Modern Alchemy is the debut album of the American five piece Elysium Theory. The band has a traditional band setting: Dan Peterson (vocals), Tim Reid (guitars), Benny Reyes (keyboards) and a rhythm section with bassist Jeff Fister and drummer Ted Feeney. While listening to the album, the first thing that strikes me is the low volume of the recordings. It could be just a manufacturing failure, but I think the mixing and mastering was done on a very low volume level. Some instruments could have been clearer and louder in the mix. When I played another CD after this one with the volume control on the same level I was just blown away! Hoping for a slightly better production or mix for the next album, but letís focus on the music of Elysium Theory.
The songs are somewhere between progressive rock and progressive metal: one song is heavy, but melodic and another one has lots of keyboards. Anyway, itís a nice mixture which is a pleasure to listen to. After the short instrumental opening Lorimerís Pulse, with fine guitar work in the vein of David Gilmour, the band kicks off with the title track. This oneís majestic, moody, grooving, with soaring guitars and vocalist Dan Peterson gets the chance to show his vocal abilities. This song sounds like a blend of Ice Age and Tiles. The album continues with the epic piece Spiritcom, an expressive song with emotional vocals, symphonic keyboards and massive guitar riffs. Opening with some great drum patterns, All Seeing Eye has a bit of a Dream Theater- touch; Danís voice definitely resembles James Labrie's. As I already noticed, the keyboard solo in the end is way to low in volume. Itís a great solo though, but unfortunately I could barely hear it. In Beyond Yourself, we have a well-played guitar and keyboard part, but the vocals sound a bit odd, a bit weird actually. Thatís strange because Peterson so far has proven to be a great vocalist. Fortunately, in The Source he takes his revenge and sounds great again; the double bass drums and the outstanding musicianship of the guitarist and the keyboardist lift this song to a very high musical level. In Chaos, Ted Feeney is providing with some of his most adventurous (chaotic?) drumming which proves heís a skilled musician. Itís not cold at all in the Russian Winter, because this song is a nice and warm progressive one with a very relaxed guitar part just to quiet down a bit. Another relaxed moment is River In The Sky; the guitar solo is one of the highlights of the album: relaxed and very sensitive just perfect for this emotional ballad-like song. Listening to Blacklight Reflection, I get the feeling that it not perfectly fits Dan Petersenís mid-range voice. When he has to sing the higher notes he seems to get into trouble, but nevertheless itís a nice song. The final track is Intrigued By Faith, lasting over eight minutes. Itís full of emotion with great guitar work and passionate vocals; to be short: a great epic.
Modern Alchemy has a bit of two sides; most of the songs fit Dan Petersonís voice brilliantly, but sometimes it looks like they were composed to be sung by someone else. Not having any back-up information about the band itself, I donít know when Dan joined the band, but it could be that some songs were composed before he got in the band. A bit of a minor is the aforementioned production and mix. I think, with a more coherent production most of the songs would have sounded a lot better.
*** Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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