Ohio’s WRETCH fired off a few rounds in the mid-late ‘80s, never really rising above the demo/rehearsal stage. After – sort of – reuniting in the early ‘00s, it seems founding guitarist Nick Giannakos and longstanding drummer Jeff Curenton have hit their stride, adding new blood and crafting some fairly solid power/thrash over the past few years in the process.

This isn’t a WRETCH review, though, but backgrounds can be important when it comes to instrumental albums, The Alchemist, in this case. Released under the moniker NICK GIANNAKOS And Alchemy, this debut is clearly meant to highlight the WRETCH gunslinger’s skills behind the fretboard. After a somewhat haphazard half-minute or so, ‘The Mission’ introduces us to The Alchemist in fine fashion, GIANNAKOS clearly of the Lynch/Skolnick/MacAlpine school of playing. No histrionics, no overblown egos, or speed-for-speed’s sake here, the song taking priority, and – while clearly not built to be sung over – successfully so. ‘The Journey’ bleeds emotion, honey dripping from the tip of a sword, and ‘Arabian Sands’ flies us over the desert, crystal-clear notes shooting high into the cloudless sky, then swooping low, almost close enough for our wings to kick up liquid diamonds from oasis pools.

Rest assured, though, if it’s blazing fingerwork you want, the title track delivers, the one complaint being the piped-in crowd noise that (even if it’s possibly from a live event) utterly distracts from the mood, and comes at the mid-point of the album, the most detrimental time to have interest wane. The keys of Kevin Mazey join in ‘The Knight’s Tale’, a gentle yet convincing interpretation akin to what BLACKMORE’S NIGHT was doing around its beginning. The rhythm section are no slouches either, Burt Scheel and Matt Bower (Drums, Bass, respectively) more than holding their own, solid yet displaying virtuosity in their own right.

Finale, ‘Memories’ closes the curtain on The Alchemist admirably, and, though I’d have enjoyed a bit more out and out aggression to rough up the smoothness of the latter third of the album, I find it’s one I’m likely to revisit again as background music for reading, relaxing or a drive in the country in the rain. Not a bad first showing, and I’m on board for more.
Review By: Lord Randall

The Alchemist
Pure Steel Publishing
3.5 / 6