Review Summary: Only for fans of the band, a decent compilation containing some very good compositions by the guitarists and mediocre live songs.
It is debatable whether ‘Dark Millenium’, Psychotic Waltz’s second posthumous release (after ‘Live & Archives’) can really be called a Psychotic Waltz release at all. Only tracks 10 to 16 are actual recordings by the band. The first 7 songs are written by guitarist Brian McAlpine and are collectively called ‘Penetralia’, a ‘soundtrack for reaching the higher spheres into narcotic dances’. Tracks 8 and 9 are written by Brian McAlpine and Dan Rock and would later appear on Dan Rock’s solo project ‘Darkstar’. The final tracks are early live songs and covers, and one studio cover of Black Sabbath
’s ‘Disturbing the Priest’ that also appears on the release of ‘Into the Everflow’.
‘Penetralia’, while created only by one member of Waltz would definitely be of interest to fans of the band. The completely instrumental soundtrack reproduces the same dark atmosphere as the band, especially that of their sophomore album ‘Into the Everflow’, which is has a similar production to. However, unlike Psychotic Waltz the sound here is dominated by synthesisers. The keyboards play slow gloomy atmospheric soundscapes with catchy and sometimes genuinely beautiful guitar and keyboard melodies over them, creating the surreal and dreamy atmosphere that the band is known for, albeit in a slightly different way.
The compositions aren’t really as complex as those on ’Into the Everflow’ and it doesn‘t contain similar lengthy meandering sections, instead staying completely focused with shorter songs like the later albums except for the final 8 minute track. While when at its best the composition is just as excellent as that of the band’s ‘proper’ albums it unfortunately is slightly inconsistent, with a few songs slightly weaker than the rest. The shorter structures work quite well here though, as any mediocre songs pass quickly.
‘Penetralia’ also suffers from being slightly monotonous, with many of the songs being very similar to each other, though sometimes distorted guitars are added to keep it interesting. Another problem is that without the backing of the rest of the band the instrumental talent is noticeably weaker, especially the much simpler drumming. This, as well as weaker production and a less polished sound give it a slightly amateurish sound.
The next few tracks, by guitarists Dan Rock and Brian McAlpine are very similar in atmosphere to ‘Penetralia’ but the synthesisers take a back seat with the emphasis placed back on the guitars. Both Rock and McAlpine are incredible guitarists and it really shows with dreamy fluid guitar melodies and strong riffs, a sound very similar to later Waltz albums. The second part of ‘The Dream’ was in fact going to be used as part of a song in Psychotic Waltz’s next album which they broke up before finishing. Unfortunately, while the best part of the compilation it is over far too quickly and suffers from the same weak production as ’Penetralia’. The inclusion of vocals would probably really improve this section.
The ‘real’ Psychotic Waltz section of the compilation opens fantastically with a studio version of a cover of Black Sabbath
’s ‘Disturbing the Priest’. While the original song is very poor for Black Sabbath
quality, with their technical ability Psychotic Waltz manage to improve it completely.
The live songs however are very disappointing. Taken from a live show in 1991, a collection of songs from the band’s debut are featured. Although the songs themselves are incredible with great songwriting and musicianship, the sound quality is very poor. There is no real reason to listen to this if you have the studio versions as they rarely deviate from the originals or do anything new, instead just sounding almost identical but with worse sound quality, which also wrecks the otherwise excellent covers of Pink Floyd
’s ‘In the Flesh’ and Ozzy Osbourne
’s ‘Diary of a Madman’. It’s a pity because the band really are on top form with amazing performances from all of the members, especially Buddy Lackey whose vocals which range from ethereal wails to manic shouting are just as impressive as they are on the studio albums, though he is often drowned out by the instruments in these versions.
Despite the mediocre finish, ‘Dark Millenium’ is engaging enough to last it’s lengthy running time, mainly because of the variety of different material. Just don’t expect to reach for the repeat button straight after it finishes. Due to it’s rareness it is also difficult to find and very expensive, so can only be recommended to Waltz fans who really want more, especially if a cheap copy is found. Those new to the band should start with ‘Into the Everflow’ or ‘Bleeding’.