Through Painful Lanes
8/8/2008 - Review by: Brad Caplan
Alkemyst might just put France on the metal map
A Tower of Power (Metal) from France...
These are good times for fans of Power Metal. Bands like DragonForce, Sonata Arctica and Nightwish are enjoying success and more attention than this genre has received in a long time. One benefit of all this is that bands like Alkemyst get a chance to show what they can do over the span of a few years and gain the attention of record labels. Alkemyst, a French band was formed in 1998 and has released a few demos as well as two full length albums. Their new cd is called "Through Painful Lanes" and is a very good Power Metal album with excellent production (self produced at Taurus Studio in Geneva, Switzerland).
The band has enjoyed the same line-up since 2000 and their chemistry (no pun intended) is evident on the new album. Power Metal or Melodic Metal is a good description of their sound, but there are some other influences mixed in. They included a cover of the Helloween tune "Eagle Fly Free".
The album opens with the sound of a church bell and a chorus of what sounds like monks, but that quickly gives way to a blistering guitar intro. Off tempo rhythms, up tempo drums and lots of guitar riffs comprise "The Beast Within". Ramon Messina is the lead singer and displays an excellent range. Multiple vocal parts and harmonies make a nice complement to the complex riffs on this opening track. A nice twist when they slow things down to an acoustic section in the middle of the song - not your run of the mill power metal song at all.
The second track is "Another You" which starts out with a Dream Theater-like opening (not a bad thing) to the point where I almost expect James LaBrie to start singing. Definitely some Progressive Rock/Metal capabilities and influences on display. Similar to the first track in that you do not need to listed to this 5 times to get wrapped up in it. There is some excellent guitar work from Séverin Bonneville and Arnaud Ménard who have been learning to feed off one another for the past 10 years.
I guess the one thing that really drives this album forward is Alkemyst's sense of melody. While these songs have a fairly high level of complexity, it is very easy to listen to. Fans of Kamelot and even Riverside will hear songs that they can really get into.
"Enter the Carnival" opens with guitar run that may remind some of Yngwie, and the song that follows would not be out of place on just about any YJM album. Again, for some that will be a nice surprise, and perhaps a turn off for others, but it fits well on this album. Drummer Arnaud Gorbaty definitely shows his speed capability on this track.
"Restless Show" is another song that has progressive rhythms and a Dream Theater feel to it. The one song that changes things up even more is the ballad/mid-tempo track "Everlasting Farewells". Several of the songs on this album have time signature changes in the middle, so those who prefer the straight forward approach may have some difficulty. I find it refreshing and it definitely demonstrates their songwriting skills and creativity.
"The Grand Illusion" (not the Styx tune, though that might have been interesting) is a fast paced power metal song with nice harmonies. You can hear the effort that was put into the production - apparently they spent quite a while in their Geneva studio getting the sound just right. Their efforts paid off with an album that has good sound quality making this an even more enjoyable album to listen to all the way through.
The final track on the US version of the album is the Helloween cover "Eagle Fly Free" (the Japanese release includes a bonus track "Might Power Fool"). Since the first 8 tracks of this album work so well together, I accept this last track as a nice extra, though I am not sure it adds anything to the overall collection of songs. Makes me think that I need to go back and listen to some old Helloween since I never really got into them when they were at their peak.
Bottom line - this is a very good album from a band that is clearly finding its groove. Fans of Dream Theater, Kamelot, etc. should really enjoy it. Alkemyst might just put France on the metal map. Those that really enjoy this album should check out their 2003 release "Meeting in the Mist".
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