I never before had heard of ALKEMYST, hands down. And they are with Nuclear Blast? Wow, quite a big name to be under for a debut, actually I am not even sure that they ever had a French band of that style…
Anyways, this quintet basically plays Power Metal. Ok, after losing half our readers already by the mentioning of this style, I can continue by saying that they do not play your standardized Power Metal, but spice it up with some progressive elements as well, and while listening to "Meeting In The Mist", two band names came to my mind: old ANGRA and DREAM CHILD. Now while many of you will be familiar with the name of ANGRA from Brazil, DREAM CHILD are a different story altogether, I guess. They've been a French band that had at least one album out via Metal Blade a few years back and the voice reminds me of Gérard Fois (formerly of DREAM CHILD, now ETERNAL FLIGHT) quite a bit. And this voice does not belong to a Frenchie, but to Ramon Messina, originally with Italian outfit SECRET SPHERE (coincidentally also with Nuclear Blast, but that only on the side…).
And ALKEMYST's sound undeniably is European, with the symphonic element, the driving double bass, the choirs, the vocal style, the kind of melodies, like said, there is no denial. But I like this style, so how IS this album now? Well, you definitely hear that this Bordeaux based quintet is not an absolute newcomer to the scene, but already has been around for 10 years, because the songs show a remarkable maturity and density, along with equally remarkable musicianship that propels them ahead of many fellow newbies right from the start.
Messina's voice has the strength to carry a song and the at times very Power Metal-ly songs and structures always are loosened up with a certain level of progressiveness, but without letting the expertly crafted compositions cross over into Progressive Metal per se, just enough to spice things up. The production also is powerful and clear, giving songs like the driving "Up To Heaven's Gate", the excellent "Hold On To Your Dreams" or the mammoth epos "Nameless Son" the clarity and drive they need and deserve.
A very promising debut of this French outfit that raises the stakes for their follow up quite a bit, now the question that remains open is, if they will get the chance and time they again need and deserve by their label to build on the foundation of this album and continue to evolve… (Online August 3, 2003)