Frontiers Records (2012)
Progressive/power metal fans - while very adamant in their approval and appreciation for their favorite artists - can often be an impatient bunch. Through the explosion of releases that hit the market weekly and choices through internet exploration they are always eager to hear the latest creative outbursts from bands. So what do you mean I have to wait three to five years for the next studio product? As musicians, you aren’t allowed to have a real life, start families, and develop a dual existence between personal and professional lives.
The third album from Norway progressive metal act Circus Maximus comes five years after their “Isolate” release. After subsequent touring as one of the opening acts for Symphony X on their 3 week European tour in February-March of 2008, downtime took place as three of the five members attended to family matters and vocalist Michael Eriksen recorded a fine melodic rock/AOR project The Magnificient with Leverage guitarist Torsti Spoof. So the time spent on production, songwriting, and individual performances for “Nine” means the listeners have an elevated expectation on where Circus Maximus will take them- and it’s my belief that most will be satisfied with the results.
“Nine” really hones in on the melodic aspects of the band- both musically and vocally. Much like “Images And Words” was a pioneer effort in the progressive metal world for Dream Theater, “Nine” tackles this aspect from all angles. Be it a hypnotic Lasse Finbraten keyboard hook and acoustic intro that plunges headfirst into this anthem-like electric guitar crescendo for the emotional 10 minute “Last Goodbye” or the exotic twisted keyboard/ electric guitar syncopated riffing through “Namaste” that may remind some of “Awake” era Dream Theater days- Circus Maximus level their off time abilities with a semblance of streamlined groove sensibilities. “Reach Within” has this calming, Toto aura running through Michael’s delivery. Another favorite is the high energy “Used”, the low tuned Mats Haugen guitar bends and Truls Haugen percussive pattern giving the song a tribal touch.
Much like Pagan’s Mind took off from their influence factor to sprout their creative wings with “God’s Equation”, Circus Maximus now have a platform record where I think attaining headline status is imminent. Feel the joy and excitement from the performances, the dynamic song choices, and the ability to be heavy and tranquil from one measure to the next- plus knowing how to tie things together so that you get the most out of the arrangements.
This should be an instant purchase for Circus Maximus followers worldwide.
Rating: 5 / 6
Composed by Matt Coe