Alchemy was an early form of science, mostly consisting of chemistry, which attempted to change, or transmute, valueless metals such as lead into precious metals like gold. It also dealt with other similarly esoteric tasks; immortality, curing all disease, and creating potions. Whilst comparing instrumental prog metal to a bar of lead might be a bit harsh on the genre, it’s certainly a challenging genre to succeed in. Keeping your listener engaged and entertained without any vocal melody or lyrics is no mean feat.
Luckily for us, A.I.(d)‘s Alchemy is more gold than lead.
French djent enigma ‘Lou’, A.K.A A.I.(d) shares musical duties with his computer for a heavy-synth-djent romp of epic length. Whilst Alchemy mostly sticks within a single genre, it does so in a diverse and engaging way. Songs go from crushingly heavy breakdowns to transcendent guitar and synth melodies and back again, often in the course of a single song. It’s great to get so much packed into single songs, but this sometimes means tracks extend to pretty significant lengths. It can be a bit of a chore to sit through 8 minutes to get to the two minutes at the end of a piece that you like. This is nothing new for progressive rock fans, but even still, it can be frustrating to be stuck, musically, in a place you don’t like for any amount of time. The album itself is of a pretty monumental length as well, so getting all the way through without there being a single section you don’t enjoy is a pretty big ask. Personally, I found there to be enough variety to keep me entertained throughout, but your mileage may vary.
Luckily for the listener, A.I.(d) is a skilled craftsman indeed, and he weaves his particular brand of electronic metal destruction together with an expert hand. He adeptly wields both guitar and synths to create a number of strong tracks which carry the weaker material easily. A.I.(d) also approaches musical issues from fresh and interesting angles, leading Alchemy to engage and entertain its listener. There’s a lot of variety in terms of tone, which keeps your journey through this Odyssey of an album fresh and interesting. This diversity is also demonstrated in the album’s song structures; each song has its own feel, but contain enough variety to make them genuinely interesting listening experiences. “Sandblaster” sounds like it’s from an early 2000s console game, “Invisible Clouds” is complex yet straightforward, and “Dramatic Laziness” sounds like John Browne and Remi Gallego made sweet sweet love on top of a stack of amps. The point is that none of them sound boring.
Speaking of Remi, there’s an inevitable comparison between A.I.(d) and The Algorithm; they’re different, but they both inhabit the same glitchy-electronic-djent sphere. Don’t take what I’m about to say the wrong way; I love The Algorithm, they’re one of the best live acts around, and they really put a new and interesting spin on what can be an over-saturated genre. But, as far as I’m concerned; A.I.(d) does everything The Algorithm does, but better. When I saw The Algorithm, I quite often found myself losing track of which song was playing. Admittedly, this was partly because of the style of the music, and because I wasn’t super familiar with all the material being played. Nonetheless, after a while, glitch breakdowns all start to sound the same. By contrast, Alchemy manages to stay fresh and novel throughout; things don’t get boring and repetitive, and the album keeps changing things up
Alchemy is an absolutely great album, made even better by the fact that A.I.(d) has been kind enough to release his work for free! Normally at this stage in the review, I like to include some sort of way I feel it could be improved, but Alchemy is such a good balance of different features and ideas that I’m not sure changing anything would actually improve it; it’s just as likely to offset the finely tuned balance that makes the album so great.
Notable Tracks: “Sandblaster”; “Jashugan”
FFO: The Algorithm