The nostalgia circuit has been around forever, and while it’s fun (sometimes) to see old bands play their decades-old hits in casinos, it’s even more fun when formerly awesome bands reunite and put out new GOOD music. Case in point: Satan, with a 26-year gap between releases – and with a trio of excellent new albums to boot. Psychotic Waltz tried their best to match that, going 24 years between releases here, but with an asterisk: The God-Shaped Void is their first album in 26 years with the original lineup. Take that, Satan!
Who are Psychotic Waltz, you ask? I’ll tell you, because unlike Sepultura, I know a little bit about these fellows. Psychotic Waltz appeared on the scene in the late 80s, morphing out of a band called Aslan. They played a brand of progressive metal that often lumped them into the same tier as Fates Warning. However, I thought they had more in common stylistically with Galactic Cowboys. After four records and some success in Europe, the group disbanded, resurfacing in 2010 to play festivals. From 2012 through 2019, the group wrote the tracks presented here, recording much of it themselves before finally wrapping it up and delivering it in time for a 2020 release. It’s amazing that these guys were able to pick up where they left off. It’s even more amazing that they were able to write some top-notch material.
It takes the band an unnecessary minute to get into “Devils and Angels,” but once they do we are treated to a chugging rhythm which backs Devon Graves’ hypnotic vocal lines. The song has an all-encompassing arrangement, with heavy verses, soaring choruses, a sweet guitar solo, and a 70s-inspired bridge. Psychotic Waltz really throw all their tricks into the song, and it works. Elsewhere, Graves shows off his versatility with a powerful performance in standout track “Back to Black,” along with his Ben Huggins-like sneer on songs like “Stranded.” Penultimate track “Sisters of the Dawn” is the strongest of a number of exemplary songs, guitars and vocals acerbically tracking each other in the verses while Dan Rock and Brian McAlpin lay down two more superb, tasteful guitar solos, all leading up to a powerful, urgent climax. And as they do on the entire record, Ward Evans and Norm Leggio are in rhythmic lockstep.
The most amazing aspect of The God-Shaped Void is how tight the performances are. This is not the sound one expects to hear from a band that’s been on hiatus for a quarter of a century. Sure, they don’t all live together (Graves lives in Austria now), and the album was recorded the way many modern albums are now, in a variety of bedrooms and home studios, but Psychotic Waltz still manage to display palpable chemistry on every track. It’s a wonder to hear. Helping this cause is the fact that Jens Bogren mixed and mastered the album, and did his usual bang-up job, bringing a ton of thickness and bombastic aggression to the tone of the album. There is a modern sheen to the record that belies the fact that these guys haven’t recorded since the nineties, but it’s not so slick as to detract from the songs.
Every once in a while, I dig through my records and find a forgotten gem. I throw it on the turntable and bask in the glory of what once was. In this case, I didn’t have to: Psychotic Waltz have danced right into the present with a vibrant, vital, and entertaining progressive metal album. This is not overly wanky prog metal, but instead prog that focuses on the songs as a whole, expertly arranged and performed with relevant and aggressive edge. Like Satan, I hope they stick around and keep writing music.
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: InsideOut Music
Websites: psychoticwaltz.bandcamp.com | psychoticwaltz.com | facebook.com/PsychoticWaltzOfficial
Releases Worldwide: February 14th, 2020