Album Review: Grand Alchemist – Disgusting Hedonism

OK, hands up. If a Norwegian band labels themselves as “symphonic black metal”, what’s obviously going to be the first port of call as influence? If you said Emperor’s In The Nightside Eclipse, award yourself two points. Now promptly throw that out of the window when I present you with Grand Alchemist and their sophomore album after 10 years. The title, Disgusting Hedonism, gives fair warning of the content; packed with symphonic extravagance on top of a solid metallic base, the quintet lead a merry dance through 45 minutes of lunacy from start to finish.

Not beating about the bush, Grand Alchemist launch into “Créme De La Créme Collapse”, a snarling symphonic beast blending waltz-like orchestrals with technical drumming and fleeting guitar leads. Synth joins in for a brief foray, as eventually a chorus manifests itself amidst the chaos. The bass lines are given their own shining light, such as in the title track, which also showcases great choral female vocals, and a whammy-abusing solo. Guiding us through it all is the deranged snarling ringmaster, whose vocals are the only reliable constant in the madness, just about comprehensible although not necessarily making sense.

There are several flavors injected into this ‘black metal’ release, the foremost being an Arcturus/Wintersun-like sense of cinematic grandeur, such as in “Strongly Addicted To A Stimulating Despair”, also blending in electro melodies like combining both halves of the Septicflesh fence. “A Brilliant Dissonance” matches its title with a thick industrial tone and some Middle-Eastern-esque guitar, jumping back and forth between styles in a head-spinning yet impressive way, while the prominent violin element in “Touching The Cause Of My Muse” adds an interesting twist. Finally, the guitar work gets a kick up the derrière for the finale “Requiem (An Ode To Agony)”, which sports two imposing solos, although the track itself sadly lacks the epic feel of previous numbers as it slowly draws to a close.

Disgusting Hedonism is a hefty album to digest in one sitting, although that lends an advantage to it. Despite catering to a similar formula, each song has unique and memorable facets, for better or worse. That said, the former definitely outweighs the latter, the only tangible issues coming through in pedantic analysis: the orchestral moments are a little overused, and the industrial flavor of “A Brilliant Dissonance” is too weird, even for this release. However, between the 9 tracks there’s no bad egg, each having their own merits and standout sections.

Grand Alchemist may draw many a comparison to Arcturus, but that is no slander on either band. Personally, I commend this band for being able to draw in such crazy ideas under one banner, and not have it sound disjointed. The fact that it took 10 years for this album to emerge, should give an indication of the complexity. If music be the food of love, then Disgusting Hedonism is an homage to the debauchery-filled Roman feasts. I’m still not entirely sure it’s black metal, but whatever it is, it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

Rating: 8.75/10
Release Date: June 25th 2012
Record Label: Lydfella
Nationality: Norwegian

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Posted on 2012-08-16, in Album Reviews and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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