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3.93 | 10 ratings | 3 reviews
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Album · 2012

Filed under Metal Related


1. Intro (0:30)
2. Voluntary Slavery (6:33)
3. Turn To Gravel (5:30)
4. They Whisper (6:06)
5. This Matter Of Mine (7:06)
6. Seventeen Again (7:44)
7. Ludvig & Sverker (8:06)
8. He Already Lives In You (6:38)
9. Note (15:50)
I. Note
II. Descending
III. The Void
IV. Note (reprise)
10. Where The Lights Are Low (5:41)
Bonus Track:
11. Ludvig & Sverker (Solo Piano Version) (6:34)

Total time 76:15


- Rikard Sjöblom / vocals, keyboards
- David Zackrinsson / guitars
- Robert Hansen / bass
- Magnus Östgren / drums

About this release

Released by InsideOut, August 27, 2012.

Thanks to adg211288 for the addition


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The Review Revision Project #1

Introduction: The Review Revision Project is a review series focusing on albums that I have reviewed before, likely many years ago. However even though the older review may have been well written, I have found myself no longer able to stand by its content.


The Void (2012) is the seventh studio album by Swedish progressive rock act Beardfish. The almost seventy minute long album contains ten tracks including the epic near sixteen minute Note. There is also a bonus track which is a piano version of the song Ludvig & Sverker. The Void is my first and so far only encounter with the music of Beardfish, despite it now being eight years since the album's release and the first time I heard it.

There may be two reasons for that. For one thing, The Void is, from what I'm led to believe, at bit of an oddity in the Beardfish discography, because it's their only release that is significantly influenced by metal music, which is my primary interest and what drew me to the album in the first place eight years ago. The second is the reason why I've selected The Void to be the first (and so far only planned) entry in The Review Revision Project series: it's that much of a grower. The original review I gave this album was positive, but it was hesitant praise. I wasn't wowed by The Void, at the time. There were a couple of tracks I really liked like the metallic Voluntary Slavery and the epic instrumental Seventeen Again, but overall I merely found it solidly crafted and enjoyable, but lacking something that would have given it that extra sparkle of an excellent record.

The problem I assure you readers, was not with the album, but with my ears. Years later, I randomly decided that I would take a fresh listen to The Void. An 'Oh yeah, haven't heard that lately' kind of thing. I couldn't especially recall what I'd specifically written about it at the time of review, but I soon realised that what I was hearing wasn't adding up with the rating I'd given it. At the time, I just left my old review and bumped the score up marginally by half a star.

Yet still, that wasn't doing The Void any kind of justice. Which brings us to today. The proper reappraisal of The Void, having finally bought the CD of it and not just relying on Spotify.

The talk of the time that Beardfish had gone metal was a bit exaggerated, as it did tend to leave one expecting to hear a fully fledged progressive metal record from the Swedes. It did at least turn out to be half true. There's plenty of metal to be found during The Void, though primarily the band remain playing progressive rock. I think some progressive rock bands occasionally sound metallic by fluke rather than design, but that's not the case here. Beardfish clearly knows they're adding metal to their sound. After all, they even put down a couple of brief death growls in the tracks Voluntary Slavery and This Matter of Mine.

However it's a mixed bag of style, not just metal. There's prog rock. There's psych rock. If you've got the bonus track there's a pure piano song too, which incidentally is actually a very good rendition of the track that brings its beautiful melody out all the more than normal. What in 2012 seemed like such a mixed bag of styles that it didn't flow too well to my ears, that were obviously in need of servicing at the time, now seems to be the very reason that The Void is not just a great album, it's one of the best albums of its year. Despite first hearing it eight years ago, it's only today that I really feel blown away by The Void. This album sure played a long game.

It saddens me to see that among the Beardfish discography this tends to be rated lower. I mean, I still haven't heard their other work, but even so, having had it really open up to me over time I can't say that I consider The Void as anything less than a progressive masterpiece, and I don't think it gets recognition as such. I certainly didn't regard it as such, at first. One chance whim to play it again changed a lot. Maybe more people should do that with The Void. They might just be pleasantly surprised.
Usually when we see progressive rock bands going in a metal direction, it ends up taking on a standard progressive metal tone, which does logically make sense. However, what if you want to hear other genres of metal blended rather than the typical power-prog sound? Beardfish breaks that paradigm of progressive rock bands going progressive metal, and instead blends eclectic rock with sludgy grunge/stoner/doom metal. For someone like me, who doesn't really care for much progressive metal apart from the classic bands, this comes as a welcome change of pace.

This is an eclectic and long album, so one thing that albums like this can suffer from is inconsistency, but Beardfish keeps things pretty steady for the most part. The opening two tracks as well as "This Matter of Mine" are definitely the heaviest songs and the best. Both the opening songs are like a mix of a Kyuss/Alice in Chains-type sound blended with progressive rock. "This Matter of Mine" has some pretty killer basslines and brings to mind a heavier Deep Purple at times. "He Already Lives in You" has a bit of this Deep Purple vibe as well, especially with the vocals and organ. Most of the other songs all have a range of eclectic progressive rock and a smorgasbord of softer passages, hard rockin' moments, spacey parts, and metallic dirges.

Rikard Sjöblom's vocals's are quite varied, but I notice that at times he reminds me of Deep Purple's Ian Gillan especially in "Voluntary Slavery". In the same song, one of the most memorable vocal lines is easily Sjöblom's deep low delivery of "Do you believe, in alchemy?" There is also some Gentle Giant influence in the form of group vocal lines and acapellas, this is heard in the songs "Turn to Gravel" and the nearly 16-minute suite "Note".

