Epica’s “The Alchemy Project”: the new mini-album of epic collaborations

Author Julia Suloinen - 22.11.2022

Collaborations within the metal scene are not something unusual. On contrary, we are all used to them and enjoy them wholeheartedly, as it’s always curious to hear how the featuring guest will fit into the band’s original music. Epica‘s new mini-album “The Alchemy Project”, being totally a collaborative event, is, evidently, given its title for a reason, as not a single song there is like the typical “mainly the band but also featuring someone else” kind of thing. No, all elements of this, unimaginably ambitious, project blend in a mind-blowing interplay, producing a unique magical chemical reaction. Seven magical chemical reactions, to be precise. 

The very first tunes of the album from the song “The Great Tribulation” are nothing but Epica‘s trademark symphonic arrangements with an elegant and dramatic choir. Nothing new, but that’s only until Fleshgod Apocalypse reveal their presence in this song with their groovy heaviness, raging blast-beats, and recognizable extreme vocals. Epica is not new to the “beauty and the beast” kind of singing narration, yet here Simone’s gentle and majestic soprano takes turns with the shaking roars of Francesco Paoli and thus delivers such a huge volume of contrast and dynamic you’ve probably never heard from Epica before. Gotta say, it suits Simone’s voice to be framed in something heavier than it usually is. This song is an example of how Epica‘s melodic component and Fleshgod Apocalypse’s fierce harshness perfectly interlace.

“Wake The World” sets up the measured rhythm in the very beginning, and as soon as the very first keyboard note comes in we recognize the maestro Phil Lanzo from Uriah Heep. Have I ever thought about Epica collaborating with Uriah Heep? Nope. As well as I’ve hardly ever imagined, even jokingly, that Uriah Heep would take part in the same project with Fleshgod Apocalypse, yet here they all are, and that’s so awesome! “Wake The World” is also marked by the presence of Tommy Karevik, the voice of Kamelot, who’s already been Simone’s vocal partner in crime several times. Tommy entrances the song with a laconic vocal chant and by the middle of the song you start worrying if one of the best and most versatile male voices in nowadays metal is given some lyrics to sing. But, of course, Tommy is given a chance to say his word here. This song ends up being a magnificent and grandiose choir with two leading clean vocals, growls, and a background symphony of voices, and its major message is the necessity of peace and togetherness in the modern realities, which is extremely relevant, but with a slight 70s vibe.

I guess, if this album were a statement, it’d surely be the “expect the unexpected” kind of thing, because, come on, Epica having saxophone in their song? And that’s exactly what happens when you do a song together with the avant-guard metal band Shining. This song is also pretty apocalyptic by the lyrics, but very uplifting and energizing by the tune. The next song, “Sirens – Of Blood And Water”, is fully a girl-power thing, with Simone’s luxurious soprano strengthened by the fellow “sirens” Charlotte Wessels(ex-Delain) & Myrkur. This slow enchanting song, filled with magical creepiness, is truly one of the brightest gems on the album. Yet, I felt the lack of polyphony when girls were singing together. All three voice tones here sound quite alike, and I bet, having less unison singing would deliver more to the atmosphere of the song.

“Death Is Not The End” is a brutal blender banger thing with Björn “Speed” Strid from Soilwork roaring on vocals and Mayan‘s shredder Frank Schiphorst responsible for guitar action. Simone’s singing in this song makes such a bursting contrast with the music and the male vocals that it produces the impression of a little girl with a violin suddenly appearing in the heat of the bloody mass fight. The song is a bit monotonous, but due to it, the airy guitar solo becomes even more vivid. The following song, “Human Devastation”, goes on with absolutely the same mood in all dimensions, as the previous one. The shortest song on the album, with a lot of grind and very little Epica. The ones we must thank for that are Henri Sattler from God Dethroned and Sven de Caluwé from Aborted. This time the girl with a violin didn`t show up to the fight at all, boys are having a party of their own here. 

The closing act of the album enshrouds us with the powerful and cold aloofness I find very recognizable – Niilo Sevanen, obviously, brought the trademark atmosphere of Insomnium with him. The distinguished drums on this song are on Roel Van Helden from Powerwolf, and the third voice, besides Simone(who’s back after a short break) and Niilo belongs to Asim Searah(ex-WintersunDamnation Plan), whose manner of singing brings that exact entrancing oriental vibe to the song. Oriental motives’ve been exploited by Epica joyously from time to time, and I am glad that in this song it’s unfolded in the full splendor, ’cause here it makes the song sound like fire and ice coming together – and I still can’t decide which side Simone sticks to, by the way! – telling us a long, beautifully melancholic, story. This is my personal favorite on the album, there is a certain hypnotism in this song that can hardly be explained, probably just a perfect combination of ingredients for the final, most epic, alchemic reaction.

To sum up everything aforesaid – this album is a perfect example of what happens when so many skillful open-minded professionals with their own style and vision gather together. Thank you, Epica, for fulfilling this project, for pushing your boundaries and, once again, for raising the metal music bar sky high.