PSYCHOTIC WALTZ — The God-Shaped Void

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PSYCHOTIC WALTZ - The God-Shaped Void cover
3.86 | 6 ratings | 2 reviews
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Album · 2020

Tracklist

01. Devils and Angels (6:29)
02. Stranded (4:49)
03. Back to Black (3:52)
04. All the Bad Men (3:59)
05. The Fallen (5:49)
06. While the Spiders Spin (5:49)
07. Pull the String (4:54)
08. Demystified (5:12)
09. Season of the Swarm (5:57)
10. Sisters of the Dawn (6:41)
11. In the Silence (5:16)

Total Time 58:47

Line-up/Musicians

- Dan Rock / guitars & keys
- Devon Graves / vocals
- Ward Evans / bass
- Norman Leggio / drums
- Brian McAlpin / guitars

About this release

Release date: February 14th, 2020
Format: CD
Label: InsideOut Music
Catalog ID: 0IO01998

Thanks to adg211288 for the addition and tupan for the updates

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PSYCHOTIC WALTZ THE GOD-SHAPED VOID reviews

Specialists/collaborators reviews

UMUR
"The God-Shaped Void" is the 5th full-length studio album by US, San Diego based progressive metal act Psychotic Waltz. The album was released through InsideOut Music in February 2020. Psychotic Waltz folded after touring in support of "Bleeding" from 1996, as a consequence of a law suit from an actress who appearing in the promotional video for the track "Faded" who said she was exposed to a light during the shooting of the video which caused partial blindness. Psychotic Waltz reunited in 2010 to play some shows, and slowly the idea to record a new album began. Rumours of the writing and recording of the album have circulated for years, but now "The God-Shaped Void" is finally here.

Psychotic Waltz were never a major player on the progressive metal scene and didn´t accomplish much commercial succes in their early- mid 90s heyday, but they had a strong underground following (especially in Europe), which were quite dedicated fans (including myself). Psychotic Waltz stuck out because of their psychadelic tinged take on the progressive metal genre and their relatively original music style, which initially was rooted in US power metal and traditional heavy metal acts like Fates Warning, Queensrÿche, and Iron Maiden, but also incorporated the more complex structures and technical playing of artists like Watchtower and Realm. Their love for 70s progressive rock and hard rock/heavy metal was also audible on the albums from their original run.

"The God-Shaped Void" is the sound of Psychotic Waltz, but in a sligthly more mature and formulaic version. Heavy riffs, mid-paced tempos and grooves, harmony leads and blistering solos, and Devon Graves (yeah that´s the one who used to be called Buddy Lackey) distinct sounding voice on top. Atmospheric keyboards are also a big part of the soundscape (and the flute is used on "Pull the String" and "Demystified"). In other words it´s a natural progression from the sound on "Bleeding (1996)", but featuring a darker and heavier production job, closer to the sound found on "Mosquito (1994)". Using the word formulaic above pertains to the song structures more than the compositional details, as most tracks on "The God-Shaped Void" are built over the tried and true vers/chorus skeleton. Again this is no surprise given the direction the band were heading in before their untimely break-up. So don´t expect this to sound much like the first two albums by Psychotic Waltz.

While all tracks are well written, and don´t take more than a few spins to be able to hum along to, I miss the anarchistic songwriting of the first two albums, and the high pitched ornamented vocal melodies, that characterized those two albums (listen to the incredibly dull vers melody on "Pull the String" and then think back on some of the technically crazy vocal melodies on the old albums. There´s really no competition is there?), but then again I missed those elements on "Mosquito (1994)" and "Bleeding (1996)" too, so I´m probably just one of those annoying old-school fans, who thinks everything was better in the old days...

...well I also miss changes in pace and being surprised by something on "The God-Shaped Void". Don´t get me wrong, this is a quality release on almost every measurable parameter (professional sound production, high level musical performances, solid songwriting: check, check, check) and sometimes the heavy riffs and the epic atmospheres ignite excitement in me (take a listen to the intro or the middle section to "While The Spiders Spin" for some truly epic moments, or listen to the closing track "In the Silence"), but overall it´s all a little too safe and predictable. I´m a little conflicted here, but a 3.5 (70%) rating isn´t all wrong.
siLLy puPPy
While the Brits may have created both progressive rock and heavy metal with King Crimson and Black Sabbath taking rock into two distinct yet completely different directions an amazing 50 years ago, it was the USA where the idea to link these two styles together really took off with bands like Watchtower and Fates Warning taking the complex compositional approaches of KC and dressing them up in the energetic and distorted dressing of the heavier aspects of metal music. Amongst the first wave of the progressive metal scene that rocked the 80s USA in the underground circuit was San Diego’s Aslan turned PSYCHOTIC WALTZ which began in 1986 and took the nerdy side of metal off guard with its lauded debut “A Social Grace.”

