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Alkemyst - 2008 Through Painful Lanes

ARTIST: Alkemyst
ALBUM: Through Painful Lanes
LABEL: Nightmare Records
YEAR: 2008


LINEUP: Roberto 'Ramon' Messina - vocals * Arnaud Menard - guitars * Severin Bonneville - guitars * Denis Mellion - bass, chapman stick * Arnaud Gorbaty - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 The Beast Within * 02 Another You * 03 When The Howling Comes * 04 Enter The Carnival * 05 Restless Show * 06 Everlasting Farewells * 07 The Grand Illusion * 08 Through Painful Lanes * 09 Eagle Fly Free



Five years ago, French band Alkemyst - and their debut album for Nuclear Blast entitled 'Meeting In The Mist' were one of the darlings of this site. Their slightly different brand of progressive metal struck our hearts, and the French/Italian quintet proved to be popular among many of the mags/zines and websites of the day. The band sort of slipped off the radar since those heady days, but in typical pugnacious style, the Mystic Ones return with a new album, produced by themselves and distributed through multiple agencies worldwide. Alkemyst still retain the same personnel from 2003, including Italian vocalist Roberto 'Ramon' Messina who was previously seen with Italian prog metallers Secret Sphere. So what have the band been up to since? Well, according to their bio, the band have spent three years getting the material together for this album. They then locked themselves away at Taurus Studios in Switzerland, working on what they perceive to be their most ambitious piece of work yet. The subject matter is enthralling. Mixing religion, individual destiny, 'Through Painful Lanes' is wrapped up as a concept album. Combining the speed of Dragonforce and intensity of Symphony X, Alkemyst pick up in 2008 where they left off five years earlier - without missing a beat.

The Songs
The new album opens up in a gothic fashion, with tolling bells and monastery flavoured vocals - leading us into 'The Beast Within'. Could this be a musical contribution for 'Underworld' or the 'Van Helsing' movies? The answer is probably no, as the lyrics drive deep into the dark part of the soul, where literally the beast exists within.. 'Another You' alternates between smooth (near jazz like) passages and the typical Alkemyst barrage. This song relates to trying to find your identity. 'When The Morning Comes' is shrouded in a deep Dream Theater veil, circa their first album 'When Dream And Day Unite'. The complexity of music and lyrics are taken to a new level. Messina operates in the same register as Charlie Dominici.. making for some terrific listening! The protagonist in this song appears to be on a hiding to nothing.. '.. now I know my time has come.. I'll die when the morning comes..' 'Enter The Carnival' is a dig at the false world in which we live in, the band implying that there is no future, and that history has ended, and that we are born into these times of confusion. It would seem that if we are to wink out of existence, then we should go out in a blaze of glory - Alkemyst style! The band mix it up on 'Restless Show', with slower passages offset by rapid fire riffing and drumwork. It started out in ballad mode, but it didn't stay that way for long. Dream Theater for my ears, is the reference point yet again. 'Everlasting Farewells' touches on the human emotion of suffering grief through loss, and how some of us deal with it. In this case (the song), not very well it would seem. Alkemyst do a great job trying to mirror the emotion to the music. It's all fire and brimstone on 'The Grand Illusion', Arnaud Gorbaty is nothing short of a human metronome on this track, how the rest of the band keep up him is astounding! This subject matter refers to the differentiation between reality and illusion. Sort of like a prog metal version of The Matrix perhaps? lol! The title track 'Through Painful Lanes' has an epic quality about it - this one is not so much about speed, but power and intensity. The lyrical content is quite macabre, it's hard to discern the light from the dark, while the song overall appears to be tale a about eternal struggle - it would seem. The band finish up with a cover of the Helloween chestnut 'Eagle Fly Free'. The only difference with this track (apart from the fact that it's a cover) is that it sounds quite happy and carefree.

In Summary
At some stage in the near future, we'll talk to the Alkemyst boys again, and hopefully try to cover off the conceptual aspects of the album. Musically, this is as a tight as Scrooge's back-pocket, no chance of loose change being strewn about here. Mellion and Gorbaty have the back-end locked down tight, Menard and Bonneville are the French equivalent of Downing and Tipton, while Messina sounds more impressive everytime I hear him. I understand he is no longer a member of Secret Sphere and has focused on other projects including Alkemyst. The major difference between their first album 'Meeting In The Mist' and this one is the intensity level, combined with the novelty factor. Back then Alkemyst were new (and a novelty as such), this time around we knew what to expect. 'Through Painful Lanes' may have a torturous title, but the music is far from that.. welcome back chaps!

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