Album review: Invasion – ‘The Master Alchemist’

A thrilling ride through the cybermetal hinterlands of London’s hottest trio

If you consider the birth of rock’n’roll as the moment Ohio DJ Alan Freed first used the term on air in 1951 to describe the rhythm and blues music he was playing (and there are those who’d argue – Buddy Jones and his 1939 cut ‘Rockin Rollin Mama’ for one – that the damn thing was almost 20 years old by that point anyway), then the genre is rapidly approaching pensionable age. Not that ‘genre’ even comes close to explaining the cultural cache of the term – it’s a phrase which is more akin to lifeblood than a style of music – yet considering most pensioners can barely use the toilet without making a mess, it shouldn’t be that surprising to note that so many practitioners of the guitar, bass, drums and voice set-up fail to think up anything original to do with the formula.

It’s exciting then, to stumble upon London’s [a]Invasion[/a]; three people of whose like rock’n’roll has never seen before. Encompassing a soul singer who dresses up like TV monk Cadfael starring in Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, a guitarist almost seven-feet tall who plays his guitar like non-EU-endorsed butchers kill cattle and a female drummer who, when she’s not playing topless, sets fire to her cymbals with lighter fluid, their brew of skunk-scented, metal-slanted rock lurches between the disparate worlds of dance, thrash, stoner, doom, rave and prog. Their album, while failing to live up to the challenge of capturing the energy of their live show (you can’t help thinking someone in marketing has missed the trick of including a Bic lighter within the gatefold) is credit to their esoteric brilliance.

Opener ‘Follow The Smoke’ may be a mere minute long, but it wails like someone throwing a cat into a volcano, while ‘Moongazer’ is an apt showcase for the girder-like lungs of singer Chan, who fills the spaces guitarist Marek doesn’t pack with guitar sludge with a voice that soars above and beyond. But it’s closer ‘Chaos And The Ancient Night’, a loose-fit instrumental piece built with idea upon idea, and sounding like a sci-fi take on [a]Black Sabbath[/a] at their most primeval, which lingers longest in the mind. Who knows what Alan Freed would have made of them, but we might hypothesise he’d say something like, “GAH WAH GONK DIZZ WOW”.

James McMahon

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