Review || Epica - "The Alchemy Project" EP


 

Epica reveals a new EP on November 11 2022, titled “The Alchemy Project”. The Dutchies, who released a brilliant record last year, have been very active in the meantime, executing an amazing livestream performance, re-releasing their first 3 albums and the iconic “We Will Take You With Us” studio session (now fittingly titled "We Still Take You With Us") and the revamped “Live At Paradiso”, and of course let’s not forget the 20th anniversary show at 013, where everything began and where, as a tribute, they played a set based on “The Phantom Agony” album under the Sahara Dust moniker. And when you’d think that Epica couldn’t be able to fit more onto their plate, this EP comes to prove that these people just can’t stay idle.

Now, if you know me, you know that my relationship with the Epica EP’s is a weird one; when they follow the release of an album, I have a hard time distinguishing if the songs are b-sides that didn’t make the cut for the LP, separate projects or small fixes for us addicts who always want more. “The Alchemy Project” is in its core a little different from what we’ve seen so far. It’s a collaborative project where Epica invited musicians from very different genres on –to put it plainly- a playdate and the result are the 7 tracks of this EP. Inviting more people in your kitchen always feels like a daunting challenge but rest assured that Epica knows what they’re doing. The first sample of the project was presented on the anniversary show, where they performed the song “Final Lullaby” with guests Shining and received positive feedback. 

The songs as expected lean heavily on Epica's songwriting style, where the guests add layers of different elements, which in some cases work amazingly well, but in others they can feel a little ornamental making little to no difference. One of the songs I was most eager to hear was the collaboration with Myrkyr and Charlotte Wessels, titled “Sirens – Of Blood And Water”. True to its title, it tells the story of the sisters of the sea, where the singers assume the characteristics attributed to sirens throughout different mythologies and all more so, vocalize parts of the instrumentation, adding more into the siren identity. What amazed me the most was how well their voices match, allowing them a great range of expression even on the backing harmonies. The second song I was curious about was probably the (assumingly death metal) collab with God Dethroned and Aborted vocalists, Henri Sattler and Sven de Caluwé. Why, I hear you ask? Because Epica guitarist Isaac Delahaye and drummer Ariën Van Weesenbeek used to play in God Dethroned and since entering the band circa “The Divine Conspiracy” have helped establish a varied but definitely harsher tone in the band’s song structures. The track indeed lived up to my expectations and delivers a good old metal rampage with groovy riffs and scything solos. And I swear to God, and mark my words, this had to be a Mayan song that got sacrificed to the cause.

I can be quite elitist when it comes to Epica (and I’m quite unapologetic about it) and can positively say I am mostly content with the songs. I love how “Wake The World”, which features Uriah Heep’s Phil Lanzon and Kamelot’s Tommy Karevik, accommodates the sounds where the respective guests thrive and also reminisce of other projects they may have appeared on (let’s not forget that Tommy is one of the guests in Arjen Lucassen’s “Ayreon Universe” and the protagonist in Ayreon’s latest album, “Transitus”, where he also worked with Simone Simons for the first time). The result is a song with heavy classic rock influences that still manages to sound fresh and interesting. On the other hand, on opener and single “The Great Tribulation” featuring Italian symphonic blacksters Fleshgod Apocalypse, there seems to be no actual distinction between the songwriting and, if you ask me, the track could have been an Epica creation on its own merit.

Overall, “The Alchemy Project” is a very interesting project where Epica proved once again how well they can think out of the box (remember the metallic jazz rendition of “Beyond The Matrix” with the Metropole Orkest?) and gave us more things to obsess over. The songs are quite catchy and cleverly constructed that cater the needs of the different facets of their fanbase, no matter what scene they’re coming from. The guests for the most part were inspired choices and worked well with the raw materials the Dutchies offer. The outcome is definitely diverse but still Epica to its core.

8/10


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