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As I sit writing this Psychotic Waltz have been reunited for a couple years and touring Europe. There have been talks of them putting out a new album but no news on its development. So, I write this wondering if this is their last album. Dark Millenium doesn't count.
The best way to describe this is a natural evolution of their sound and sort of a cross between their debut and Mosquito. Some of the funk and psychedelic elements from that last album are still there and again the songs are all short and catchy, but this is crushingly heavy in its own way. After all the fucking around of the past albums Bleeding is the most straightforward thing this band ever did, leaning more towards the power metal end of the spectrum than the prog. There's still enough odd time sigs and experimentation to keep things interesting, though. The fourth and (at this point) final album in the PW discography sees the band at their most colorful with richly textured layering of music and vox. That color is matched in the album cover and inner sleeve artwork from Travis Smith. Keyboards are used with atmospheric perfection, the way it should be on a metal album, never as a lead instrument. You hear that Dream Theater, you and your wretched spawn of sycophants.
New bassist Phil Cutino enters the picture replacing Ward. It's immediately clear this man fits in well with the Waltzers as the album opens with a funky bass lick that is quickly joined by the thrashy sig riff of Faded. Phil's bass presence is loud and busy which perfectly suits the sound of this album. A cap must be doffed to Scott Burns for that sound, who was mostly known for producing Florida death metal. He had produced Mosquito too but he, along with the band, found the right sound here. A video was made for Faded as was one for My Grave, the only two official music videos for this band. My Grave is another Jethro Tull-inspired ballad but better than I Remember.
The lyrics on this disc seem to make a lot more sense compared to the last album. Need particularly stands out with thoughtful lyrics as it builds into that emotionally compelling "Your lips destroy like missiles" part. It’s one of the best songs on the album: a slow, heavy groover, epic in feel and with a deeply melodic outro consisting of background acoustic strumming and a beautifully twinned lead from a band chock full of them. Sleep is the heaviest track although all the songs have some thick riffage in them. The ending of Sleep reminds me of the ending of Fates Warning's Giant's Lore with obtusely melodic twinned leads over a weirdly metered yet groovy power metal riff. Brian and Dan are no longer twinning every lead though, there's some solos on here as there were on the last album as well. They weren't afraid to branch out, it was clear this was a band that would never stick to formulas.
Freedom? finally sees the perfect blending of Buddy's '60s rock vocals/lyrics with the metal aesthetic of his bandmates. The ending of it bugs me a bit. Kind of like the ending of Mindsong on the last album, it seems unfinished. A twisted reprieve of the clean intro riff is played but quickly goes nowhere and could have been developed into something more. Oh well, at least there's no stupid 2 minutes of silence followed by a surprise track.
I've given this album a higher score than A Social Grace but I like that one more, let me explain. This is an easier album to sit down and listen to right through than Grace or anything they've done for that matter, it's just so smooth. However, their debut has the best songs they've written even though the guys sound more comfortable here than ever. It's sad that at the point when it felt like everything was coming together for this band they were broken up by changes. One can only speculate what might have been had they had more success but of course North America cares little for this style of music.
Well, that concludes my review of the tragically brief career of this god-like band. Go buy all their albums now, they deserve your money. Hopefully they drop another one on us.
Psychotic Waltz’s existence went through two different decades and almost 15 years of playing together, influenced by the progressive legends of yore, before disbanding at the turn of the millennium. After a short existence as Aslan and a name change to the moniker with which they’ve become more renowned for, they’ve released four albums in a period of six years, the last of which being this one. Bleeding is, at the time of this writing, their last studio album and it picks up on its predecessor’s newfound inspiration and change of perspective towards their earlier works and widens that perspective, embodying it ultimately in a much better constructed set of songs. Not to say that Mosquito was a mediocre album, but there were certainly aspects on that record that could’ve been improved, and Bleeding puts that thought into practice. It’s also the only studio album from the band not to feature Ward Evans on the bass.
