Review Summary: A flawed debut from a band brimming with potential.
Dream Theater-influenced progressive metal bands are now extremely common. It takes something new, something exciting, something special to rise above the crowd. Circus Maximus in particular understood this with their latest album, Nine, where they finally found a personality of their own. Band from Quebec Far From Reality, with their first album Reminiscence, mostly choose to stay within familiar territory. That, however, doesn’t mean that this album isn’t solid or isn’t showing a lot of potential, because both affirmations would be false.
What immediately struck me after the first listen is how mature these guys are. There’s very little technical masturbating here (outside of some guitar solos), which is very refreshing considering how young bands usually want to impress. The keyboard playing is exquisite, always having a clear purpose. The riffs are, for the most part, extremely memorable with just the right amount of technicality to make them challenging (and both guitarists play lead which is cool too). The bass even has a few moments to shine and is mixed high enough to be clearly heard. To me, the biggest plus to all of this is that the band can still shred with the best of them (especially the keyboard player, Ludovick Daoust). This makes the few crazier sections (‘’Lost’’, ‘’Abyss’’) come out a lot more.
My first gripe I had with the album, however, is the vocals. I don’t know whose fault it is exactly (the singer or the mixing), but the vocals kind of felt out-of-place at more than a few times. The fact that the singer Simon Sullivan uses an almost constantly gritty yet operatic voice will be divisive for a lot of people, even if it grew on me after a few listens and I appreciate how unique it sounds. It has more to do with the vocal lines, which lack a bit of spice to them and are sometimes just kind of… there. The guy can sing for sure, but there is clearly work to be done in the future.
The whole sound is also extremely familiar. There isn’t a lot here that you can’t pinpoint directly to another similar band. It makes me question if the band can actually make it in the industry, and it’d be tempting to immediately say no if there wasn’t so much solid stuff and potential here. Second song and first highlight ‘’Waiting’’ is a great straightforward song with a superb harmonized main riff, a catchy-as-f*ck chorus and a killer (and a bit unexpected) solo section to end the song. What follow however are the two best tracks on the album, ‘’Reminiscence Part I: Lost and Part II: Regrets’’. ‘’Lost’’ is perhaps the most technical song on the album yet maybe the most well-written one. Everything on this song is where it’s supposed to be, with incredible keyboard work throughout, including a beautiful piano ending that segues into my favorite track, ‘’Regrets’’. It’s a 3 minute piano ballad (yes you read correctly) that completely threw me off guard, especially the vocals. It continuously builds up emotion with a shockingly dynamic and passionate vocal performance. It’s just a shame that ‘’Part III: Home’’, while intriguing and certainly not unpleasant, is overlong, slow and doesn’t really connect with the other two parts.
There are a few other questionable parts too. ‘’Falter’’ and ‘’Abyss’’ are both a bit bloated and messy, even if they both have their share of great moments (especially ‘’Abyss’’). Also, as I mentioned earlier, some guitar solos seem to not really have a point other than to shred and have no clear melodic structure to them. And I feel like I need to mention how the female guest vocals in ‘’Abyss’’ aren’t particularly well executed or needed.
Overall, this is a great first album and a great album in general. With every flaw that I could find, there would be another time where they completely nail it. I just hope that in the future they will try to experiment a bit more and find their own voice. They could play in the big leagues in a future not too far away and I can’t wait for it.