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Invasion
The Master Alchemist Matt Ingham , November 5th, 2009 06:50

Invasion. It sounds like some nondescript 80s metal band sporting atrocious poodle haircuts and more make-up than those frightening women who loiter around Boots. Thankfully this is not 1980 and Gary Glitter no longer represents the apex of virtuous rock music. Instead 2009 has dredged up a self-confessed 'soul-powered psych metal' outfit with a predilection for deep grooves and mind-bending philosophies.

London's Invasion are the world's answer for a question no one has asked yet. Their infectious channels of kaleidoscopic intensity have been tampered, tempered, scrutinised and boiled down to a spritely escapade that fits in the palm of your hand, and simultaneously spills over any lid you try and put on it. They're the brainchild of guitarist Marek Steven, who employed the rhythmic poundings of drummer Zel Kaute (whose penchant for playing her drums on fire must have raised the axeman's eyebrows to stratospheric heights). Completing the rout are the melodic demonic phonetics of soulstress Chan Brown.

The 'wizard metal' styling the band tongue-in-cheekily alludes to does conjure fantastical images of outer space battles forged between fire breathing dragons and arthritic old sorcerers. But before your mind wanders to entertain thoughts of wise old Gandalf peeling off a face melting solo on an obsidian flying V, circled by shoeless pan flute bothering Fred Dibnah hobbits, read on. Actually, allow your mind to cultivate that image for a moment. Done? Good, let's continue.

Opener 'Follow The Smoke' is all fuzz and frolics, kicking the album off in a vein that proves the running theme; its galloping guitar runs, murky tones, frantic drum rhythms and methodical madness that make up the bare bones constitution of Invasion. 'Conjure War' is the initial test to put singer Chan Brown's master of ceremonies vocals to the test, and her strong warble may be the last thing you expect, and it's in no way exorbitant. The mystical metallic backdrop of 'Alchemy' allows her yodelling bellows to soar in veracious proportions, equal parts Skunk Anansie Skin's roar and the soulful intimates of Aretha Franklin.

If Pink Floyd were raised on a diet of Methylenedioxymethamphetamine hamburgers and breastfed on black absinthe, they may have enjoyed making music upside down in space, and will have found the fruits of their labour strung out in psychedelic shadow like The Master Alchemist. The band's stripped down retro, garage metal has a lot in common with the caustic elements of Sabbath, The Sword and Monster Magnet, but finds equal grounding in the stoned musings of Hawkwind, Kyuss and Sleep. Like an amalgamation of Metallica's 'Blackened' overdubbed with Manfred Mann's Earth Band's 'Blinded by the Light.' In the band's own words: “It should sound pretty good when you're stoned.”

The three piece, who have no room in their clique for a bassist, and don't seem able to find the space for three more guitar strings either, are clearly not interested in the self obsessed arrogance of 'musical development' that so many musicians rightly or wrongly aspire to. The result is that the freshness of Master Alchemist wears thin as tracks blur in and out of each other, but with the resulting melee barely scraping the twenty five minute mark it almost becomes a non issue. Disillusioned with the samey, overproduced, technical metal that's been front and centre stage for years now, it's no surprise that Invasion have chosen a route that favours classic riffery, chimerical imagery and analogue recordings, played live and recorded in four days predominantly on the first take.

Sheltered from the cold by eclectic enthusiasts This Is Music Ltd, the band recorded their debut with Simian Mobile Disco's Jas Shaw who has helped capture not only the raw intensity but the soulful shenanigans as well. Even the album cover looks like a Led Zeppelin masterpiece consumed by Cradle of Filth. The Master Alchemist is the sound of a band at home during a performance, and you can only imagine the momentum their live show must detonate.

For all their soulful growls and multicoloured inflections, even the mid album lull allows songs like 'Evil Forest,' 'Six Red Wizards' and the “epic” (three minute!) 'Exile' to pick up the fervency during the closing moments. For a band who ply their trade on roasting drum kits and three string guitars, who describe the sound of their music as simply 'booze' and have recorded an album that scintillates but burns out quickly, it's obvious the band don't want listeners to have to appreciate the music on any more than base level. There's no pretentious glorifying on show here - instead a shed load of cryptic ambition and the desire to play loud, fast, short and above all, animated.

So there it is. Sit down, skin up and slide in...

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