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Beardfish - The Void CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

3.86 | 437 ratings

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4 stars Beardfish is my favorite modern prog outfit. No band has challenged me or kept me so entertained since I got into them back in 2008. For me, it's the interesting songwriting combined with the deliriously good melodies and craftsmanship. No band sounds like Beardfish, and I find it difficult to describe them to people. It doesn't help that with every album, they find a way to reinvent themselves.

While Destined Solitaire was a pretty big departure that found them exploring the outer reaches of the prog universe with some truly out-there songwriting, it still stayed largely in the realm of the eclectic. With Mammoth (my personal favorite, though it's so hard to choose), Beardfish sounded like a band in transition into something more heavy and metallic. The album was shorter, punchier, and a bit more experimental than the rest.

The Void is arguably their biggest departure to date, and continues and perhaps finishes this transition they started with Mammoth. Here we find Beardfish embracing some of their more metallic tendencies. However, this is not a full-blown metal album like I and others had suspected. Nope, this is just Beardfish being Beardfish, reinventing their sound with wild success while sounding a bit more schizophrenic than usual.

If there are any songs I could recommend to prime people for this it would be Green Waves and Without Saying Anything, both from Mammoth. They hint at the direction this album takes, but nothing can fully prepare the listener for any new Beardfish effort. Here's a track- by-track breakdown:

Introduction - An interesting bit of spoken word that hints at the meaning of this album.

Voluntary Slavery - The Void kicks off with a swift kick to the face. A chugging hook, crunchy guitars, some vocal aggression thrown in for good measure. This track is BAD. ASS. As a metal fan, this track tickled me greatly when I heard them play it live in New Jersey back in May. I like it just as much here, and find myself rocking out to it with gusto. A definite head- banger of a track. Rikard can't growl or scream like the best of them, but he's still solid here. You can tell he's been working at it.

Turn to Gravel - Another heavy-hitter. Not as smashing as Voluntary Slavery, but a good rockin' tune. Probably the closest they've ever come to a flat-out rock song with very few progressive sensibilities. It's a stand out track in that regard, but I'm not sure if its necessarily a good thing. It certainly sounds solid though, and fits the overall mood of the album.

They Whisper - This song. This song destroyed me the first time I heard it. The 'tron makes its first appearance and reminds us that this is still Beardfish. The driving melody is full of emotion and nuance, and marks the first big change that The Void has made me notice in Beardfish's sound. It's the first song that has a lot of genuinely stirring emotion in the music. It's something about the in-your-faceness of the melody, the notes he hits, and the instrumentation that just moves me, man. This is a song that SOUNDS like Beardfish, but FEELS like nothing they've ever done before.

This Matter of Mine - The brutality is back. This song is a kick in the testicles from the beginning, and absolutely the most metal tune out of everything on here. The driving guitar riff is bone-crushing, and will absolutely delight fans of progressive metal. At around the 4:30 mark, things switch up a bit and a little more classic Beardfish riffing comes out before the mellow end.

Seventeen Again - Unbelievable. I've noticed that Beardfish's instrumental tunes are always their most musically diverse, and Seventeen Again is no exception. Bouncing around from smooth, loungey jazz, to good ol' prog rock, and jumping any and everywhere in between. This is a classic Beardfish romp.

Ludvig & Sverker - Another tune that recalls the Beardfish we all know and love. It's a beautiful piece, with some enchanting lyrics and emotional riffing. I don't have much else to say about it. It's just wonderful.

He Already Lives in You - Lounge metal is the best way I can describe this. It's a slow, groovy, dark track with some bluesy lyrics to fit the mood.

Note - The epic. A nearly 16-minute monster. I can't lie, I was kinda hoping for another bombastic masterpiece like "...And The Stone Said; If I Could Speak," but with Beardfish I've found that it's best to just check your hopes and dreams at the door. Note is in a league of its own. It has all the hallmarks of a good epic. It moves smooth as silk throughout its long runtime, never once getting boring or stale, shifting movements while revisiting themes, and just in general being a very engaging piece of work.

There aren't a whole lot of wild shifts going on here. It keeps its tone the same pretty much all throughout while experimenting with some different riffs and melodies. However, a little more than halfway through, Rikard delights us with a heart-wrenching piano solo, which is arguably the most emotionally profound moment of this band's career. When the rest of the band kicks in and joins him, it just amplifies the greatness. My ears were in heaven listening to this.

I'm not very good at describing music in intricate detail. I've listened to this song alone 15 times and I still have trouble really hammering out what I love so much about it. It's just sublime progressive rock brought to life in a way only Beardfish can. While the only thing it shares with And The Stone Said is its runtime, it's no less of a masterpiece. It's easily scaled the ranks as one of my favorite Beardfish songs, and an absolutely essential piece of listening. Even if the rest of The Void sucked, it would have been worth buying for this song alone.

Where the Lights are Low - A mellow finish to the album. Probably my least favorite track, but still a pretty solid tune.

Ludvig & Sverker (Piano Version) - This is a track on the limited edition of the album. It's a sparse and beautiful rendition of an already beautiful proggy tune.

Overall, I can't really complain too much about The Void. I'm biased because I hold Beardfish in extremely high regard, but I think this is another terrific entry in their catalog. Not sure if it will reach the lofty heights that their other albums have for me, but that's something that will be revealed in time after dozens of listens. It's impossible to render such verdicts so soon after the album's release. What verdict I can render is that I am having an absolute blast listening to this, and look forward to every spin. I'll give it a 4 for now, but like some of their others, this may very easily become a 5 over time.

sprouticus | 4/5 |


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