Canberra's Alchemist has always had a reputation for being a special and unique underground metal act. Born in 1987, it took the band until 1993 to find a label in the form of Austria's Lethal, which happened to be no better than being labelless. The debut sounded badly produced and with Lethal ripping off the band (see Acheron and other bands) it was a case of one step forward and two steps backward.
Lunasphere on Australia's Shock/Thrust Records was a little more streamlined. The band toured with the likes of Napalm Death and Fear Factory and proceeded to add some loops, keyboards and more eastern influences to its sound. Alchemist's Jar Of Kingdom was being re-released with a new cover by guitarist Roy in 1999. The album also featured new photos, information and the band's 1991 demo. Not to live in the past, the band was working on a new video and have five new songs in the can for a new CD
The band issued Austral Alien on Relapse in 2003. The band announced a compilation CD, called Embryonics, for 2005, which was to be accompanied by a DVD. Tripsis was issued in October of 2007. The band said bye-bye in 2010.
The band members were in charge of Australia's Metal For The Brain festival.
ALCHEMIST - EMBRYONICS - RELAPSE
Embryonics is an extensive compilation of Australia’s Alchemist before the band signed to Relapse Records. Many of the band’s songs from its demos and previous albums, plus several unreleased songs are made available here. For newer fans or band collectors Embryonics is a must-have package. The booklet features history, graphics and notes by the members.
I, on the other hand, have been wondering why I have been thinking highly of the band for some time now. Having been exposed to a couple of Alchemist songs several years ago my impression was that it is an innovative and offbeat metal group that needs to be looked into more closely as soon as possible. Instead, what Embryonics has made me realize is that the Australians are not even metal. Even the CD describes the band’s music as “alternative.” Alchemist’s music is jazzy, note-plucking, and progressive with unusual instrumentation and failed experimentation. People have the habit of calling the band 'death metal,' which is bizarre. This is neither heavy nor even metal. Putting Alchemist in the same category as Fleshcrawl and Vader is like saying a rat is akin to a lion because they both sport tails. Yes, Alchemist indeed uses guitars”¦
Making it all worse is that the ideas rarely gel, are all over the place, the vocals are positively horrible and sound like dry howls when they are not just spoken and the band is admired by 1,001 reviewers who have nothing better to do than lead the readers astray and as far away from real heavy metal as possible. At least, the band/label agrees that this should be labelled as alternative music. - Anna Tergel
ALCHEMIST - TRIPSIS - RELAPSE
There’s this esoteric, hard to pin down quality about a band like Killing Joke, the classic unheralded group that inspired a whole legion of dark music listeners to vent their rage. Killing Joke experimented with a lot of different styles and sounds, but throughout it all unmitigated dark and explosive fury was the collective’s central theme, no matter what genre they were embracing. Alchemist is, sonically and philosophically, on a similar plain, and while listening to Tripsis my mind reverts back to Killing Joke continuously. Of course, Alchemist is also the product of several other influences: old-school Nine Inch Nails and mid-era Ministry are prevalent, as is Soul Of A New Machine-era Fear Factory. But, paradoxically, Alchemist sounds like no one but itself, this Australian band really forging the path less travelled. Despite the fact that Alchemist has been around since 1987 (explaining the influences noted above, no doubt), the unit seems to be hitting its stride at the twenty year mark -- let’s hope there’s still lots left in the Alchemist muse. An excellent record. - David Perri