REVIEW: Epica – The Alchemy Project

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For a few months, symphonic metal act EPICA have been hinting towards something they referred to as “the secret project,” so when we heard what the actual plan was, we were truly excited! “The Alchemy Project” is essentially a project where EPICA have collaborated with other musicians and bands, creating hybrid tracks. It was released on November 11th, 2022, via their new label, Atomic Fire Records. We’re here to tell you all about what EPICA and their guests have in store for us…

Admittedly, that half of the collaborations are with guests that I wouldn’t have expected to hear on an EPICA album. The opening track, “The Great Tribulation,” was itself already a big surprise. In this song, the universe of FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE and EPICA blend together perfectly. Aggressive riffs and drumming accompany Simone Simons vocals, balanced in between fragments of trademark EPICA, along with beautiful orchestrations. Towards the end, you can also hear soprano Veronica Bordacchini spicing up the track with her beautiful operatic vocals.

If you thought this was an odd pairing, then you might be surprised that the next track (“Wake the World”) includes URIAH HEEP‘s keyboardist Phil Lanzon and KAMELOT‘s Tommy Karevik. Lanzon is such an icon in hard rock music that you instantaneously recognize his keyboard melodies and chords. It adds a very specific and special atmosphere. Hearing Tommy Karevik is not as much of a surprise, as it is completely understandable why they have chosen his warm, melancholic timbre for this track. The solo is really fun, in classic URIAH HEEP style, something I definitely would not have expected from an EPICA record.

One of the most fun tracks on this unique blend of music is the collaboration with the Norwegian art-metal act, SHINING. “The Final Lullaby” includes those fun SHINING grooves and naturally, the saxophone, an instrument that truly should be used a hell of a lot more in metal. “Siren – Of Blood and Water” includes Charlotte Wessels and MYRKUR on vocals. As the title somehow already reveals, the most important factor in this song is the magic between the three vocalists. This is perhaps the reason for this being the most minimal track, but it does get a heavy kick during the first chorus.

“Death Is Not the End” features Björn Strid of SOILWORK and guitarist Frank Schiphorst and shows the heavier, less symphonic side of the record. “Human Devastation” follows that trend, featuring the newest addition to Atomic Fire‘s roster, GOD DETHRONED and Sven De Caluwé of ABORTED. Both of these are mostly guitar-heavy, especially the latter, being more death metal focused, which is something we haven’t heard of yet in EPICA‘s music; a wonderful surprise once again.

The last and longest track, “The Miner,” features Finland’s Asim Searah and Niilo Sevänen, along with Dutch POWERWOLF drummer Roel Van Helden. Admittedly, this was one of the tracks wherein it was impossible to predict what to expect. Asim Searah‘s unique timbre blend surprisingly well with that of Simone Simons. Niilo Sevänen‘s added growls are a nice touch that lift the atmospheric mood to the next level. Altogether, this makes for a great lingering end that makes you long for more.

All-in-all, “The Alchemy Project” was definitely a surprising twist in EPICA’s long career. It is nice that we can see a different side of the band by including different collaborations with musicians we certainly did not expect to hear alongside EPICA! There are plenty of different things to like here, from more progressive and atmospheric elements to straight-out death metal. I can only hope that more artists would approach music this way and even wonder whether EPICA would do this again in the future, or if this is just a one-time thing only. Only time will tell.

Tracklist

The Great Tribulation ft. Fleshgod Apocalypse

  1. Wake the World ft. Phil Lanzon (Uriah Heep) & Tommy Karevik (Kamelot)
  2. The Final Lullaby ft. Shining
  3. Sirens – Of Blood and Water ft. Charlotte Wessels & Myrkur
  4. Death is not the End ft. Frank Schiphorst (MaYaN) & Björn “Speed” Strid (Soilwork)
  5. Human Devastation ft. Henri Sattler (God Dethroned), Sven de Caluwé (Aborted)
  6. The Miner ft. Asim Searah (Damnation Plan), Niilo Sevänen (Insomnium), Roel van Helden (Powerwolf)

Lineup

Simone Simons – lead and backing vocals
Mark Jansen – guitars, growled vocals
Isaac Delahaye – guitars
Coen Janssen – piano, synthesizer
Rob van der Loo – bass
Ariën van Weesenbeek – drums, vocals

Label

Atomic Fire Records

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