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"We do not die -- we only change!" Those are the opening words (or perhaps a better description would be screams) heard on Alchemist's sophomore album, 1995's Lunasphere, which, like most of the band's work, views the concept of evolution, be it musical, physical, or spiritual, as central to its vision. Like a doorway into another dimension, the Aussie group's wildly experimental songs often stand on the knife edge between control and chaos, between reason and insanity, and are capable of melding wickedly crushing heavy metal riffing with surprisingly gentle moments of quiet introspection. The opening tandem of "Soul Return" (featuring slide guitars -- a heavy metal rarity) and "Lunation" presents a perfect example, and when the affinity for light and shade demonstrated here is further embellished with the group's favored Arabian melodies and trippy synthesizers (see standouts "Unfocused," which is anything but, and the mysterious "Yoni Kunda"), one can actually observe the future experiments of albums yet to come. On Lunasphere, the band's arrangements can still sound a little lopsided to the ear at times, but between the standouts cited above and the thrilling madness of the climactic "Garden of Eroticism" (which encapsulates a dozen styles and moods in the span of seven minutes, and winds down just as more mysteries are set to be revealed), one gets the distinct feeling that there is unfinished business here -- new adventures to be undertaken at a later date. The ending "Closed Chapter" speaks for itself, flirting with gentle synths once again before collapsing into a final, cathartic thrash-out the likes of which would arguably never be heard from Alchemist again. Clearly, they were already moving on....

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