I think was the goal of this project. An entertaining release with high-quality production. I say get it, get the best speaker or headphones money can buy and give it a blast.

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Mick Birchall

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