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Psychotic Waltz - A Social Grace CD (album) cover


Psychotic Waltz


Progressive Metal

4.09 | 277 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
Special Collaborator
PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
4 stars After a brief period under the moniker Aslan which the band had to jettison because the name was already taken PSYCHOTIC WALTZ released their first demo in 1988 and then took a couple years to craft their full length debut release A SOCIAL GRACE. They released the album independently by coughing up their own dough and started their very own Sub Sonic Records. In Europe they scored a licensing deal with Rising Sun Productions and despite not finding an instant connection with a larger audience still managed to receive heaps of praise from the magazine reviews of the day. Metal Hammer and Rock Hard praised A SOCIAL GRACE as one of the best albums in a long time for its bold originality of combining Watchtower type technical precision and ferocity with U.S. power metal influences bringing early Queensr˙che to mind in the melodic vocal deliveries, Iron Maiden gallops and dynamics in their playing style and all coated in progressive thrash touches and one of the biggest surprises, the abnormal for metal Ian Anderson tribute in Buddy Lackey's singing style and occasional addition of flute. As a result of all these styles melded together, A SOCIAL GRACE is one of the most unique sounding progressive metal albums ever to emerge from ANY era much less the year 1990 when it was released. PSYCHOTIC WALTZ nailed it and delivered all the goods on this debut unlike other traditional metal acts treading down similar paths of increasing progressive and inventive elements. First and foremost all the musicians on board here were masters of their retrospective instruments complementing the greater band sound in perfect unison.

The album begins with the fast and furious duo thrash guitar assault of Brian McAlpin and Dan Rock delivering some of the most intense metal riffs that were rooted in keeping the overall sound melodic but they were also masters of syncopated effects that offered technical tricks and trinkets without steering the band's sound into abstract Watchtower territory. Through these superbly constructed tracks all performers shine in every arena. Buddy Lackey was indubitably in the same league with Queensr˙che's Geoff Tate and Crimson Glory's Midnight. His vocal range is actually more impressive IMHO as he not only wails in the upper registers but has serious control that can tackle several styles in sequence.

Ward Evans' virtuosic bass playing skills are noteworthy especially noticeable as the driving force behind the instantly addictive frenzy of "Spiral Tower" which provides a super strong backbone that allows the band to spiral off in various directions around him like a tornado filled with razor blades and nails. Norm Leggio is yet another master of his craft providing some of the most impressive drum abuse skills of the era not only keeping up with the relentless assault of changing rhythms and song structure meanderings but provides creative fills and brilliant orgies of percussion where the snares, toms and cymbals collude to add yet another intoxicating layer of the musical style on board. While the main focus of A SOCIAL GRACE is heavy rockin' metal segments that infuse an instantly melodic hooked that is laced with progressive touches to steer the listener into WTF territory, there are a few surprises that seem like they dropped in from another universe.

The first surprise is the "ballad" of the album "I Remember." This is a melodic little number that takes too many liberties channeling Ian Anderson from 1969. While it's obvious from the very first track that Buddy Lackey's vocal phrasings are right out of the Jethro Tull playbook, they somehow work well as he adapts them to the heavy metal styles on board. This track is where he leaves the realms of "influence" and enters the unfortunate situation of plagiarism. I dare anyone to listen to this song back to back with "We Used To Know" from Jethro Tull's 1969 album "Stand Up" and tell me this isn't the exact same song at least in the main melodic development of the vocals. This little faux pas is the one blemish for me on an otherwise perfect album. It's not that it's not performed impeccably, because the song is quite a beautiful interpretation and if credit was given as a JT song then i'd be cool but unfortunately Lackey claims it as his own. Luckily the Tull interplay remains within the realms of "influence" throughout the rest of the album where it works quite well. Another strange anomaly is the following "Sleeping Dogs" which is a strange electronic swirling of synthesized sounds. I'm not sure if it's meant to be an outro or an intro or just a strange little head scratcher but also reminds me how future bands like Unexpect would incorporate these kinds of things into their sound.

Overall this is an excellent progressive metal album that flows perfectly from beginning to end, crosses all the t's and dots all the i's for a totally satisfying experience. The metal aspects take the best of what the 80s had to offer by mixing melodies with technical prowess while delivering thoughtful lyrics, excellent band interactions and total control of tempo changes, time signature developments and even dynamics pacing. If it weren't for "I Remember" which is too much of a Jethro Tull ripoff despite sounding really well done, i would give this 5 stars, but because this is a prominent peccadillo in my world i can't award it with a perfect rating, however this is a highly recommended album release that will please any adventurous metal heads who like a lot of nice twists and turns in their music without sacrificing the melodic aspects that made 80s metal so pleasing in the first place.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |


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