'The Void' is Beardfish's seventh album with Rikard Sjöblom on vocals and keyboards, David Zackrinsson on guitars, Robert Hansen on bass and Magnus Östgren on drums. It is a darker, heavier, more metallic creation than any of their previous work, the band recently commenting: "We went full-on with this one... We've had some trouble in the past conveying our live energy on the studio albums. This is the one that shines through!"
They continue: "It's an album about loss. It's about love. It celebrates both life and death and the struggle in between to heal the wounds that don't show and to actually take the step to move forward in life." That's quite a deep, heady mix that has been allowed to mature a bit, the band saying: "We've been waiting to share these songs with all of you for a while now and we, Beardfish, are really proud to present to you 'The Void'."
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And so they should be.
'The Void' is an exceptional piece of progressive rock that dwells at the heavier end of the progressive spectrum. There are points where the music does fly off at a tangent but it is never enough to render it an incoherent mess, avoiding becoming a Metallic masturbatory widdle fest and whilst Beardfish ARE not afraid to allow the music to do its thing, they nonetheless keep it firmly on its leash and sitting in its groove.
Whilst it likes to let the modern Metal have its head, as on the impressive 'Voluntary Slavery' and 'Turn To Gravel' it remains very reminiscent of the great seventies progressive outfits like Yes, ELP and Genesis peppered with the influences of King Crimson, Kansas, Uriah Heep and Gentle Giant. Chuck in an Opeth like reverence for its bedrock of influence and an occasional take on Metallised Rush and there you have it, a mellotron driven homage to the greats of the genre: an overdriven Hammond/Moog sound that conjures up images of patchouli, dope and wet Afghan coats. Even the production has an analogue quality to it offering an aged veneer that reinforces the album's seventies quaintness.
After a spoken word intro from Andy Tillison (a British pianist and singer with prog bands Parallel Or 90 Degrees and The Tangent) the album opens with a battery of progressive Metal that lures you into thinking 'The Void' is going to be another technically excellent but musically anonymous, complicated Metal extravaganza until track four, 'They Whisper', with its vertiginous shift down the gears, flips the album into Focus territory that then builds into a quite impressively grandiose piece of good old fashioned prog.
From then on it swoops lightly over jazzy interludes of lounge lizard smaltz, as in 'Note' for instance, as they gently wash against the album's cliffs of bombastic rock.
Once again the Swedes have plundered a rich vein of music and shown us how it should be done. Obviously the originals had the momentum of innovation on their side yet Beardfish have not let that stop them from producing an album that could quite possibly be the prog album of the year. An album that mixes the old traditions of prog with gently controlled doses of modern Heavy Metal, 'The Void' is not far from being extraordinary.
If you are old enough to yearn for the early seventies heyday of progressive rock and proto Metal or are a student of the music of that era, 'The Void' will prove an absolute must have. If on the hand you are just looking for something on which to use that spare tenner in yer pocket, then this could prove a most satisfying investment.