After two very adventurous and promising efforts, Australia's Alchemist finally did their name unequivocal justice with 1997's astounding magnum opus Spiritech. Quite possibly the greatest space metal album since Voivod's landmark Nothingface, the band's third long-player drove their original death metal foundation into interstellar overdrive, and, in the process, meshed it seamlessly with progressive rock, psychedelia, Middle Eastern nuances, and even native Australian aboriginal music. Colossal opener "Chinese Whispers" sets the adventurous tone, its thundering guitar distortion and shouted/growled vocals serving merely as a framework that the band proceeds to adorn with dark melodic passages and subtly cryptic synthesizers. By the time its mesmerizing nine minutes run their course, anything seems possible, and ensuing head-trips like "Staying Conscious," "Beyond Genesis," and "Spiritechnology" deliver upon this promise, each of them setting the inspirational bar higher and higher. Lyrically, they span a remarkably wide terrain, touching upon everything from mysticism and spirituality to cold scientific fact to conspiracy theories and UFOs. In fact, as was the case with Voivod, the music of Pink Floyd serves as a major reference for Alchemist's work. On the outstanding "Road to Ubar," for instance, the band employs a marching riff obviously inspired by "Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2," and vocalist Adam Agius unleashes his own version of Roger Waters' spine-tingling shriek as well; on the pulsating "Dancing to Life," they dive headlong into electronic music with surprisingly effective results, except for making it virtually impossible to play the song live. Finally capped off beautifully by the wide-angle expanse of "Figments," Spiritech could very well serve as an alternate soundtrack for either Dune or Lawrence of Arabia, such is the cinematic scope of its experience. A triumph of head-spinning originality, Spiritech inaugurated Alchemist's golden era, and effectively catapulted the thus far criminally ignored Aussies into the international arena.
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