Album Reviews

Circus Maximus – Nine

It must be really stressful for a band when the fans are impatiently waiting for the third album after a five-year-long hiatus… Especially when the first two are rather brilliant releases…

Circus Maximus kind of had to live up to the successes of 1st Chapter and Isolate.

Luckily though, they made a comeback with an even more mature, richer and a slightly fresher sound with more layers and subtleties and extremely well-written songs… Of course, the subtleties will make it harder to appreciate and digest…

With the new album, it looks like everything fell into place – there is more harmony and the album practically smells of intelligence. Vocal melodies are very clever…

First off, Forging is a very solid introduction and it segues perfectly into my favourite song on this album; and kicking things off in style.

Then comes this brilliant piece, Architect of Fortune, letting the drums drive the music for a while – I wanted to taste this song to its fullest so I turned the volume up so much that my speakers started to bounce. It’s hard not to fall for the guitar tone when it kicks in… And when my excitement reaches its peak, Michael Eriksen makes his brilliant entrance. I also loved the acoustic sections squeezed in which makes the song softer for a while before it starts to build up again and ends gracefully.

It feels like they are giving us a masterpiece as a first track and plenty of aural thrills to remind us why we loved them this much in the first place…

Then Namaste starts off with beautiful, uplifting riffs and happy-inducing guitar melodies… Creepy whispers in the background add so much to the atmosphere… Yes! This is a great piece laden with various sounds and layers… Distorted guitars give way to ripping; tearing guitars… these guys are doing it right!

Michael can be so very impressive, oh yes, God, without even reaching his full register! This is the first song that stands out with an utterly gorgeous chorus and awesome melodies all around… and this track, along with the next one, Game of Life; bring in quirkiness and fun to the band’s general sound.

With Game of Life, the album starts to go to an unexpected direction with a highly poppy sound… The first thing it made me think was “very risky move for a prog-metal band” and colour me prejudiced but I must admit that I wouldn’t have expected to dig a song of this style this much being a die-hard prog/metal-head…

There is something about this song – a whole bunch of awesomeness hidden between layers… One needs to give it a fair number of spins to see the beauty that can’t be instantly seen… I mean, don’t get me wrong, the song is catchy as hell which makes it easier to appreciate in short order… What I’m trying to convey here is that this track is not one of those that lose their beauty fast.

Actually, this very poppy tune builds into a proggy sound with the odd time signatures suddenly showing up in the middle section so I think it has the ability to convert many over to the dark… er, prog-side, while keeping the open minded fans satisfied as well… So much fun to listen and sing along!

The sound of these two tracks showcase the band’s incredible talent for combining high quality prog-metal with catchy hooks and a poppy feel brilliantly.

Another stand-out track on the album, Used is driving me crazy each and every time I hear it and I always go “OMG! What the hell man?!!’

Seriously, I’m dying to see them live and sing along to this song – it has all the elements I love; the aggressive riffs and heavier guitars, the great bass lines generating much adrenaline, drums driving the music at a faster pace, heavy riffs forced down my throat… and, add Mike to the equation = WIN!

At the end of this song, I was nearly utterly spent with Michael – the ear-tease – finally giving us the high pitched vocals he so easily does but has been keeping us craving!

Burn After Reading , another gem off this album, starts out with some acoustic guitars, soft drums and calm singing – the mix sounds a bit different too… Then the song explodes at the 2 minute mark with those frenetic, distorted riffs, builds into something deliriously unhinged! With the heavy instrumental section, especially the key driven part, the song reaches its climax… You yearn for Mats Haugen’s solo, it’s still yet to come and when it does, it sends shivers down your spine. Build up is impossibly good. Piano outro is just glorious and the musical ideas in this song are pure brilliance… Nothing short of astoundingly beautiful…

The album closes with Last Goodbye which clocks in at just over 9 minutes, wrapping up the album graciously. Michael’s vocals are so heartfelt!

I’m not going into any deeper about the songs but rest assured that there’s so much to find out in this album, and that there are no weak songs there – the album is a box of rare gems!

Christer Cederberg has done brilliant job in producing the album – really, it is just what Circus Maximus needs. Their unique melodies and atmosphere are enhanced by the production with everything clearly audible and exactly at their respective niches.

Mats’s guitar-work is absolutely resplendent throughout… Seriously, his phrasing is phenomenal and everything seems to be very well-planned. He is capable of bedazzling us without overdoing anything. His soloing, guitar crescendos scattered here and there are awe-inspiring. It goes without saying that the song writing is another testimony to his skills.

Michael doesn’t belt out high notes as much as the fans are dying to hear but nailing every note with his sonorous voice without showing off with his range and keeping us in the know as to what he is capable of here and there.

When you factor in the complex rhythms by Glen Cato Møllen, the majestic drum work by Truls Haugen, and mightily technical skills of Lasse Finbråten, coupled with the brilliant arrangements with thick layers, what you get is epic Circus Maximus sound…

Overall, the album is a step forward with the epic sounding production, the brilliant song-writing and top notch musicianship. It definitely managed to keep me excited throughout its runtime and left me with so many memorable moments. I got the impression that they are going for a more eclectic sound with each new album, as the variety provided is getting richer…

As a fan, I am glad to see that they proved to be a continuously amazing band. You will see an interview with Michael on these pages soon as he was kind enough to accept to answer my questions…


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