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Aslan > Aslan > Reviews
Aslan - Aslan

An Early Invitation to a Difficult-to-Learn Dance - 85%

bayern, April 29th, 2020

Staying on a Psychotic Waltz frequency some more, but looking this time at the very roots of this brilliant formation, trying to see/hear when, and how, this awesome creative pool had been stirred. The excavation work isn’t that painstaking as the beginning is very well documented, here and elsewhere, and it is reflected in this solitary demo released under the Asian… sorry, Aslan moniker.

It turns out that at this very early stage our beloved ballroom dancers had no aspirations stretching beyond the already established US power metal realm, and this introduction is a nice companion piece to the works of Helstar, Attacker, and Omen. The romantic, but edgy veneer of the balladic “To Chase the Stars” is a fitting introduction with its suppressed drama and melodic excursions, the effect heightened by Lackey’s exceptional emotional performance, the man pitching it higher quite often, recalling the two Johns of American metal vocalism at the time, Cyriis (Agents Steel) and Arch (Fates Warning). There’s quite a bit of glory in “No Glory", mind you, as this piece is an impetuous glorious galloper the guys accumulating a fair bit of inertia throughout these six horse-riding minutes. This last number also gives chances to Rock and McAlpin to bedazzle with a couple of more contrived pirouettes, but the listener has to wait for “Spiral Tower” to commence before more fully savouring what these two wizards are capable of; more entangled arrangements take turns with heavy stomping passages to a pretty positive impression, hitting at the future metamorphosis into a fully accomplished technical/progressive act.

It should come as no surprise that this last composition was remastered for the debut, boosted by sharper and more aggressive production, as it logically leads the way out of the more conventional power metal territory, and ushers the band’s approach into the more challenging waters, ones they conquered without too many difficulties with the first two instalments. The US metal scene had already spawned its more technical (Have Mercy, Watchtower, Ulysses Siren) department by the time this effort came out, but our waltzers seemed unfazed by those, opting instead to stick to an already familiar, tried-and-tested delivery as such an approach was always the better option if a newcomer wanted to put its feet firmly on the ground before anything else.

The Aslan name was dropped soon after as there was another outfit parading under it; replaced by a most fitting one… I mean, which act would you take more seriously, the one that has “psychotic” and “waltz” in the name, or one that is named after a lion from a children’s fantasy novel? The childhood period ended quite soon for the guys; there was much more to achieve in this lifetime. Beating about the standard metal bush was left for the mere mortals; from where glory beckons the only way to reach is to learn the steps of this ultimately challenging, twisted and irregular dance… definitely not for clumsy and “two left feet” gifted individuals.

early progressive metal - 80%

odradek, June 18th, 2008

The band that would later become known as Psychotic Waltz released a demo under the name Aslan. The style, quite similar to that found on their later releases, is progressive metal dominated by clean (albeit a little wild) vocals, with a backing of complex rhythm guitar and adventurous drum patterns. The tracks feature some tasteful guitar solo breaks as well. In fact the rhythms and melodies expressed in the individual instrument tracks alone would carry the listeners interest the full length of each song; layered on top of each other they form a rich, complex whole. The sound is somewhat akin to "Awaken the Guardian" era Fates Warning, with perhaps some hints of Iron Maiden and Dream Theater mixed in.

The sound quality is quite fair for a demo. The mix is raw, especially the vocals, compared to the processed sound the band favored in later releases. And as a consequence, Buddy Lackey's vocal performance absolutely steals the show; he exhibits great range and expressiveness -- growling, whispering, and wailing, with impressive pitch control as well. The vocals on subsequent Psychotic Waltz albums sounds a bit muted and restrained in comparison; dare I say it, in the band's entire catalog, Lackey would never sound as good again as he did on this demo.

Two of the tracks, "To Chase the Stars" and "No Glory", are treasures, and well worth the effort of tracking this album down. The other tracks are unessential: the remake of "Spiral Tower" on "A Social Grace" is an improvement over the version here, and the instrumental/sound effect bonus track "The Fry Tape" is a bit incoherent.