on 7 March 2013
Clive Nolan's latest offering, "Alchemy", is a fully-fledged musical intended for stage productions. This studio recording of Alchemy is, I must admit, of excellent quality and musicianship. Written entirely by Nolan himself, the story is set in 1842, and involves a quest to stop Jagman - an evil man searching for the secret of the long-deceased alchemist Anzeray. Those who have heard Nolan's earlier work, "She", recorded and performed under the artist name of "Caamora", will know what to expect - for although Alchemy is an actual musical it shares much similarity to Nolan's "She". Progressive rock fans should keep in mind the fact that Alchemy has only limited rock influences present, and should be considered solely as a musical. The performance contains dialogue, which is present upon the recording, and although the acting present in this version is somewhat short of perfect, it does not affect the songs themselves in any way. All of the singers are of a high quality, although some shine more brightly than others - Victoria Bolley is particularly exceptional, obviously a classically trained singer. Even singers already known amongst progressive rock/metal circles, such as Damian Wilson and indeed Nolan himself, here perform even better than usual as singers. For example, Wilson (who appears only briefly) sings in a powerful, low voice, almost operatic in nature, so very different from his usual higher voice, used in Threshold and other projects. All players present, however, including the musicians, are performing to the best of their ability and I am very impressed. Agnieszka Swita, who performed the lead role in "She", returns to play one of the main roles, and sings similarly to her performance in the latter project. Other singers include David Clifford, Tracy Hitchings, Andy Sears, amongst many others. The full cast and plot can be read upon the Alchemy website.
This particular version, which is the only presently available, is in digipak format and spread over two CDs. Disc one contains thirteen tracks, disc two contains fourteen. The total running time is around two hours in duration. The booklet, which is attached within the digipak, presents all of the libretto and dialogue, along with all plot developments. The recording quality of the album is perfect, and typical of Clive Nolan and Karl Groom's productions.
All considered, this is a fine musical from the prog-master Clive Nolan. Even if one has not previously heard his works, musical fans shall greatly admire his writing style, which has similarities to the better works of Lloyd Webber and others in that vein - although understandably more limited in scope than "Phantom of the Opera". Nevertheless, a definite five-star album. Highly recommended.