PSYCHOTIC WALTZ — A Social Grace (review)

PSYCHOTIC WALTZ — A Social Grace album cover Album · 1990 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
"A Social Grace" is the debut full-length studio album by US progressive metal act Psychotic Waltz. The album was released through Rising Sun Productions in November 1990. "A Social Grace" was initally released on both CD, vinyl and picture vinyl. The CD release features 3 bonus tracks, not featured on the vinyl editions. Metal Blade Records picked the album up for a CD re-release in 2004 packed with the band´s third full-length studio album "Mosquito (1994)".

Psychotic Waltz started out under the Aslan monicker in 1985, but changed their name in 1986. The band were initially active in the period 1986-1997 and released four studio albums between 1990 and 1996. They didn´t achive any noteworthy commercial success in their initial run, but gained a strong cult following, that among other things enabled them to tour Europe several times. Psychotic Waltz reunited in 2010.

The music on "A Social Grace" is a guitar- and vocal driven type of progressive metal with US power- and thrash metal leanings. Psychotic Waltz also incorporate psychadelic rock influences in their music, which is quite a unique feature. Keyboards/piano are also used, but they are not dominant on the album, and are typically used in dreamlike futuristic/psychadelic sections or to emphasize an epic atmosphere. It´s the dual guitar attack (the two guitarists very seldom play the same notes, but constantly compliment each other´s lines with harmonies, leads/themes, solos, and other features), the strong and adventurous rhythm section, and lead vocalist Buddy Lackey´s (aka Devon Graves) commanding, challenging and powerful vocals that are the center of attention though. While acts like Queensrÿche, Fates Warning and technical thrash metal acts like Realm and Toxik are to some extent valid enough references, Psychotic Waltz are ultimately a very unique sounding act, with a personal sound.

The material on the album are very well written and quite intriguing. Tracks like the opening trio of tracks "...And The Devil Cried", "Halo Of Thorns", "Another Prophet Song", the power ballad "I Remember" (which features a Jethro Tull influenced flute solo courtesy of Buddy Lackey), the almost futuristic sounding "Successor" (which incomprehensibly is not included on the vinyl version), the heavy "I Of The Storm" and the beautiful "A Psychotic Waltz", are among the highlights on "A Social Grace". The few tracks I haven´t mentioned are also high quality progressive metal tracks, but maybe don´t stand out as much as the first mentioned.

The album features a pretty raw and unpolished sound production (the reverb on the vocals isn´t always that pleasant to listen to, the cymbals are a bit too high in the mix and the guitars a bit thin sounding, just to mention a couple of the minor issues with the sound production), but somehow the sound works well with the music. Maybe because of the adventurous and unconventional nature of the material, but there´s something undeniably charming about how "A Social Grace" sounds despite a few issues with the mix.

"A Social Grace" are one of those albums that you´ll recognise instantly when it comes on. That´s how unique sounding it is. It´s also one of the rare examples of psychadelic tinged progressive metal, which to my knowledge is not a sub genre of progressive metal that many artists play. Just because of that it´s an interesting release, but features like outstanding and inventive musicianship and adventurous songwriting are also great assets that help "A Social Grace" be the seminal progressive metal album from the early 90s that it is. A 5 star (100%) rating is deserved.
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