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Beardfish: The Void

Calm down, calm down. It's only a bit of distorted guitars!

If chatter across the net were to be believed The Void, which is the seventh album from Swedish prog-masters Beardfish, finds them morphing into some sort of prog-metal riffsters! While, the first three or four songs on the album do indeed find Beardfish rocking like a good-un', Dream Theater, or Vanden Plas, this is not. Goodness only knows what those on message boards and social media sites who are going as far as to send out "warnings" of BF's change of direction would make of Opeth and their ilk. Possibly if they heard them, they'd explode?

To be fair, The Void is undoubtedly a heavier, sharper beast than these Swedes have served up before. However there genuinely is no need for long term fans of the band to despair, as all the traits that make this band such an intriguing prospect, are still in order. In fact, this is a record capable of giving the band's hardcore followers the opportunity to say "I was there from the start", as new followers are seduced by this mighty statement. Constantly evolving vocals lines veer from snarled spits, to languid meanders, while the ever present keyboards roam from the all out prog ala Yes, Genesis and King Crimson, to crazed crashes of sounds, via jazzy interludes.

The album begins with a spoken introduction courtesy of Andy Tillison from The Tangent, that immediately draws you in, before a mighty riff careens out of the speakers, almost knocking you off your perch. Already this is much more metallic than Beardfish are known for, yet the strong sense of melody of "Voluntary Slavery" keeps you safe in the knowledge that classic Beardy traits are never far away. "Turn To Gravel" slides into prog meets Masters Of Reality stoner territory, with a hunk of guitars and super smooth vocals providing a killer groove, before "They Whisper" brings the keyboards right to the front of the mix for the first time. The ever throbbing bass and swirling Hammond brings thoughts of Yes meets Uriah Heep, although the ability to blend the two makes for a refreshingly individual take on well known ideas.

Growls appear, but only for a couple of lines, in "This Matter Of Mine", a song that merges much of what has preceded it into a pointed, focus of melodic keyboards and guitars, all dominated by some tremendously sharp drumming and yet more sumptuous vocals.

From there a more familiar, if no less impressive Beardfish sounds unfolds, with a more restrained guitar approach backing the domineering keyboards to quite stunning effect, especially during the infectious mini-epic "Note", which begins with the sound of crazed pencil scribbles, before slithering through some of the most memorable motifs and passages any prog album has served up this year (and what a progressive year it has been so far!). I could go on to tell you that "Ludvig & Sverker" contains an excellently controlled manic vocal and scintillating clean guitar work, or that "Seventeen Again" will make you feel exactly that, as the glorious amalgam of guitar and keys builds and builds into a stunning crescendo. However you should already be getting the message that The Void is somewhere well worth spending a serious amount of time.

Yes, this is, at times, a slightly different Beardfish and yes the intensity, volume and aggression is at a level this band have never provided before. However live safe in the knowledge that Beardfish have evolved, not altered and that given time even those cowering in the corner at the sight of a distortion pedal will be seduced by the charms of The Void.


Track Listing
1 Intro (by Andy Tillison)
2 Voluntary Slavery
3 Turn To Gravel
4 They Whisper
5 This Matter Of Mine
6 Seventeen Again
7 Ludvig & Sverker
8 He Already Lives In You
9 Note
I. Note
II. Descending
III. The Void
IV. Note (reprise)
10 Where The Lights Are Low
Bonus Track:
11 Ludvig & Sverker Solo Piano Version

Added: September 19th 2012
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: Beardfish MySpace
Hits: 3259
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Beardfish: The Void
Posted by Geoff Glenister, SoT Staff Writer on 2012-09-19 08:54:44
My Score:

The Void is the seventh studio album for Progressive Rock act Beardfish, and as I listened to this album again the other day I had a bit of a catharsis. On my first listen, I would not have given it 5 stars – I did actually enjoy the album quite a bit, but I was not ready to give it 5 stars at this point. But I made some connections this time, and found new understanding of the album. Now, I'd like to get on a soapbox a bit and talk about reviewing albums, why I started reviewing albums, and some peeves I have about reviews. This may seem to have nothing to do with The Void by Beardfish, but stick with me here and I am going to try to make a connection between the album and this thought process.

