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Nolan; Clive: Alchemy

With some of his recent work Arena and Pendragon main-man Clive Nolan has made no secret of his desire to move his music in a more theatrical direction. The likes of his SHE project already being realised as a stage production. However with the double album Alchemy, Nolan has gone the whole hog, putting together a lengthy piece of narrative music which combines spoken sections with more traditional vocals, to piece together what sounds more like the soundtrack of a show, than a concept album. The convincing nature of both the music itself and the story - which tells the tale of a Victorian adventure set in 1842, where a mixture of deception, evil, legend and of course alchemy, cause all kinds of peril - are a testament to Nolan's undoubted skills.

The cast list for Alchemy reads like a who's who of neo prog rock, with vocal contributions from the likes of Tracy Hitchings (Landmarq), Andy Sears (Twelfth Night), Paul Manzi (Arena), Damian Wilson (Threshold), Paul Menel (IQ) and David Clifford (Red Jasper). Nolan's fellow SHE contributor Agnieszka Swita and Uruguayan singer/actress Noel Calcaterra from his South American Otra Vida project also play main roles, while the 'Caamora' company band of Nolan on keys, Mark Westwood guitars, Scott Higham drums, Claudio Momberg also on keys and Kylan Amos on bass, provide the excellent musical accompaniment.

Musically Nolan manages to portray just how theatrical neo prog is, by refusing to change tack from the style you'd happily pay your money to hear Arena or Pendragon pursue. The two CDs being crammed with a mix of intimate little pieces used to encourage the story along and booming clarion calls of strutting guitar, blazing beats and over the top vocals. If you've enjoyed any of Nolan's more celebrated previous work, then not only will you connect with Alchemy, but you'll also find it a familiar place to spend a few hours. However for all the reasons to recommend this album, there are also a number of niggles that prevent it from becoming an unmitigated success. Excellent singers though they are, the unusual accents from Swita and Calcaterra feel off kilter in what is intended to be a universally English tale, while the overtly storytelling style of narratives and asides mean that repeat visits become a bit of a trudge with the music broken down too often by sections which will be vital and interesting on stage, but are slow and cumbersome on CD. This makes Alchemy a challenging album to rate, as I found it a compelling and hugely enjoyable initial listen, while repeat visits became tiresome and decidedly less engaging.

By now Nolan will already have premiered Alchemy live at the Wyspianski Theatre in Katowice, which therefore means we can look forward to, what with it being their default venue, a subsequent MetalMind DVD incarnation of this piece that may well prove to have a longer shelf life than this CD version. Nolan fans will lap this up and while I strongly class myself in that category, I can't deny that while I've hugely enjoyed experiencing Alchemy, I very much doubt I will dabble with it on anything like a regular basis.

Track Listing
Act I
1. Prologue/Overture
2. Deception
3. One for the Noose
4. The Warning
5. Amelia
6. King Explains
7. Desperate Days
8. Planning a Break-in
9. Quaternary Plan
10. The Unwelcome Guest
11. Waiting for News
12. The Girl I Was
13. Highgate

Act II
1. The Labyrinth
2. Ambush
3. Tide of Wealth
4. Jagman Arrives
5. The End Justifies the Means
6. Sanctuary
7. Street Fight
8. Amelia Dies
9. Burial at Sea
10. Share this Dream
11. Treachery
12. The Ritual
13. Anzeray Speaks
14. Aftermath

Added: May 26th 2013
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Clive Nolan Online
Hits: 1952
Language: english

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