While the US spawned the first examples of prog metal, it was unfortunately not these bands’ homeland where they found interest in their innovative styles so bands like PSYCHOTIC WALTZ were virtually ignored at home while making the most waves in the part of the world where both prog and metal began in the first place. Yup, you guessed it, Europe! The band made a name for itself touring overseas which cemented their position as one of the most innovative prog metal bands of the era and went on to release four albums: “A Social Grace” (1990), “Into The Everflow” (1992), “Mosquito” (1994), “Bleeding” (1996). While productive and passionately engaged, the band called it quits after lackluster sales and the final straw came when the band was sued by an actress who claimed her appearance in the making of the video for “Faded” caused her to suffer partial blindness due to the lighting involved.

With the ever growing interest in more progressive music however, PSYCHOTIC WALTZ have gone down as prog gods with their forward thinking albums that sounded like no other. While not exactly reaping the fruits of their hard work during the initial run, this bands’ albums have become quite popular ever since and eventually reunited in 2010 with its original lineup of Dan Rock (guitars/keyboards), Brian McAlpin (guitars/keyboards), Ward Evans (bass), Norm Leggio (drums), and Devon Graves (vocals/flute/keyboard), originally known to fans as Buddy Lackey. With no new album the band started to tour opening for Nevermore and Symphony X on The Power Of Metal tour. While a new album was planned, nobody expected these guys to take 10 whole years to make it happen but finally on 14 February 2020 here it is!

Sounding as if they were picking up where “Bleeding” left off, PSYCHOTIC WALTZ returns with THE GOD-SHAPED VOID which took seven years to create and actually a miracle that it got created in the first place considering that Buddy Lackey currently lives in Austria and the rest of the band have full-time jobs and families to contend with. Not counting the archival odds and sods 1999 release “Dark Millennium,” THE GOD-SHAPED VOID is the fifth installment in the band’s canon. Needless to say, this cast of five who are well in their 50s now are not the same band that they were 30 years ago when the debut album was released, however the band jettisoned the Watchtower inspired technical thrash metal riffs before they even broke up for the first time. What GOD-SHAPED VOID delivers is a much darker atmospheric slice of psychedelia tinged progressive metal without the emphasis on rampaging tech wankery.

We were treated to a sampling with the first official video “Devils And Angels” which pretty much was a preview for the entire album’s worth of material presented. In this way, GOD-SHAPED VOID has the most in common with the band’s last 90s album “Bleeding” so in that regard this one literally picks up where that one left off and although it’s a much less aggressive album than their 90s run, still sounds like the next logical step that could’ve easily been inserted into the turn of the millennium timeline so i would guess that much of the material has been gestating in the heads of the musicians even if they hadn’t received the recording process until much later.

While THE GOD-SHAPED VOID will not dazzle you with the flashiness of “A Social Grace” or “Into The Everflow,” neither has it gone Leprous on us and abandoned metal altogether. While the tech riffs have been tamed into heavier power chord rampages that are more akin to alternative metal, for the most part this band is still on top of its game only with the focus on the sound textures, atmospheric ambience and lyrical deliveries where Devon Graves hasn’t lost any of his vocal fluidity or powerful range. Likewise both guitarists Dan Rock and Brian McAlpin deliver some excellent guitar work on tracks like “Back To Black” which cranks out power stomps as well as soloing. While the chaotic dissonance of the past has been traded in for a more accessible melancholic style that is less frenetic and simmering on progressive light, the tracks are amazingly consistent as the melodies are solid, the hooks are instantly piercing and the production both captures the intricate sounds of the band’s heyday but offers a crisp clean modern dimension that allows the nuanced atmospheric components to shine.

It’s always a gamble to revive a classic band after so many years have gone by but it’s obvious on THE GOD-SHAPED VOID that PSYCHOTIC WALTZ still carries the torch that keeps the passion for their music alive and although the band has matured a bit, this one carries a lot more emotional delivery than the more technically infused early albums. With so many newer metal bands sounding lost in the sea of generic wannabeism or spiraling out into experimental inaccessibilities, it’s exciting to find a classic band like PSYCHOTIC WALTZ time traveling into the present to show the whippersnappers how old school metal can be so exciting when done right and everything comes together quite spectacularly on this beautiful comeback album. What makes this album work so well is that PSYCHOTIC WALTZ never did the same album twice and i for one am happy that they didn’t just retread their past glories and evolve the music into the new world while adapting it from the last album they left behind. If you loved the early albums, Crimson Glory, early Queensryche or other prog metal bands that focused on the melodic side of thing above all else then THE GOD-SHAPED VOID will not disappoint one bit!

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