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byron A Kind of Alchemy album cover
3.65 | 27 ratings | 6 reviews | 11% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 2009

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Night (5:34)
2. Zeitgeist (4:38)
3. Diggin' a Hole (3:02)
4. War (5:10)
5. A Little Bit Deranged (3:37)
6. I Don't Want to Entertain You (3:48)
7. A Poem Without an End (7:44)
8. King of Clowns (4:56)
9. The Song That Never Was (3:23)
10. Sirens (3:51)
11. Vitruvian Man (3:52)
12. The Alchemist (4:09)
13. Blinded by Sunshine (4:13)
14. A Peaceful Mind (4:53)

Total Time 62:50

Line-up / Musicians

- Dan Byron / vocals, acoustic guitar, flute, melodica (7), composer (excl. 9)
- Costin Oprea / electric guitar
- Sergiu Mitrofan "6fingers" / keyboards, Rhodes, accordion
- Vlady Săteanu / bass
- Cristi Mateşan / drums & percussion

- A Quattro / string quartet (11,14)
- Petre Ionuțescu / trumpet
- Lu Cozma / backing vocals (4)
- Jane D. / backing vocals (5)

Releases information

Artwork: Sergiu Mitrofan

CD A&A Records ‎- 160662-2 (2009, Romania)

Digital album

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BYRON A Kind of Alchemy ratings distribution

(27 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(11%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(56%)
Good, but non-essential (26%)
Collectors/fans only (7%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

BYRON A Kind of Alchemy reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by seventhsojourn
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Romanian band byron seems to be gaining a good reputation here on ProgArchives but nobody is reviewing the group's fine albums. A Kind Of Alchemy was their second studio release in 2009, and their first with new bassist Vlady Sateanu. I don't know if it's due to Sateanu's influence but this album is quite funk orientated, although byron's unique fusion of disparate genres still dominates. They haven't simply tried to recreate the same sound as on their debut album; they have progressed and are developing their sound although the focus remains on leader Dan Byron's well-crafted songs. Album opener THE NIGHT, a subdued piano ballad that shifts unconventionally with explosive choruses, exemplifies his erudite style of songwriting. Dan also shows he has the charisma to be a great front man as he snarls and scats his way through heavy rocker ZEITGEIST, while new guy Sateanu's bass adds bite to the energetic rhythm section on tracks like the funk-pop DIGGIN' A HOLE.

A LITTLE BIT DERANGED is the album's first killer track and features Costin Oprea's angular guitar licks, with able support from Cristi Matesan's taut muscular drumming. Dan lets loose with a rare flute solo on this song, which has ''hit single'' written all over it due to its catchy chorus and female backing vocals. The mini-epic A POEM WITHOUT AN END is another of the album's highlights and it gets things firmly back in prog mode. Its eight minutes are shaped by 6fingers' jazz-tinged electric piano (6fingers is the band's oddly named keyboard player). THE SONG THAT NEVER WAS is a Dan/6fingers collaboration and despite its short length it manages to cram in some striking key and time-signature changes. It's another good song, with maybe a hint of a Romanian folk influence.

These guys have a promising future and this is an interesting, richly varied album. However I would recommend that readers start with byron's debut album, Forbidden Drama, which I think contains stronger material. There's no need to take my word for it though; just visit byron's bandpage and click on the link to their official website where you can listen to their music for free.

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Shining vocals and strong melodies make a pleasant listening treat.

The album "A Kind of Alchemy" by Romanian crossover artist byron has some very nice quiet songs and some up tempo rockers that tend to grow on you with every listen. The energy and dynamic tempo is infectious and works so well with those confident vocals by Dan Byron. The lyrics are a real showcase; poetic, creative and highly evocative. The thematic content deals with the highs and lows of the creative process of the musician as magician casting a spell on the audiences and listeners.

'The Night' is very serene and peaceful, with piano and gentle guitar picking, and very strong chord structures at first. It builds to a heavier feel though not full distortion on guitars. Dan's vocals are clean and easy to comprehend. The pace slows at intervals to allow the music to breathe, an ethereal ambience reminding me of Porcupine Tree.

'Zeitgeist' begins with a degree of distortion and a melody. The vocals are more forceful though not aggressive. The time sig is straight forward, with a steady rock beat. The riff is simple but effective. A metrical pattern locks in and stays with the melody. The higher vocals on the chorus are well executed.