Again the band makes way for shorter compositions that are more based on a verse-chorus structure, while still managing to make them sound progressive and somewhat complex. It’s almost a progressive rock album in nature and style but being played by metal standards. And it’s really impressive to see how much technique and variety can be put into such short bursts of music. There’s also a further developed sense of atmosphere that grows from the inner calm that they seem to have found with its predecessor, a more laid back approach to the compositions that makes the album run across a wide gamut of emotions. With only two songs out of eleven going over the four minute mark one can say that the change of heart and direction undergone in their past album was vastly improved here, and the much better fluidity of the songs confirms exactly that, while avoiding moments that could feel out of character in the process.
And it can be seen from the start that things are going to be great, starting with the bass sound which is immediately presented by the frantic tapping of the newfound member, Phil Cuttino. His work is pretty astounding and no one could ever point him out for being a reason for the band’s demise, pretty much on the contrary, his work here is fantastic and a beauty to behold through the entirety of the album. We get treated by some great guitar leads as usual from the band before “Locust” hits the stage and throws you into outer space with its ethereal sound, making your soul tremble as Devon wails away the lyrics over a heavily layered keyboard sound. The chorus almost makes you freak out with its overlapping of sounds coming from all directions, covered in spacey keyboards and great bass lines. Things continue to unroll in great style with the beautiful and surprisingly gripping “Morbid”, with its amazing main riff that makes you bang your head like a maniac while the keys show again some of its magic, and the title track that shows Devon unleashing some of his higher notes and leaving you floored with them.
While listening to the album it’s clear that for the first time since its inception the band finally felt happy with the songwriting formula, and in a way that shows in the songs which present that emotive feeling so characteristic of their debut. Talking about emotions is quite fitting when referring to the beautiful “Drift”, one of the best songs of the entire album which is filled with marvelous guitar work that shows itself in either acoustic sections or enthralling leads. There are so many good moments that it’s hard to point out lesser songs, in fact I’d go as far as say that are barely any weak moments. The album travels through a whole palette of colours and an immense diversity of rhythms and sensations, presenting everything from rocking out songs that usually feature a heavy and powerful main riff to wailing mid-tempo ballads that swerve from the inspiration of the rhythmic section to bring upon a sense of emotiveness that feels quite intimate. Some other good examples of the first would be “Northern Lights” and “Sleep”, while “My Grave” would fit perfectly in the description of the later. It even features Devon’s best friend, the flute, which he hadn’t used since the debut. This song in particular is a brilliant piece of raw emotion, and again the mixing in of acoustic guitars proves to be an accomplished experiment as they make you slowly tilt your head as if accompanying the sunset breeze.
This was a band that never had it going easy for them, and yet they’ve managed to continuously push forward in the personal pursuit for their envisioned artistic ideal. Bleeding isn’t Psychotic Waltz’s strongest effort, but with such a competition from their first couple of albums it shouldn’t amaze anyone that it isn’t. However it is a very strong effort and a very cohesive album, and more so a work that is the proper realization of their vision. Everything feels in place and they sound at the top of their game, despite all the past and present problems they had to overcome. It’s really a shame that this band remains buried in the past and that they haven’t written anything new in more than 15 years, because this is exactly the type of band that has both the ideas and the virtuosity needed to make great music. They could come back triumphantly or not, and if not we’ll always have these four album to revel upon. Bleeding may be their last testimony of greatness but for what is worth it sees the band going out in style.
Some fans were unhappy with Psychotic Waltz’s previous release, ‘Mosquito’, which simplified the typical Psychotic Waltz formula by removing the complex progressive arrangements and replacing them with a simpler, more pop-orientated psychedelic sound. Instead of returning to their prog roots with ‘Bleeding’, Psychotic Waltz continue along the lines of ‘Mosquito’, a move that easily could have ended in disaster. However, Psychotic Waltz manage to improve the sound in every way, creating what many see as their best work.
The most noticeable change between this and ‘Mosquito’ is the production. The thin fuzzy production that hindered ‘Mosquito’ has been replaced with a new richer sound that brings back the deep and dreamy atmosphere of ‘Into the Everflow’, though it is not quite as dark this time around.
