Alchemist - Tripsis
Relapse Records
Progressive Metal
9 songs (42:57)
Release year: 2007
Alchemist, Relapse Records
Reviewed by Goat

Like many, my first exposure to these Australian psychedelics was with First Contact, the opening song from the band’s 2003 album Austral Alien. Fast, catchy, and heavily laden with the group’s trademark spacey keyboards, this is the perfect introduction to the band. In fact, if you’re new to Alchemist I’d suggest you stop reading now and go and listen to it (it’s easily available, at the MySpace link further down the review for example).

See what I mean? Here is a band that is capable of walking its own path, of being Progressive (capital ‘P’!) without stealing from Dream Theater, of using keyboards in a genuinely fresh and exciting way. Formed in 1987, the band started as Death Metal and moved gradually towards its current incarnation, doing much for Metal along the way with founding the largest Metal event in Australia, Metal For The Brain, sadly stopped now.

Tripsis, the band’s sixth full-length, surprises somewhat. This the heaviest that Alchemist has been for a while, gruff shouty vocals and a slightly raw production ensuring that approximately half the people reading this will be put off. Yes, the psychedelic elements are still present and correct, but they’ve been layered into an intensely Metallic experience, groovy Voivodic riffs making headbanging a necessity, especially on the Thrashy Nothing In No Time. It’s downright aggressive, and if you’re the type of person that likes a little experimentation in their Metal but can’t take any lessening of the steel whatsoever, then Alchemist is the band for you.

Throughout the forty-odd minutes running time, there’s little let-up in the twisty musicianship on show. Both Adam Agius and Roy Torkington are excellent guitarists, capable of playing a variety of styles from the eastern melodies of Anticipation Of A High to the straight-up groove riffing that’s the backbone of the album. Drummer Rodney Holder does an excellent job of providing the battery, the production giving each beat its own space to breathe, and although it’s a bit hard to focus on John Bray’s bass due to the drums inhabiting the same sound range, there’s no lack of bottom end here.

None of the songs here are as immediate as the likes of First Contact, but there’s plenty of variety revealed after a couple of listens. It’s the little details that count here, such as the percussive intro to Degenerative Breeding, or the soft, almost Tooly backing vocals on parts of Grasp At Air, all adding up to make the album as a whole an engrossing listen. Truthfully, the people new to Alchemist who took my advice in the first paragraph and checked out First Contact will quite likely have trouble with this album, as it lacks that song’s catchiness. It’s not the band’s best album; the songwriting, whilst good, isn’t anywhere as good as before, and the didgeridoos that helped make Organasm such a great listen for me are nowhere to be found. Give it time, however, let it all sink in, and enjoy it for what it is: Prog Metal that’s not sparkly clean, not afraid to get a little grubby - something very lacking in today’s Metal world. Those that can take less than perfect production will love it, and everyone else would do well to have a listen to one of the band’s older albums.

Killing Songs :
Wrapped In A Guilt, Nothing In No Time, Grasp At Air, Substance For Shadow
Goat quoted 80 / 100
Other albums by Alchemist that we have reviewed:
Alchemist - Forged In Chaos reviewed by Ger and quoted 70 / 100
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