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Circle II Circle
Even as this is the third album by Circle II Circle that made it into the blog (yes I am catching up), I am still not sure how many they actually released. But to put it bluntly, I do believe that of the ones I have heard so far, this one ranks as the best.
So that makes it all pretty easy; if you still have to acquaint yourself with this band lead by former Savatage singer Zak Stevens, start with this album. Keywords are Zak Stevens (great voice), Savatage (progressive metal kings) and progressive metal (which in this case stands for melodic metal with enough depth to satisfy even the more spoiled listeners amongst the viewers). The Savatage reference seems to be on it´s way out here, but that is okay. Stevens obviously has that heritage to carry and should be given time to carve his own place in the metal world. So, great album, buy it. Simple!
First thing is the much more heavy sound of the guitars as album opener Fatal Warning so aptly demonstrates. And keyboards going largely missing in the process. Of course the recognizable voice of Stevens is still present. And also more up tempo songs with a pretty menacing and fierce wall of sound to back them up.
Track Echoes breathes some similarities to his past band because of the piano. But here also the guitars claim a big part of the sound. Great guitar solo by the way. And not the only one I might add. Final track Every Last Thing would have fitted on any Stevens fronted Savatage record without problems. Ah yes, the vocal harmonies we all know and love!
So if memory serves me right this album is a lot heavier than the previous one I posted about. With a lot less reference to Savatage. I think this is a good development, because they needed to create an identity of their own in my opinion. Alas sound wise this could do with more variation. Maybe it is deliberate, making it more of a metal, and less of a progressive album. Repeated play will tell how they fare with this policy. Stevens has a voice type that I like very much, so listening still is a pleasure. It is a heavy and ass kicking release, so many will enjoy it with fists swaying and heads banging.
Personal play tips: Forever, Echoes, So Many Reasons.
Singer Zak Stevens first came to my attention after joining Savatage in order to fill the shoes of the Mountain King, Jon Oliva himself. This due at the time to Jon´s desire to concentrate on playing keyboards rather than sing his vocal cords to shreds.
Stevens suddenly quit the business after a couple of great records and has resurfaced now with progressive metal outfit Circle II Circle. With this being the second album if I am not mistaking.
During playback I couldn´t help but make comparisons to Savatage. And that isn´t fair I´m afraid. Circle II Circle are a very competent band, but in my ears miss that little madness that made Savatage so special.
That is not to say some songs do resemble the original. But if you are planning to build a career, I am not sure that is a wise move. To sum it up, the voice is still there (I really like Zak´s voice!) the playing is there, the songs are there, but the magic is not.
Okay, I might be a little harsh here as this still is a very enjoyable listen. But the guys need to find their own sound and step away from the Savatage territory.
On the other hand, Savatage will probably never release new material, so some might find this an adequate surrogate.
Alas Jon Oliva put together (Jon Oliva´s) Pain to soothe his metal desires when off work from Trans Siberian Orchestra… time will tell.
Personal play tips: In This Life, Open Season, The Middle Of Nowhere.