Circus Maximus



by Xenorazr USER (120 Reviews)
March 19th, 2016 | 14 replies

Release Date: 2016 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Circus Maximus become faint-hearted.

Progressive rock probably isn't the first genre to come to mind when regarding Norwegian music. Instead, the Scandinavian country is known for housing a plethora of black metal bands, which makes a group like Circus Maximus strangely unique. The band's initial releases, The 1st Chapter and Isolate, laid a decidedly progressive metal foundation. Things got a little different in 2012, with Nine presenting a softer, less abrasive side to the band's music. We began to see Circus Maximus tread the line between rock and metal, a direction which, unsurprisingly, drew mixed opinions from fans. It's important to keep this transition in mind when heading into Havoc, an album that sheds nearly every trace of progressive metal left in the band's bloodstream.

We see metal groups move away from their initial genre and into others more often than we might admit; Anathema and Katatonia being two successful examples. Even so, leaning away from a heavier sound does tend to carry a sense of "are they selling out?" mentality when looking at a given band. What's most important, however, isn't necessarily the genre of music played, but the quality of music played. Havoc will become a topic of contention for both points, especially with long-time fans. Gone are the strongly distorted guitars, aggressive leads and high dynamics, now replaced with music of a gentler nature, with barely a handful of truly ambitious moments. There's nothing inherently wrong with taking this approach, but when you risk alienating your fans this way, the material really needs to deliver on some level. Unfortunately, this is where Havoc ultimately struggles.

A more easygoing nature actually suits Circus Maximus, thanks to the added emphasis on Michael Erikson's vocals. He has a gentle, approachable tone when he sings, which may draw more vocal-minded listeners to the music. However, it's just as likely that even those same listeners will grow disinterested as they delve further into the album. Not only do the rest of the band play less technical material, but they play less material period. This is especially prevalent when you consider the vast majority of Havoc seems to phone in the choruses and let those be what define the album. The music isn't nearly as layered as previous efforts, which you'd think would leave more room for individual members to stand out. Yet this opportunity is almost exclusively given to Erikson, with a handful of moments afforded to bassist Glen Cato Mollen. One could argue this gives the album a more subtle nature, one that requires repeat listens and careful examination to fully appreciate. A sound view, especially for a progressive band/album, but the problem with Havoc is that it barely invites the listener to return. Whatever underlying touches the band may (or may not) have given the music is like to be lost on many listeners because there are barely any moments of intrigue.

Havoc hardly leaves a lasting impression. This isn't synonymous with being unenjoyable--it's entirely possible to like the album while listening. The point isn't that the album is bad (it isn't), it's just bland and uninspired. Other than the simple, catchy moments and one interesting track that calls back to the band's roots ("After the Fire"), Havoc does little to keep listeners interested in the short term and even less in the long run, regardless of how familiar they are with the band.

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Comments:Add a Comment 
March 19th 2016


Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

This just doesn't feed what I yearn from progressive music. It's like a tortilla chip without salsa, bland but technically serviceable.

Ocean of Noise
March 20th 2016


Can't believe this band's been around for over ten years now. I love their first album, but the latter ones just got gradually worse.

March 20th 2016


is this like karnivool

March 20th 2016


nah Kill these guys do (or better, used to) do prog a là dream theater / symphony x.

March 20th 2016


Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Their previous two were masterpieces, but this seems a big dissapointment!

March 20th 2016


dis is a great wonda on civ 5

March 20th 2016


From what I have heard from this, Circus Maximus kinda fucked up.

Great review! Pos'd! I haven't listened to this fully yet but I'm quite sure I would mostly agree with you.

March 21st 2016


Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

If we're comparing this to DT, then it's ADToE, except ADToE had more than one interesting moment. If we're comparing this to Symphony X, then it's CM's own Underworld. Not sure which I'd consider more underwhelming.

March 21st 2016


i wonder if this is where/what doc got his degree in? x_x

March 22nd 2016


Album Rating: 4.0

The first two albums were excellent, and "Nine" was a revelation on its own, with a strong focus on melodies and more straightforward approach. I would say that "Havoc" went even further than "Nine" in that direction. Singles that were published before the release looked a little bland at first, but when I listened to the whole thing, I started to appreciate all the small details and the beauty of this band once again, and I applaud that they are different with each release. Certainly more than 3 points for me, more like a 4.

March 23rd 2016


Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

Hey, I'm glad you enjoy it! I'm always of a "the more I can enjoy, the better" mentality, but this just doesn't do it for me. I'll admit, I felt a bit of buyer's remorse shortly after listening to the whole album, but I'm still happy to support the band (in a small way). It's not a bad album, I just find it bland and unremarkable. "After the Fire" is the only song I find myself coming back to. Any other song that comes up I quickly grow disinterested.

April 16th 2016


This album is just a damn shame.

November 3rd 2017


I was shown the song "remember" by a friend, and gotta say it's not that bad. Their solo guitarist reminds me of Per Nilsson, and that's always a good thing

So I gather their older stuff is better

November 4th 2017


Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

Considerably so. People are pretty split on Nine, but I personally prefer it to Isolate. The 1st Chapter is definitely their best.

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