Guest record review: Alchemist, “Tripsis” (Relapse)

By Etan Rosenbloom

alchemist.jpg Aussie exports Alchemist are the metal equivalent of the Great Barrier Reef – deep, brambly and textured. Their sixth album serves up plenty of headbanging fodder without garden-variety death-metal brutality; the mystical thrashers “Nothing in No Time” and “Grasp at Air” forsake gutpunch riffing in favor of a trippier headrush. Cosmic effects funnel the band’s dual guitars into swirling psychedelic blooms that shimmer and throb through every track like metallic didgeridoos, giving Tripsis an aloof feel, as if the ghost in Alchemist’s machine is being sent on a forced walkabout. Not helping: the album’s saggy second half, which relies on production mannerisms over songwriting. Middle Eastern modes and drummer Rodney Holder’s precise tribal death thwack save the closing “Degenerative Breeding,” but as the mist of reverb dissipates, so does the memory. To quote a Tripsis title, Alchemist trades “Substance for Shadow,” going down great yet leaving no impression. Not unlike a Foster’s, eh?