Review Summary: Imagine Dream Theater or Kamelot mixed with a 80's touch to it. If you like it, be sure to check out this really great album.
A year ago, someone told me about a band called CIRCUS MAXIMUS. I went on YouTube and listened to their songs ABYSS, SANE NO MORE and WITHER from their album ISOLATE. I wasn't very impressed because the songs were good but missing something. ABYSS was definitely one of my favorite songs for a little while though. It had a blistering drum intro followed with a very dark, fast and heavy riff, great driving verses, and an impressive pre-chorus that entered one of the great choruses in recent memory. WITHER was okay, though it didn't blow me away. Same thing with SANE NO MORE which was an very technical instrumental that had too much influence from Dream Theater's Dance of Eternity to impress me.
At Christmas i received their first CD THE 1ST CHAPTER. I wasn't sure of what to think about it...I'd never hear a single song from that album. Being a giant Dream Theater fan, I sure had hope that this would be good at least.
The problem is that this album isn't great, not even good. It's awesome!
Right from the start, there is SIN, a cool opening track. Starts with a very headbanging riff followed by some Dream Theater-esque time-signatures that left me ''Whoa! This is awesome!''. When the vocalist enters I wasn't too sure about it the first time around. I thought his voice was almost the same as on ISOLATE and that's the problem (his voice has too much vibrato for my taste). The verse is still great by itself. The pre-chorus is just as good but the chorus as some major time signatures that kind of destroy the truly superb vocal harmonies. The end of the song has one of the best instrumental sections in progressive-metal ever!
This song pretty much defines the album. Complex, heavy instrumentals with 80's type of vocal harmonies. A great mix that some will like, some not. I simply love it now that got used to the vocals and the -maybe too- prominent Dream Theater influence. Sure they aren't the most original band out there but one the most effective for sure.
The vocals: Michael Eriksen is a very powerful vocalist that sounds like Khan from the band Kamelot. He has a powerful high range full of emotion but a kind of a bland low-range in my opinion. The vocal harmonies often use multiple voice tracks and sound great. And as long as they can reproduce them live, I have no problem with this at all.
His shining moment are: ALIVE (his best vocal lines on the album).
The instrumentation: Heavily Dream Theater-influenced. These guys are beasts at what they play, laying down some very intricate stuff even if sometimes more straight-forwardness (lol) would have been welcomed (SIN's chorus is the best example). Mats Haugen (guitar) creates some really tasty progressive-metal riffs but sometimes his solos seem bland to me.
Espen Storo (keyboard) is the best part of the band for me. He varies his sounds to keep things interesting and knows when to do so; while being dangerously close to Jordan Rudess in terms of speed and dexterity. Truls Haugen (drums) is a very creative guy and provides a great rhythmic section for the band. My only problem is Glen Mollen (bass), which doesn't have any shining moments on the album.
Now there is one song I really want to talk about.
THE 1ST CHAPTER is a 18 minutes song that I simply can't stop listening too. Storo opens it up with some great orchestral/military/medieval type of intro followed by an aggressive instrumental section that fades into a groovy verse. The song can seem confusing and all-over-the-place but after a few listens you notice the similarities between some parts and the song begins to feel natural. It has everything the band has to offer and also really good lyrics (they create a story and fit with the parts they are in) .Really the best song of this album and one of the best they will ever write!
To conclude the review, from what I heard this album seems to be much better than ISOLATE (ZERO is cheesy, ARRIVAL OF LOVE sounds like Journey, FROM CHILDHOOD HOUR feels forced and DARKENED MIND is good while being nothing compared to SIN). The only things that bring this album down are his lack of originality and some so-so moments (THE PROPHECY, some parts in WHY AM I HERE ?).