Epica’s The Alchemy Project: symphonic metallers take a turn for the unexpected with left-field friends

Album review: symphonic metal A-listers Epica get on down with some unexpected guests on The Alchemy Project

Epica: The Alchemy Project album cover
(Image: © Atomic Fire)

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Having recently celebrated their 20th anniversary with a hugely ambitious concert and stream, multiple album re-releases and theatrical premieres of early live shows, Epica still aren’t done pulling out all the stops. Cue The Alchemy Project – a unique collaborative mini-album comprising seven tracks and a roster of special guests. It’s a line-up that’s as baffling as it is enticing; whoever thought they’d see prog veterans Uriah Heep credited on the same album as Fleshgod Apocalypse?

With such names attached, this was always going to be an eccentric record – and it is, but not necessarily to its detriment. Granted, there are times when the marriage of musical styles is a bit clunky and incongruous, particularly on The Great Tribulation and Human Devastation, where Simone Simons’ buttery soprano is juxtaposed with death metal growls that feel shoehorned in. It’s not as if harsh vocals are new to Epica, but the contrast with their music is so stark that they’re better when used as punctuation, as on other tracks like the apocalyptic The Final Lullaby.

Elsewhere, however, their experiment is a success. The rousing Wake The World, a duet with Kamelot crooner Tommy Karevik, has the high drama of a rock opera, but one of the more exciting appearances is that of ex-Delain singer Charlotte Wessels and Myrkur’s Amalie Bruun on Sirens. The singers portray ‘sisters of the sea’ who lure men to their deaths, which is just as dreamy as it sounds. The aforementioned The Final Lullaby, a surprising and brilliant duet with Norway’s Shining (which means there’s a sax solo – fuck yes), has the most stunning chorus, and best demonstrates the full potential of the album’s collaborative concept. Overall, The Alchemy Project is hit-and-miss, but still worth delving into for these heavy hitters.