Invasion - The Master Alchemist

Purposefully under-produced and unashamedly metal, this is 21 minutes of the most retro of all evils you are ever likely to encounter.

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Released 6 Oct 2009 | This Is Music | By Nick Struggles | Rating: 4
Invasion - The Master Alchemist

Purposefully under-produced and unashamedly metal, this is 21 minutes of the most retro of all evils you are ever likely to encounter. With just a three-stringed guitar, Invasion's Marek Steven tares out riffs hailing back to darkest Sabbath. Bursting with seething analogue distortion, frantic, smashing cymbal-led beats and all topped off with the soulful wail of vocalist Chan Brown, a psychedelic diva who spits out the vocals with bounds of finesse and unwavering confidence, drawing comparisons already from Betty Davis (and rightly so) through to Beth Ditto.

Beautifully cohesive, the album bursts from track to track, minute to minute, leaving nothing to the imagination. No lengthy build ups here, and no pointless soloing. The guitars phase left to right, the beats - at times schizophrenic - leave you trapped within a psychedelic metal induced sway. The band's love of space, fantasy imagery and the like is clear in track titles such as 'Alchemy', 'Six Red Wizards' and 'Rainbows', the latter song being one of the stand-outs on the album, from the impossibly infectious grooves right through to the shouting rhythms of the vocals. While 'Spells Of Deception' brings on one of the most danceable tracks here; musically with its acoustic 4x4s and warping, sometimes messy guitars, you could put it down as metal's answer to the burgeoning indie-dance scene. If Skunk Anansie were to just rock out for two minutes in 1970 then maybe it would sound something like this.

'Moongazer' shows off some of the band's more down to earth talent, the unusual in-your-face beats of Zel Kaute, this time taking more of back seat allowing the song's melodies to just flow in and out seamlessly. The guitars blaze through the scales as the vocals pass from almost calm and muted chanting to high pitched howls and powerful wails, eventually fading out into nothing but warm analogue feedback.

'The Master Alchemist' is an imaginative 'fuck you' to today's metal scene. Produced by Jas Shaw of Simian Mobile Disco at Toerag Studio (London's temple of analogue minimalism) it doesn't try to be anything but that what it is - 12 songs of shredded, stripped down to the grooves heavy metal, full of soul but as trashy as Monster Magnet and as retro as Satan himself.