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Clive Nolan - Alchemy CD (album) cover


Clive Nolan



3.95 | 153 ratings

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5 stars 2013 has already had numerous stunning progressive releases, but none come more grand, over the top and ambitious as Clive Nolan's theatrical progressive rock opera musical `Alchemy'. A double CD comprised of two acts, the result of over four years work by the artist, and not only is he in the absolute best form of his career, he's assembled a stunning roster of vocalists and musicians to bring his captivating and wondrous musical to life. It's a work that bridges symphonic Neo Prog, stage plays and theatrical drama seamlessly, and is truly a work that eclipses all his other musical output. It's so good, in fact, that you wonder just where the artist can go from here.

`Alchemy' is a dark Victorian tale, full of treachery, obsession, murder and grand adventure. A rich variety of characters weave through the narrative, all voiced by an amazing who's-who of Neo associated artists, and all can be very proud of their efforts here. Mr Nolan himself, in the best vocal form of his career, is professor Samuel King, joined by the lovely Victoria Bolley and Noel Calcaterra in a race against time to stop the ruthless Lord Henry Jagman, played with wicked delight by Twelfth Night's Andy Sears. He's after the long-lost secrets of alchemy for his own nefarious and greedy desires, and as we all know, everyone loves a great bad guy, and Sears has such a repulsive, slimy role here that is truly infectious! He's backed up by brutish thugs such as Paul Manzi (in even better form here than his recent Arena studio debut, although anyone who has seen their `Rapture' live DVD will know what a charismatic talent this guy is) and Paul Menel, sounding nothing like he did during his IQ days! Add in terrific smaller performances from Landmarq's Tracy Hitchings, and a commanding and somber single appearance from Threshold's Damian Wilson to great effect.

But everything is especially anchored by the deeply romantic and tragic relationship that develops between a victim of Jagman's treachery, Amelia Darvis (Caamora's Agnieszka Swita), and an associate of Professor King, William Gardelle (David Clifford of Red Jasper). Clive Nolan asks the listener `Do you embrace the thought of love at first sight?', and the innocent, whimsical and stirring relationship that develops between them over the two act set is impossible to resist. I may have been painfully burned once or twice by romance in my life, but this brings a smile to my face and a tear to my eye and encourages me to hold on to that feeling! Their grand musical duets that are reprised throughout pieces such as `Amelia', `The Girl I Was', `Sanctuary' and `Aftermath' will have you singing along and breaking down every time!

There's numerous other highlights, whether it's the rollicking sing-alongs `Quaternary Plan' and `The Tide Of Wealth' that will have you clapping along in no time, sinister chanting choir pieces like `One For The Noose', punchy Nightwish-styled hard-rock pomp in `Street Fight', or the malevolent gothic pantomime sensory overload of `Highgate'. Lord Jagman declares his repulsive intent in the infectious and delirious `The End Justifies The Means', while both Eva and Jessamine's characters offer a glimpse into their mindset and motivations with `Share This Dream' and `Desperate Days'. The dialogue between the various characters always ensure the listener knows just what is going on, and it fires the work along at a cracking pace. Clive's keyboard and orchestral arrangements are stunning as always, as is the band he has formed alongside him to bring this amazing story to vibrant life.

Mr. Nolan has created a historically rich world full of likeable (and loathable!) characters that deserve to be revisited, so let's hope if he's not too burned out by this experience that we might see a sequel, or better yet, a full trilogy. There's plenty of stories to tell here, and this really does feel like it just might be a new beginning for the artist. He has never sounded so personal, focused and driven, and there has not been a grand, theatrical and ambitious double work as successful since Pink Floyd's `The Wall'. From a progressive rock point of view, fans of albums such as Rick Wakeman's `Journey to the Centre of the Earth', or anyone who might enjoy a less metal version of Arjen Anthony Lucassen's Ayreon projects will find endless music to appreciate here. I personally can't wait for the live DVD due out soon to see how it all comes together visually too.

Album of the year for me, no doubt about it.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 5/5 |


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