Norway's Circus Maximus are back with their sophomore effort Isolate, another step forward for this band who seem to have a knack for churning out melodic, accessible, and exciting progressive metal music. Chances are if you dug The 1st Chapter, then Isolate is definitely going to be one of your favorite genre releases this year. At the helm once again is amazing singer Michael Eriksen, whose passionate and soaring pipes instantly brings up images of Queensryche, Journey, Kamelot, and Pagans Mind. Add in the stellar guitar talent from Mats Haugen, the majestic keyboard work courtesy of Lasse Finbroten, and the complex rhythms from bassist Glen Mollen & drummer Trols Haugen, and you have a band that is really starting to realize their potential.
Although these guys can play their assess off (listen to the blistering instrumental "Sane No More", complete with some ripping guitar and keyboard interplay), it's all about the songs here in Isolate. Throughout most of these tunes, there's a perfect balance between melody, progressive arrangements, and the crunch factor. "Zero" is just a wonderful prog-metal ballad, one of the best you will ever hear, featuring Eriksen's lovely vocals, orchestral keys, and some tasty guitar work. "Mouth of Madness", the CD's longest track at close to 13 minutes, has plenty of atmosphere and blazing solo spots, but also manages to fill in some catchy & symphonic moments as well. Speaking of symphonic rockers, you can't go wrong with "From Childhood's Hour", a killer piece with an amazing hook that rivals some of the best of Kamelot and Symphony X, or the Dream Theater influenced opus "Abyss", led by crankin' guitar riffs, orchestral keyboards, and Eriksen's Geoff Tate-meets- Khan vocal histrionics. Of course, many of you prog-metal fiends will just love the dark, technical metal of "Ultimate Sacrifice" and "Darkened Mind", two complex numbers that bookend the CD.
I could really go on and on talking about the high points of this CD (and I didn't even get into the fantastic production from Tommy Hansen and the always excellent artowork from Mattias Noren), but the best thing you can possibly do is grab a copy and check it out for yourself. Along with outstanding releases from Dream Theater, Symphony X, