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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.