'Digging A Hole' is a strange beast with cool proggy Hammond staccato stabs and a tribal beat. The vocals are up in the mix and in your face; "I have a white house a legacy from my dear old daddy-o, it has a backyard, a flower garden and a big fat ugly door, a scarecrow, I heard some neighbours bury their money in their courtyard and now they pretend to be poor, I found some good cause I will convince the others they are not secure". The chorus is a tense vocal with powerful guitars. He is digging a hole and his "deals are growing down, my goal is to make myself a fully black gold kinky crown", and it is a lot of fun to hear how the tale unfolds; "I am a nice guy, I like guns but I will not touch one, don't be afraid." The tongue in cheek banter continues and then there is a divine trumpet solo that is jazzy and cool. The strange chant that follows leads the song in a new direction, and is as humorous as the rest of the arrangement. Great song that stands out as a highlight.

'War' is an acoustically driven and very gentle rhythmic track. It is pleasantly melodic and has sweet harmonies. The mood is serious and melancholy in comparison to the previous track. The lyrics are thoughtful and reflective and a little dark; "you've been told I'm kind of scary and if you're against me you should consider yourself brave... I say the war is over, but it seems you didn't get it yet, you carry a revolver, waiting, waiting for the threat." I like the poetic rhyming throughout the album, innovative and full of creativity. The instrumental break is piano, and a soaring twin guitar motif. There are some powerful percussion patterns and a delightful bass.

'A Little Bit Deranged' is a quirky stylish tune, with cool lyrics; "Billions of wires hanging round, making our living safe and sound, Hey, Mr Edison can you turn on the light, I'm just a little bit confused from the kingdom night... We're just evolving, funny thing is we are all a little bit deranged." The instrumental is a beautiful affecting flute and the guitar motif that keeps chiming a 3 note riff. I really like this track with its infectious chorus and easy to remember melody.

'I don't want to Entertain' is a funky track with a thumping bassline and a strong rhythm. Not my favourite style but well structured with an emotive temperament.

'A Poem Without End' clocks in at 7:45 and as such one of the more complex tracks. It has a gentle vocal delivery and an engaging keyboard melody. The shimmering keyboards are beautiful, gracefully caressing the ears. The music is subtle and so well played. A very easy listening style is accomplished with an off beat arrangement. The vocals gain in intensity and power on the lyrics; "There is one love, one love, one love we never forget, everyday we try to recreate." Then the disposition returns to a more easygoing sombre atmosphere. The instrumental passage of keyboards is a pleasant touch.

'King of Clowns' begins with piano scales and arpeggios and then sinks into a tempered rhythm figure with more guitar riffs that are reminiscent of Wishbone Ash at times. The lyrics again are focussed on telling a story of how to cope with the trials of life and discovering new things; "it starts with your thoughts, then you mesmirise, you begin to see the picture in a different light, red turns to black, blue turns to white." The chorus build to a more intense mood; "madness comes like a field... the angels bow forming your wheel, you're the king of clowns." The pace slows to a very slow pace and a minimalist piano is heard over the singing; "Fastening your seatbelt waiting for a sign, a thousand years of waiting in the light, you will be promoted to a better bed, swallow the pill and save the piece of bread." I like the style again here with emotional music structures and an organic rhythm.

'The Song That Never Was' is solid rocking track with confident singing and a heavy chorus where byron take the levels up a notch with powerful lyrics; "Still I am here stranded on the shores of consciousness... humming away the song that never was," and with that the song ends on a crash of notes. Great melody and very good vocals.

'Sirens' is a song about the infamous sirens that lure in the unsuspecting boatmen, and of course the theme is not new to prog bands, but this is a good rendition; "I'm just a sailor on the sea full of sirens following me". There is a moderate tempo rhythm, with some innovative lyrics; "I just want to hear you screaming 'land ho', but you're acting like a child singing 'eeny meeny miny mo'." The accordion gives this a haunting feel, like an old ghostly sea shanty.

'Vitruvian Man' begins with loud piano notes, and a high vocals resounds; "I can feel the earth spinning round and round, arms wide open, Vitruvian man, I've lost direction, free again". The vocals on this are uplifting and it has a strange melody that is very effective. I like the way the fractured guitar crunches across the ambient sustained key pads, that are like a string orchestra. There is a distinct touch of sadness and darkness in the atmosphere. The synthesizer drones are great on this and it is so infectious and melodic that it stays with you.

'The Alchemist' is a real rocker, with strong percussion and a wall of keyboards. The vocals are delivered with conviction and have an emotional resonance. The last two tracks are moderate pop songs that end the album on a peaceful reflective note.

