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JAR OF KINGDOM

Alchemist

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal


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4 stars Back in 1993, the Death-Metal little world entered in a conflict, a civil war between keepers of the original brutality and some more delicate musicians willing to explore further dimensions than the 1-2-3-4 / Goooore!. Pestilence, Cynic, Atheist or even Death begged to differ and claim taking their influences from jazz-rock or melodic heavy-metal. Somewhere in the south hemisphere, alone in Australia, four young musicians joined the movement. As the name suggets, Alchemist wasn't obsessed with necrophiliac serial-killers or the gentle art of ripping the guts of its enemy on the battlefield but started to sing about Abstraction, Pluto or, er, Purple.

Beginning with an threatening atmospheric guitar introduction, Abstraction soon turns to a massive charge. But it appears quickly that the band uses psychaedelic sounds effects, pays attention to the notion of arrangements and melodies and even thinks of subtlety. The same can be said about Shell on which we can hear the haunting voice of Michelle Klemke: not exactly melodic, yet striking... And the psychaedelia goes on and on, as you can hear on Jar of Kingdom kindly introduced by some hilarious pixies (are they on acid???)... Yet, the album is brutal: the first-time traveller coming from Planet Gong might appreciate the rest on the track Found, dark but calm... Just before the oriental-like riff from Enhancing Enigma, one of the strongest songs from this record! Then, another pause with the Whale (nice trio between a guitar, a toy piano and, yes, a whale)... And we go to a cosmic journey with Brismal: a view from Pluto, exploring Alpha Centauri, Charon and the macrocosm of space!

Unique in its genre (Psychaedelical Death-Metal!), Alchemist hadn't found success with this first album but they showed rare song-writing abilities, an imagination hard to be found in the death-metal fields and promising technical feats! If the ProgHead isn't afraid of roaring vocals and heavy guitars; if the MetalHead isn't afraid of... Pixies and whales, this record is an excellent addition to any music collection.

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Send comments to CPicard (BETA) | Report this review (#184609)
Posted Friday, October 03, 2008 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Jar of Kingdom" is the debut studio album from Australian progressive extreme metal act Alchemist. The album was originally released through the Lethal label in 1993. "Jar of Kingdom" was re-released through the Thrust label in 1999 in order for Alchemist to be released from their contract with Thrust and seek an international label deal instead. Until then their music had solely been available in Australia. The re-release includes Alchemistīs 1991 demo.

The original album is a pretty raw progressive death metal affair. Certainly experimental but not neccessarely enjoyable or high quality the whole time. One thing I have always been a fan of when talking about Alchemist is the raw vocal delivery by frontman and guitarist Adam Agius. Thereīs a man who sings/semi-growls like he means it. Really aggressive approach to singing right there. The music features some psychadelic parts that help make the album a bit more interesting and those moments are mostly created by Roy Torkingtonīs lead guitar effects. He is a really inventive guitarist. If you want an example of how varied some tracks on Jar of Kingdom are just listen to the third track on the album titled "Purple".

The musicianship are pretty strong too but the sound production drags the album down. Itīs a bit muddy and lacks power. Itīs too bad because both the musicianship and the songwriting are on a decent level, so objectively seen "Jar of Kingdom" is in some ways an interesting first release from Alchemist. On a personal level I canīt say that the music on the album really interests me much though. There are moments here and there where Iīm thinking that this is a really good album but soon after comes a section where Iīm not very impressed so the best word to describe the album would probably be inconsistent. A 2.5 - 3 star (55%) star rating is fair.

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Send comments to UMUR (BETA) | Report this review (#194577)
Posted Sunday, December 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
JJLehto
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars The debut album from Aussie prog metal band Alchemist.

I say prog metal because while there is heaviness, intensity and growls o plenty, musically this is far outside anything in the realm of death metal. Death, Atheist, Cynic even Edge of Sanity never created such an out there product.

"Jar of Kingdom" is a blend of death metal influenced prog metal and psychedelia. There is also some very noticeable Eastern influence. It is an intriguing and ambitious effort that doesn't seem fully developed on this album. While I applaud the effort, (and am glad to know I'm not alone in thinking you can like extreme metal and Pink Floyd)it is just not fully "there" yet. The album is a bit inconsistent, and while Adam Agius' vocals aren't the worst by any means, I'm not really a fan. His shrill growls are actually a lot more energetic than the standard, but also can be as laughable at times. Not a turn off, but not the best.

Musically, the songs have very progressive structures that can range from blast beat death metal to spaced out, Pink Floyd style movements. The music can stop and start on a dime, usually with wild shifts in tempo and style. The guitar work features both heavy, death metal and psychedelic, trippy styles, often at the same time.

The guitar work and song structures are easily the strongest thing on this album, unique and unorthodox are the only ways to put it. As well as awesome. The drumming is fitting and more than servicable.

Just for a change of pace, songs like "Found" are mellow and feature female vocals, and "Whale" is an acoustic piece with some type of tribal drumming, xylophones (or synths) and the sounds of whales.

Some standout songs are "Abstraction" (with its relaxing and brutal movements and sweet psychedelic melodies) "Shell" featuring surprisingly nice melodies, and "Brumal-A View From Pluto" which has one of the best openings I've ever heard and is a particularly brutal and usual piece. I love the surf rock riff over blast beats and distorted mess of tremolo picking.

The finale "Worlds Within Worlds" is a true musical journey, which features some of the best melodies and writing on the album. While some other songs can suffer from a lack of cohesiveness, this one works perfectly for most of it, and is really one of the more unique things I've ever heard. Where else can you feel like relaxing in a Middle Eastern palace and headbanging in a doom metal show??

Very interesting album that makes me feel ashamed I never herd of this band until 2011. What Alchemist tried to do on this album is not easy, and indeed it sounds a bit chaotic at times. Not organized chaos though, more like 2 buses carrying a death metal and psychedelic rock band collided. Sometimes awkward but it also works and the musicianship and songwriting skills here are impressive.

Good, but not great, album that leaves you wanting a bit more. Recommended listen for fans of prog metal (that have some taste for the extreme) and if not, probably best to avoid this unique album.

Three Stars

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Send comments to JJLehto (BETA) | Report this review (#587168)
Posted Monday, December 12, 2011 | Review Permalink

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