So I have listened to and been a fan of Progressive Rock for a long time and have listened to many, many albums. But I only recently began to review albums, and while I had thought about giving it a shot many times before, I always thought I didn't really have anything new to say. But what eventually pushed me into writing my first review was when I saw a horrible review of an album I loved, and it was the only review on the site for this album. The reviewer's only reason for giving a very low rating of this album and trash talking it seemed to be that he felt the band wasn't truly "Progressive" because they had some, in his opinion, obvious influences and thus were not doing anything new. Now, this is a huge peeve of mine, because I think this is a misunderstanding of what the "Progressive" genre is truly about. You see, I don't believe the genre, or any musical genre, can be defined by such an ambiguous idea as being "new" or having never been done before. It's music – nothing is new! Every piece of music is influenced by some other pieces of music going back all the way to the time when the caveman Ugh Nok Ok picked up a seashell and blew into it, playing the very first notes. If your music has notes, it was influenced by this event! You think King Crimson was "new"? You think Yes was doing something that had never been done before? No! They were influenced by classical composers as well as the rock music of their time and they were just combining influences! So it is a peeve of mine when I see reviewers defining the Progressive genre by this ambiguous idea of possessing "newness" and taking this concept to the conclusion that anything that does not possess this indefinable and immeasurable idea must not be good. No, what makes an album "good" is indefinable as well, and different from person to person, but usually has to do with a certain level of musical skill, and creating a combination of sounds that is pleasing in some way to the listener as well as presenting an idea to the listener in a way that makes a connection with that listener. And so, as I have pondered how to go about defining my ratings of albums in my reviews, I have realized that I cannot pretend to be presenting the true measurement of an album's worth but can only represent my own enjoyment of an album, nothing more.

Now, what does this have to do with Beardfish's album, The Void? Well, let's start exploring this question by taking a look at the first track of the album, the Intro, in which Andy Tillison states:

"The magician looked into the future and saw nothing but the past, repeating itself. With caution he turned his eyes to the present and found himself staring into a void. He disappeared in the dark. Time passed, and one day he returned, with a vision. Once he talked to the first stranger he met it was clear that in his absence nothing had changed, but him…"

Now right away, we have a very powerful and mysterious statement. But as the album progresses, I believe the band explores this concept through their music. Now, I have always been intrigued by Beardfish – they have a unique style that incorporates a very retro sound that seems to be influenced by Yes, King Crimson, and Genesis, incorporating progressive musical structures, quick fingered riffs, changing time signatures, sometimes odd crashing jangles, and a quirky sophistication. But when this album first came out I heard rumblings that seemed to frighten some away while only drawing me in: "Psst! Beardfish is going metal! Run away!" This is the warning it seemed some were giving out. So of course I had to check it out. And as I listened I thought that I could hear where these people were coming from, but it seemed clear to me that this was not a release that nicely and neatly fit right in to the "Metal" categorization in any way. Yes, the guitars have a bit more distorted crunch to them, there is some riffing that is more aggressive in previous Beardfish albums, and there are the occasional growly vocals present. But it is clear that the retro sound we're used to hearing from Beardfish is still present as well as plenty of jazz influences. But as I listened to this album again later on I felt that I began to understand the musical statement as I realized there seemed to be many, many musical influences present in this album. By incorporating and representing musical influences from many genres and time periods, I believe Beardfish is musically presenting the statement put forth by King Solomon thousands of years ago:
"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, 'Look! This is something new'? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time."

As I realized the presence of Classic Prog, Progressive Metal, Sludge, Math-Rock, Jazz, Classic Rock, Blues, and Classical influences (and possibly many more) that were present in this release, and thought about the statement made in the intro, I began to realize how beautifully and profoundly they were presenting this idea of the future merely repeating the past, and the spiritual and philosophical quandary that we are faced with as we ponder this and what it means for our lives. And as I began to understand this statement, I began to truly enjoy this album as it touched me and affected my perspective. And that is what this album is all about, I believe: the mystery of life in which there is nothing new and that as we deal with loss, love, life and death and struggle to heal from emotional wounds, the illusion of change, and how the only thing which truly changes in time is our own perspective.


Beardfish: The Void
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2012-08-27 09:10:34
My Score:

The much beloved Beardfish are creating quite a stir with their latest release The Void, thanks in part to a few muscular songs that are as close as this band will ever get to progressive metal. Fear not though classic prog faithful, as Beardfish has not forgotten what's gotten them this far, which is their ability to deliver vintage sounding progressive rock with plenty of instrumental acrobatics and melody. "They Whisper" features all the Yes/Gentle Giant characteristics we've come to love from this band, in addition to a heaping amount of Uriah Heep/Deep Purple inspired Hammond organ firepower, and "Seventeen Again" is lush prog from start to finish, complete with soaring guitar lines and sumptuous keyboards. Elsewhere, "Ludvig & Sverker" contains some quirky vocals and a mix of jazz, prog, and folk instrumentation, and "He Already Lives In You" has a bluesy, somewhat jazzy feel, thanks to some swirling organ & electric piano, and tasty guitar work. As for the metal? Well, look no further than the rampaging "Voluntary Slavery", the grinding "Turn to Gravel", and the bombastic "This Matter of Mine", all which feature huge guitar riffs and a much more aggressive tone than we've ever heard from this band before. Ok, so it's not really 'metal', but these songs do rock, and rock hard.

The epic "Note" suite confirms that Beardfish have not strayed from their prog roots, as this wonderful 15 minute track takes the listener through all sorts of exciting twists and turns, and is exactly what fans of this band have always looked for. So, forget all the talk about Beardfish becoming a heavy metal band. Yes, there are a few songs here that approach some Dream Theater/Pain of Salvation styled qualities, but for the most part this is still Beardfish as we love them.



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