The fluid guitar riffs contribute immensely to this mysterious dream-like atmosphere. Melodies merge smoothly around each other giving the album a free-floating style. The song-writing is much improved from that of ‘Mosquito’. The melodies are catchier and better written than before, and the riffs more powerful, with more ‘groove’. The guitar solos too are more melodic and impressive. It is clear that Psychotic Waltz have adapted completely to their new style, which they didn’t quite manage to do with ‘Mosquito’.
While ’Mosquito’ felt disjointed as it seemed to be trying to be mellow most of the time but ruined the atmosphere at times by trying to be ‘heavy’, the mix on ‘Bleeding’ is much better. For a metal album it is still very light, though songs are slightly heavier than those on ‘Mosquito’. On’ Bleeding’ it doesn’t sound like the two styles are combating each other like it did before, but instead blend together perfectly, giving the album more variety. Songs like ‘Sleep’ and ‘Bleeding’ contrast the styles brilliantly, while songs like ‘Skeleton’ focus more on the heavier side. There’s also a beautiful Jethro Tull inspired song, ’My Grave’, with acoustic guitar and flute played by vocalist Buddy Lackey.
Buddy Lackey’s singing is very much back on form here. While on ‘Mosquito’ the vocals were often nasally and buried by the down-tempo production, here they soar above the music. The singing is not quite as varied as on the first 2 albums, but the more controlled mellow singing used here is very impressive and fits perfectly with the dreamy music. However, due to his very unique and often high-pitched singing style, the singing could be a bit of an acquired taste for some, even though it is much more ordinary than it was in the early albums.
The lyrics are also simplified a bit more but are still much better than most metal lyrics, showing the amazing lyric-writing skill of Buddy Lackey. As with most Psychotic Waltz, the lyrics have a psychedelic theme.
The musicianship, as always with the band, is superb, with all of the members easily able to play the material completely accurately. Even though the bass is quite prominent in ‘Bleeding’, the absence of their amazing bassist Ward Evans luckily isn’t a problem as he has been replaced by the equally great Phil Cuttino, who managed to create some fantastic bass-lines here.
‘Bleeding’ is exactly what ‘Mosquito’ should have been - everything that made Psychotic Waltz great condensed into shorter, catchier songs and a more accessible melodic sound. Even though it's arguably not quite as strong as the first few albums, anyone new to the band should start here.
In a time when there're so many 'wanna-be-prog-bands' around is always soothing to listen to a real progressive metal album. 'Bleeding' was PW's last effort and it's a shame this band couldn't achieve the recognition they deserved in the 90's.
The first track, 'Faded', starts with a great bass line and builds into an almost thrashy riff with atmospheric vocals by Buddy Lackey. Great, great song.
It's followed by 'Locust', which is a great tack as well. It sounds as if Roger Waters grew up on metal! The chorus is amazing, a true work of art.
The third track is 'Morbid'. It combines some Pantera-like riffs with great keyboards interludes and fantastic vocal lines. The lyrics are a little bit weird, but great nevertheless.
The fourth and fifth tracks, 'Bleeding' and 'Cold' are nothing special but they work very well within the context of the album.
'Drift' follows and it's a hell of an emotional track. Buddy Lackey's voice is nothing less than wonderful and the music is on par to it. It has to be heard to be believed.
'Northern Lights' is an up-tempo track about drugs and Amsterdam and is a good tune. The riffs are quite hard rock-ish, but the whole track is pretty much filled with a LSD kind of vibe. Good, very good.
With 'Sleep' we return to heavier grounds. This is quite nu-metal-ish at times, if the nu-metal bands could play with talent. Buddy's voice is more aggresive and the drumming is brilliant. This is no masturbatory wankery, this is technique working for the music and not the other way around.
'My Grave' is the masterpiece of the album. It's a 70's Jethro Tull kind of ballad with fantastic vocals and lyrics. In a time when mediocrity seems to rule the show, it's a relief to listen to such a track.
'Skeleton' and 'Freedom' are the closing tracks and are great as well.
In short, 'Bleeding' is an example of what true progressive metal should sound like. Forget about 'Images and Words' and the whole 'Dream Theater are the Gods of Prog' thing. Psychotic Waltz are way more daring and progressive than DT ever was. This IS true progressive metal. Period.