Amorphis and Alchemist

Record Review

Phases and Stages


Chapters (Relapse)


Austral Alien (Relapse)

The difference between imported and domestic nü-metal lies in the water supply. Here, all contaminants are drawn from exactly the same pool (of blood): Metallica and Metallica's chromosomal aberration, Limp Bizkit. The rest of the globe is no less Meta-infested, but a host of broader influenza infects their metallic spawn, resulting in an ever-mutating sound that's hair-raising compared to the parasitic homogeneity of Clear Channel's Armed Forces Network (FM radio). Hailing from Finland, Amorphis encrypts all things Euro into its laser prism dual-guitar attack: Iron Maiden, lousy weather, and the Dark Ages. A decade's worth of fluorescent gloom is frozen onto 77 minutes of Chapters, which chronologically highlights tracks from the band's seven LPs and numerous EPs. "Alone," off 2001's Am Universum, opens with perfectly Tefloned Creed, their Lillian Axes obvious descendants of Seventies art-rock rather than Alice in Chains, however. Six tracks from Am Universum and 1999 predecessor Tuonela fluoridate previously murky bogs; working back from 1995's Elegy, death metal vox go hand in spleen with a terrific "Trooper"-like assault. The six-string harmonies of "Drowned Maid," via sophomore spike Tales From the Thousand Lakes, are wrought-iron cast, while a trio of machine-gunners from debut The Karelian Isthmus (1992) -- "Warriors Trial," "The Exile of the Sons of Uisliu," and Mt. Doom classic "The Lost Name of God" -- reanimate fiercely. Chapters' bonus DVD could've/should've been more historically relative than five post-Tool videos. Like Amorphis, Australia's Alchemist is now five albums into a metal legacy, thanks to Rush-punned Austral-Alien. They too have cleaned up their act over the years (15), but with Alchemist, that means burying hazardous waste. "First Contact" puts the reactor online, a firestorm of guitars atomizing the path for Road Warrior vocals out front of Orion's chorus. Kyuss meets Isaac Asimov. "Solarburn" shares the underground megaton detonation of true nü-metallurgists such as Kinski, Isis, and even Godspeed You! Black Emperor; the echoplex of "Alpha Cappella Nova Vega" is an air-lock spectre "Older Than the Ancients." By the time "Letter to the Future" is sent, Austral Alien has vaporized a not-so-vital chapter in nü-metal -- the last one.

(Both) ***.5

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