The Void is an oddity in Beardfish's discography. This is the only one I've heard but it seems that this is the only album with really noticeable metal elements. Not all of the songs are metallic, but for metal fans that want to hear a different take on metal mixed with progressive rock, this is certainly a good choice. Some of the songs are pretty forgettable, but the great songs certainly make up for those. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!
Note: I have changed my rating to a 4 star for the purpose of MMA, as I just do not see it as appropriate to give the album a 5 star on a website that is intended to represent Metal. Normally, I would not let that change my rating, but for this album I just didn't feel right giving it a 5 on this website. This concludes my preface, and now we return to our regularly scheduled broadcast:

The Void is the seventh studio album for Progressive Rock act Beardfish, and as I listened to this album again the other day I had a bit of a catharsis. On my first listen, I would not have given it 5 stars – I did actually enjoy the album quite a bit, but I was not ready to give it 5 stars at this point. But I made some connections this time, and found new understanding of the album. Now, I'd like to get on a soapbox a bit and talk about reviewing albums, why I started reviewing albums, and some peeves I have about reviews. This may seem to have nothing to do with The Void by Beardfish, but stick with me here and I am going to try to make a connection between the album and this thought process.

So I have listened to and been a fan of Progressive Rock for a long time and have listened to many, many albums. But I only recently began to review albums, and while I had thought about giving it a shot many times before, I always thought I didn't really have anything new to say. But what eventually pushed me into writing my first review was when I saw a horrible review of an album I loved, and it was the only review on the site for this album. The reviewer's only reason for giving a very low rating of this album and trash talking it seemed to be that he felt the band wasn't truly "Progressive" because they had some, in his opinion, obvious influences and thus were not doing anything new. Now, this is a huge peeve of mine, because I think this is a misunderstanding of what the "Progressive" genre is truly about. You see, I don't believe the genre, or any musical genre, can be defined by such an ambiguous idea as being "new" or having never been done before. It's music – nothing is new! Every piece of music is influenced by some other pieces of music going back all the way to the time when the caveman Ugh Nok Ok picked up a seashell and blew into it, playing the very first notes. If your music has notes, it was influenced by this event! You think King Crimson was "new"? You think Yes was doing something that had never been done before? No! They were influenced by classical composers as well as the rock music of their time and they were just combining influences! So it is a peeve of mine when I see reviewers defining the Progressive genre by this ambiguous idea of possessing "newness" and taking this concept to the conclusion that anything that does not possess this indefinable and immeasurable idea must not be good. No, what makes an album "good" is indefinable as well, and different from person to person, but usually has to do with a certain level of musical skill, and creating a combination of sounds that is pleasing in some way to the listener as well as presenting an idea to the listener in a way that makes a connection with that listener. And so, as I have pondered how to go about defining my ratings of albums in my reviews, I have realized that I cannot pretend to be presenting the true measurement of an album's worth but can only represent my own enjoyment of an album, nothing more.

Now, what does this have to do with Beardfish's album, The Void? Well, let's start exploring this question by taking a look at the first track of the album, the Intro, in which Andy Tillison states:

"The magician looked into the future and saw nothing but the past, repeating itself. With caution he turned his eyes to the present and found himself staring into a void. He disappeared in the dark. Time passed, and one day he returned, with a vision. Once he talked to the first stranger he met it was clear that in his absence nothing had changed, but him…"

Now right away, we have a very powerful and mysterious statement. But as the album progresses, I believe the band explores this concept through their music. Now, I have always been intrigued by Beardfish – they have a unique style that incorporates a very retro sound that seems to be influenced by Yes, King Crimson, and Genesis, incorporating progressive musical structures, quick fingered riffs, changing time signatures, sometimes odd crashing jangles, and a quirky sophistication. But when this album first came out I heard rumblings that seemed to frighten some away while only drawing me in: "Psst! Beardfish is going metal! Run away!" This is the warning it seemed some were giving out. So of course I had to check it out. And as I listened I thought that I could hear where these people were coming from, but it seemed clear to me that this was not a release that nicely and neatly fit right in to the "Metal" categorization in any way. Yes, the guitars have a bit more distorted crunch to them, there is some riffing that is more aggressive in previous Beardfish albums, and there are the occasional growly vocals present. But it is clear that the retro sound we're used to hearing from Beardfish is still present as well as plenty of jazz influences. But as I listened to this album again later on I felt that I began to understand the musical statement as I realized there seemed to be many, many musical influences present in this album. By incorporating and representing musical influences from many genres and time periods, I believe Beardfish is musically presenting the statement put forth by King Solomon thousands of years ago: "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, 'Look! This is something new'? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time."

As I realized the presence of Classic Prog, Progressive Metal, Sludge, Math-Rock, Jazz, Classic Rock, Blues, and Classical influences (and possibly many more) that were present in this release, and thought about the statement made in the intro, I began to realize how beautifully and profoundly they were presenting this idea of the future merely repeating the past, and the spiritual and philosophical quandary that we are faced with as we ponder this and what it means for our lives. And as I began to understand this statement, I began to truly enjoy this album as it touched me and affected my perspective. And that is what this album is all about, I believe: the mystery of life in which there is nothing new and that as we deal with loss, love, life and death and struggle to heal from emotional wounds, the illusion of change, and how the only thing which truly changes in time is our own perspective.

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