California-based progressive metallers Psychotic Waltz are back with all five members from the group’s first three albums, A Social Grace (1990), Into the Everflow (1992), and Mosquito (1994). Psychotic Waltz got their start in El Cajon (a suburb of San Diego) in 1986, initially known as Aslan. Over the next six years and three albums, Psychotic Waltz established a formidable and fervent fanbase, particularly in Europe. The band exited the scene in 1997, re-formed in 2010 and have seemingly re-created the majesty and mystery that was or is Psychotic Waltz.
About their reformation, here’s Dan Rock: “We all felt the time was right to get back together and do some European shows back in 2011. We got a great spot on the Power of Metal tour with Nevermore and Symphony X. We had not played live since 1997, and not with all five original members since 1995. The tour was awesome, and the years apart seemed to make us all appreciate it—and each other—that much more. We kept playing live in Europe every year or two after that. Brian had been working on some new stuff prior to that, so we agreed it was time to finally make a new record. We began writing in 2012, and we finished it in 2019, so…. yeah, seven years in the making. Nobody ever accused us of being fast! The songwriting process was similar to back in the old days, but with Devon now living in Europe, we had to e-mail files back and forth, so things took a bit longer than usual. But we think the end result came out great, and we’re all really proud of this album.” The God-Shaped Void was recorded at Rarefied Studios in San Diego by Ulrich Wild and mixed by Jens Bogren (Leprous, Haken) at his renowned Fascination Street Studios in Örebro, Sweden.
So, while it took them a near-decade to release The God-Shaped Void, fans and supporters will no doubt recognise the old in the new, with songs like “Sisters of the Dawn,” “Devils and Angels,” “In the Silence,” and “Pull the String.” (check out the flute in the latter). Rock and McAlpin throw their guitar shapes, crunch those chords and shred with delightful bombast over a solid bass and drum foundation and keyboard colour. It is as polished and perfect a symphonic prog-metal release you would expect, crafted and honed as it was over many years.
Rock continues: “So, it took seven years [to write The God-Shaped Void], and many factors were involved there. One, we’re not kids anymore like when we started this. We all have jobs and families, and ‘grown up’ stuff to deal with now. Where we used to jam four nights a week, we are lucky now to get one! Then there’s the fact that our singer lives overseas, so we had to work with him via email and uploads, which took a long time due to the time differences… a couple days will go by just to hear something and then reply to an idea. If you’re only seeing each other one day a week, and everything is being sent back and forth, the time can get away from you quickly. The recording process was a lot different now too, obviously. We did a huge amount of pre-production work on our own. In fact, most of the guitars you hear on the album were recorded in our home studios during the pre-production demos.”
So, in short, you have a complementary label-mate for the likes of Haken and Devin Townsend. For me a rather retro throwback, and I hear things like Ten, Queensryche, Fates Warning, Voivod and pleasingly avoiding the cliched Dream Theater imitation for the most part. It’s not going to pull up any trees for the truly progressive fan and doesn’t add anything new to the progressive metal genre, but rather it consolidates the band’s history and encourages the listener to revisit the band’s previous releases.
Dan Rock (guitars/keyboards)
Brian McAlpin (guitars/keyboards)
Ward Evans (bass)
Norm Leggio (drums), and
Devon Graves (vocals/flute/keyboard), originally known to fans as Buddy Lackey.
1. “Devils and Angels”
3. “Back to Black”
4. “All the Bad Men”
5. “The Fallen”
6. “While the Spiders Spin”
7. “Pull the String”
9. “Season of the Swarm”
10. “Sisters of the Dawn”
11. “In the Silence”