Now listen carefully, people I'm only going to say this once. You need to listen to this album. Further to that, most people need to own it. I hate to kick off with such a blatant endorsement that has now leached out all sense of suspense from reading this modest review, but frankly this is the most refreshing and urgent record I have heard in a number of years.
And the oddest thing is, the gut instinct is that it shouldn't work. This is such a stark contrast of style and it could have gone horribly, horribly wrong. That it comes together so smoothly and easily is a timely reminder that the confines of genre and musical tradition are misleading at best, and a complete facade at worst.
But what the hell do Invasion sound like, I hear you scream as you batter away at the screen with your eyes. A midair collision between the stoner blueprints of Sabbath, the lush female vocal delivery of Motown and the adrenalized body blows of pure punk rock. Tracks are tightened to the absolute minimum to deliver impact, mostly hovering around the two minute mark. This leaves just enough time for you to roll your head in some kind of sludge bliss without spinning out to doom metal-esque epic length. Which considering an awful lot of the lyricism on show is from the wizards-and-dragons school of wordplay, helps keep the band away from prog territory.
Instead what you have is crunching guitars and the tight impetus of pounding drumwork, with the truly excellent, rich vocals of Chan riding the instrumentation all the way to the outer reaches of space and time. Album opener Follow The Smoke is a transcendental drone leading into Conjure War, which burns into your eardrums like a mission statement and tells you everything you need to know about the following half hour. The drums kick in like the heartbeat of a mad god and you're swallowed whole. That this level of groove is maintained without any bass guitar presence makes it even more remarkable. The album as a whole is fairly consistent, although there is the occasional filler spot especially the eponymous 'Invasion', which feels like the band needed an extra song to pad out sets and threw it into a recording session while they were at it.
Even reduced to the instrumentation, Invasion would be an energetic suckerpunch of metal joy. But the intriguing blend of styles pushed forward by the vocals is truly what makes this. At time the tight use of toms and snares flow with the singing to almost feel like there is a disco influence at play, which is a strange sensation indeed when you are listening to song titles like Spells Of Deception and Chaos & The Ancient Night. Stranger still is how natural it feels.
I feel I can't explicitly express how different and vital The Master Alchemist sounds. You have probably already gathered that I like this record quite a lot, so Ill just leave you with one last thought - this is alternative music conducting cross-pollination and innovation at the level we should expect in the 21st century. Accept nothing less.
Black Sabbath, White Zombie, The Freezing Fog
9.4 / 10
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