Review Summary: Psychotic Waltz isn’t returning to a genre saturated with sound-alikes; they’re returning to a sound some have tried to emulate, but none have managed to reproduce.
In the nineties, punk (and to a lesser extent, alternative) was a large part of San Diego’s culture. It was the sound most the clubs catered to, the genre independent music stores pushed the most, and the style most San Diego bands played. It was the soundtrack for surfers and skaters city-wide – and a city steeped in surfer culture obviously doesn’t make it very easy for a high-concept prog band like Psychotic Waltz to thrive. I’m not saying prog bands didn’t come out of San Diego (Bastille, Catharsis, and Cage come to mind), but they definitely weren’t embraced by the city that birthed them. This is probably a big reason that, despite four albums and a large European following, Psychotic Waltz eventually just faded away. It was a loss for progressive metal, because Psychotic Waltz was always one of the more original bands in the genre.
There weren’t any other bands out there with a vocalist like Buddy (and his fluid, yet robotic, stage presence); and prog wasn’t exactly known for its psychedelic influences, moody atmospheres, strong songwriting, and soulful melodic guitar solos at a time when everyone wanted to emulate Dream Theater. Twenty-four years later, the musical climate has changed and prog has diversified beyond its original narrow focus, but there still isn’t another band that sounds like Psychotic Waltz. That’s why it’s so awesome that Psychotic Waltz have return after more than two decades with the release of The God-Shaped Void
, picking up right where Bleeding
Over the course of their first four albums, Psychotic Waltz had slowly been replacing the overt prog influences with a darker, moodier, more atmospheric approach, and The God-Shaped Void
continues that trend while pushing the moody feel even further. If you’ve heard one of the pre-release songs (“Devils and Angels” and “All the Bad Men”), you already have a pretty good idea of what to expect. The God Shaped-Void
is made up of tracks built on the chunky riffs first introduced in Bleeding
, soaring guitar leads and solos, keyboards and electronics, energetic percussion, and haunting vocal melodies; but in a package that is a little less streamlined than Bleeding
, but not as tangent-filled as Mosquito
It’s an album that discards the neck-breaking tempo changes and chaotic guitar parts of their earliest releases for a more accessible, yet melancholic, sound. It’s a sound you have to allow yourself to become immersed in, because there isn’t any ‘holy-shit’ prog moments where the music will suddenly hit you in the head with a random left-turn. There are ‘holy-shit’ moments, however, such as the sudden heavy crescendo that closes “Devils and Angels” and the chorus of “The Fallen” that builds in intensity every time it repeats. There’s also “Sisters of the Dawn” which is the perfect embodiment of everything The God-Shaped Void
does right, whittled down to one six-minute forty-one second track.
Nostalgia may cause people to forget that Psychotic Waltz had been moving towards a darker, more atmospheric, sound ever since their second release. I say this because it would be a shame for them to come into The God-Shaped Void
expecting something it is not. The God-Shaped Void
is not a rehash of A Social Grace
or even Mosquito
– it’s not even a rehash of Bleeding
(despite sharing some similarities). What it is, though, is a natural progression of the Psychotic Waltz sound; the same progression they were making before taking an extended break. It’s a near-flawless album that puts the feel and ‘song’ ahead of progressive showmanship while still showcasing each member’s immense talent. Also, unlike some other comeback releases we’ve seen, Psychotic Waltz isn’t returning to a genre saturated with sound-alikes; they’re returning to a sound some have tried to emulate, but none have managed to reproduce.