Overall the album is a great example of well executed musicianship and confident vocals that are easy to get used to. There is no abundance of falsetto or lengthy notes, rather the vocals have a storytelling quality. The addition of extra sounds from the flute and other instruments are effectively used. I recommend this to prog fans that like a more accessible sound, as there is nothing really on here that will scare off those into mainstream music. It has a pop sensibility but still remains fresh and original with the power to draw in with every listen.

Review by Conor Fynes
4 stars 'A Kind Of Alchemy' - byron (7/10)

Despite coming out with an involving and complex debut album, Romanian art rock quintet byron (spelt with a lower case 'b') instantly captured me with their first work 'Forbidden Drama.' From the first listen onwards, the group's beautiful collage of styles, catchy songwriting and passionate performance stole my heart and left me yearning for more. For all of it's strengths however, the debut album felt a bit disjointed and overly ambitious for a single-disc venture; the variety of sounds made the flow a bit of a bumpy ride. With byron's second full length project, the group is quick to solve the problems of cohesion, but at the sacrifice of the sense of discovery and some of the excitement that made 'Forbidden Drama' such a treasured experience. In it's own right however, 'A Kind Of Alchemy' is a logical development for the band's sound, and shows byron latching onto some of their better musical aspects, and elaborating on them.

Fashioning one of the weirdest and unsettling album covers I have ever seen, the artwork might falsely market 'A Kind Of Alchemy' to be a one-dimensional and whimsical piece of music that's solely meant to be listened for the sake of jest. Much to the contrary, 'A Kind Of Alchemy' is even more involved and resonant than it's acclaimed predecessor. Once again delving into political-socio commentary with their lyrics, there is no running narrative with the piece, but you certainly get the feeling after a few listens that the album flows exactly the way it is meant to be. With a new bassist in the band, it's also surprising how much a single band member can change the group's sound. Things have a much funkier, even jazzy flair to them this time around.

While still being an art/alternative rock album at heart, 'A Kind Of Alchemy' is very much a grower; each listen lends to the listener, new insights into the music and newfound appreciation. While byron has certainly cut down on the large array of sounds they used to use, there's still a pleasant amount of variety here. Dan Byron and company have harnessed their flair and tamed it a bit, but the emotion and passion that make them such a vibrant group are both still here in droves.

I know I may be swimming against the tide on this one, but I think 'A Kind Of Alchemy' easily rivals the dazzling first album, and in parts; even triumphs over it. On my first few listens, I regarded it as being decent, but it quickly grew on me, in ways 'Forbidden Drama' never did. I would easily recommend anyone who is looking for an involving piece of art rock to dive into this piece of beautiful music. byron has impressed me once again!

Review by lazland
4 stars The 2009 follow-up to an excellent debut album, A Kind Of Alchemy is an album that has been described as a "grower" - in other words, an album you really don't like on first listen, but "get it" after a while. Well, not to these ears. I loved it first time around, and the feeling has only really grown since.

As with the debut, there is a huge range of styles and influences present here. Opener The Night has at its heart a bluesy, melodic feel, until the chorus comes along and blows both the speakers and your mind.

I will, though, here single out three tracks which transcend that boundary, a large one, between extremely good and utter genius.

War has to be about the finest and most honest paeon to the utter futility of conflict I have had the pleasure of hearing in many years, probably since Waters' halcyon days. Musically, it is a treat from start to finish, with some luscious harmonies between Dan Byron's sensitive and moving lead vocals and some exceptional female backing from Lu Cozma. The whole band, and especially a man who is fast becoming one of my favourite keyboardists, the marvellously named 6Fingers, create a loving and moving pastiche. At the denouement, just when you think it can't become any better, Costin Oprea creates an incredible electric guitar burst.

The longest track on the album, A Poem Without An End, clocks in at 7:40 minutes, and is simply superlative. The keyboards on this piece of music tell enough of a story in themselves, but when you add to the equation the thoughtful and, I believe, deliberately underplayed lyrics and vocals by Dan Byron, you have here one of the finest pieces of rock music produced in the new decade, it is that good. The explosions of sound add to what is, at its heart, a pure melodic joy. The utter simplicity, and technical virtuosity, of 6Fingers' work makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up on this track. Thoughtful crossover prog at its very best, with a massive wall of sound to delight purists at the closing passages to boot.

