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A strange little bugger - 80%

androdion, May 24th, 2012

Psychotic Waltz will go down in the history books for a few reasons; be it because of the uniqueness of their music which brought them a cult fan base, or the fact that they were systematically ripped off by nearly every label releasing their music or people surrounding them. Despite being one of the unluckiest musical collectives in the history of metal I like to think that they’ll be remembered for their good moments, which is the same to say their musical output. And the fact remains that they’ve released what could be described as an air tight discography, one that featured different styles over the course of six years and four albums but that still bears enough quality to have you sitting down and enjoying it in its entirety.

Their third album, Mosquito, is where the band definitely sheds the skin of earlier efforts and metamorphoses into a different entity; one less worried about highly technical passages or complicated long songs, giving instead room for tracks more focused on catchy hooks and powerful choruses. The band has always managed to introduce some brilliant choruses in their twisted compositions, but here it seems like the scales have turned and the hefty guitar work now meanders around these catchy vocal lines, instead of being the other way around. Structurally there are also differences, with most songs now being smaller affairs that normally go between 3 and 4 minutes. There’s a major sense of easiness and a cooled down atmosphere that counterposes with the more aggressive writing featured on the first couple of albums. In a way this is where the psychedelic elements are given a bigger role in the band’s sound, heavily enhancing the atmosphere and layering what can be described as simpler, yet still somewhat complex, songs.

I know how oxymoronic this sounds but it is in fact the best way to describe the sound on this album, as the opener and title track immediately shows. The rhythm section sets the tone by going into a progressive overdrive of shifting patterns, while Devon starts the vocal show, further demonstrating the toning down he had been undergoing for the past few years. He progressively went for a more mid-range tone with each passing album and in Mosquito he seems to have finally stabilized it. The following songs continue to show the easy going tone of the album; be it with the enticing main riff of “Lovestone Blind” which almost resembles a stoner song, or the atmospheric leanings of “Haze One” that recounts the experience of living on the road, constantly travelling without a sense of tomorrow. There’s a marvelous guitar solo to be found near the end of it, clearly showing that they can still surprise the listener with great axe work. This album marks a shift in the band’s musical output, showing them as more mature individuals who now have other priorities and concerns in life, something that transpires into their sonic output. The haunting “All The Voices” is another example of their newfound sense of calm, ladened by a very peculiar synthesizer sound that reeks of the seventies, and featuring a moving vocal delivery by Devon.

The album barely averts this chilled out mid-paced tone except on a couple of faster numbers like the rocking “Cold” or the speedy “Dancing In The Ashes”. The first is a rocking song, resembling the opener but more upbeat, and showing a great sense of groove. It incorporates some of the best guitar work on the entire album, with the duality of the crashing guitars followed closely by the powerful drumming. The later is pure speed, going to the point where it actually feels a bit off-kilter in this album, with its two and a half minutes of speedy drumming and furious spewing out of the lyrics. This is also where we get to hear a bit of double-bass in the drums and an almost Paul Gilbert feel circa Racer X on the guitars. A cute little number that sadly feels a bit out of place as the rest of the album is quite sluggish compared to it. There’s only one long song in the album but it’s more of a studio trick than anything else since it consists of a six-minute part followed by silence and then a hidden segment. Sadly the streamlined approach of these songs made no room for personal favourites like the long affairs “A Psychotic Waltz” or “Into The Everflow” that could be found on previous albums.

In the end Mosquito is a pretty radical departure from the band’s earlier sound, marking itself as the turning point in their careers and in some way it paved the beginning of the end. It’s not to say that the album is bad, far from it. It’s a very enjoyable piece of music that is still able to touch the inner Psychotic Waltz fan in the all the right places, albeit in a very different way. The fact is that an evolution is shown here, one that would be further enhanced with the following album. Evolution isn’t necessarily a bad thing and I prefer seeing the band treading new grounds and expanding its musical horizons rather than repeating itself in a watered down fashion. Many bands fails to understand that specific moment in time where playing a certain way stops being fun and starts being a means to an end, and in that sense I think that Psychotic Waltz did exactly that. They’ve averted becoming clichés and opted instead for growing both personally and musically, and they present it in the form of this quirky little album. Don’t pass it off on accounts of being a different affair as its sense of groove is very enticing and turns it into a rather enjoyable experience.