Here we are with one of the most anticipated albums in the metal world this year. All progressive metal fans have been waiting for a new studio recording ever since the reformation of these progressive metal veterans in 2010. It’s been almost 24 years since the Californians’ last studio offering Bleeding, so to say expectations were high would be an understatement. Psychotic Waltz, even at the height of their popularity have always remained the underdogs in the wide progressive metal community, more or less the choice of eclectics and out-of-the-box music lovers. The announcement of The God-Shaped Void album has been all the more exciting with it being created by an all-original lineup of Ward Evans, Norm Leggio, Brian McAlpin, Dan Rock and Devon Graves (a.k.a Buddy Lackey). Even the fantastic cover artwork of maestro Travis Smith screams of something needing your immediate attention. Now.
Opener Devils And Angels storms the speakers with a fantastic production (the album was mixed by the great Jens Bogren) and the flute, played by Graves, who has never denied the inspiration by legends Jethro Tull. Everything sounds epic and grand, with a catchy chorus and thick layers of guitars. Stranded follows in similar fashion, further stressing on the melancholy and expressiveness in Devon Graves’ style of singing. His vocals have always been immediately distinguishable. In songs like All The Bad Men, there is even a touch of what Nevermore would do in their slower songs. Mentioning that, we have to also point out that The God-Shaped Void continues the sonic development towards a more accessible song structure (gone are the stop-start tempo-changes from A Social Grace) and more US style power metal riffs. The guitar work of the McAlpin/ Rock duo is not just crushing with weight, it is painting a picture with every harmony, solo and intricate nuance. Each and every song has been touched by true masters of not only their instruments, but musicians who know the secret of crafting a song and a melody that will stick into your mind long after it’s over.
While The Spiders Spin wins with a hypnotic, magical interplay between the rhythm section and guitars, while Pull The String surprises with an onslaught of doomy riffs and a total homage to Sabbath after the tempo-change in the middle of the song. The lyrics of Graves are once again a work of art, heavy in concept and message (the video accompanying second single All The Bad Men speaks volumes). The Fallen is a ballad that slowly builds in tension, almost reaching a crescendo, with Demystified also slowing things down and adding another depressive touch to the aural palette (if that is even possible at this point). Sisters Of The Dawn is nothing short of EPIC, and if I have to point out an album highlight, then this would be it. The album closes in style with the elegant, yet still heavy and atmospheric In The Silence. Again, the harmony guitars are unbelievable!
Final words? You will find it REALLY hard to point out a better album, not only in progressive metal, but in metal as a whole at the end of 2020. The God-Shaped Void sounds like a promise fulfilled to all fans who have been waiting for so long. This is music for dreamers and for aesthetes. You already know what you should do, right?