Lastly, Vitruvian Man, which, again, features such incredible piano and keys work that make you want to weep at the beauty of it all. The vocal performance by Byron is also superlative, and it is in this area that, I feel, the most profound improvement has come about from the debut. When he sings to you "Feel alive, back home", all you can do is really gawp at the music player. This is a track which has, at its heart, a melancholic story, but produces such an uplifting feel as to make you really be grateful to be alive. Utterly superb, and the only petty criticism I have is that the track deserves longer than the less than four minutes given.

So, three works of such genius, if they were an EP, I would have no hesitation in awarding the ultimate masterpiece status. Does that mean the rest of it is bad? Not a bit of it. The problem is, for rating purposes, the remainder is merely excellent.

Diggin' A hole is just about the most fun I have had in listening to a track in years. Utterly manic, purely eclectic in a bonkers manner, it is out of keeping with much of the rest of the album, but in a great way. The vocals are a hoot (it strikes me as being just a fun time out), there are some great brass moments and neo world music thrown in for good measure.

A Little Bit Deranged continues the eclectic and slightly mad theme, certainly lyrically, but it is the musicianship that really holds it all together. Very bluesy in parts, and featuring some of the beautiful flute playing that so impressed me on the first album (more on the next one please!).

I Don't Want To Entertain You is perhaps the closest the album comes to throwaway, being just a little bit too knowingly self deprecating for its own good.

King Of Clowns is a fantastic rock track, with very clear post modern sensibilities, and if it wasn't a hit single in Romania, I would like to know why not. The jazzy rhythm section is fantastic, and the track closes with more sensitive piano work.

The Song That Never Was provides us with emotion and great rock in the jazz tradition that marks most of the finest bands we love.

Sirens provides us with perhaps the nicest sea faring track since Procol Harum's A Salty Dog, this one is a great track which provides the Eastern European folk feel that so delighted me on the first album. 6Fingers' accordion is great.

The Alchemist is an old fashioned rocker, held together by more exceptionally tight rhythm section work, and another candidate for a hit single, if only radio these days in the commercial world would play such tracks. The mood veers from shades of Purple, to Van Der Graaf, to the best of modern heavy prog.

Blinded By Sunshine highlights the band's strong jazz tendencies, with keys again very strongly to the fore, whilst the album closer, A Peaceful Mind provides us with a fitting emotional and grand sounding finale. The string quartet at the fore is a delight, and this track has commercial folk/symphonic classic written all over it. A great way to finish a superb album.

There is one hell of a lot going on on this album, in much the same way as Forbidden Drama. It is absolutely impossible to accurately classify, but one thing is for sure, this is a superb album, and I will again register my gratitude to Alex for introducing me to a band whose work will be playing on my system for many years to come.

Four stars, but 4.5 in reality. Just a whisker close to the masterpiece, I predict that the next one will blow our wigs off in delight.

I cannot recommend this band to you all highly enough.

Review by colorofmoney91
4 stars This album is absolutely incredible, and is probably one of the most instantly lovable albums I've heard in a long time.

Progressive alternative rock with jazz and funk tendencies is how I'd sum up the album as a whole. Initially the first three tracks got me hooked, but the softer tracks that followed kind of put me off guard, but those slower songs revealed themselves to be incredibly beautiful, and full of jazzy melody, not to mention Dan Byron's intense-yet-beautiful voice. This is a prog album I'd recommend to my mother.

I'm getting a Counting Crows or Dave Mathew's Band kind of vibe from this band, but added funk and jazz tendencies, which makes it not only accessible but also interesting and full of integrity and knowledgeable writing. The lyrics, also, are exceptional. Normally this kind of sound isn't my kind of thing, but this group hits all my soft spots so well.

The funky bass solo at the end of "Blinded by Sunshine" is one of the fine moments from this standout track on this standout album. Other notable standouts include, but are not limited to: "Zeitgeist", "War", "A Poem Without an End" & "Sirens".

Besides being an awesome album, it's also a free album; it's a win-win situation. This would be a great addition to your collection of progressive rock, but among all the crossover bands, I personally would call this a masterpiece based on its integrity and accessibility.

Latest members reviews

4 stars A beautiful and melodic Alternative Prog record. Lots of styles are explored in this record with lots of Experimental Alternative which can be found in most of the tracks. It also features lots of mellow, highly melodic tracks like the opener 'The Night' which is a fantastic introduction that se ... (read more)

Report this review (#421651) | Posted by topographicbroadways | Thursday, March 24, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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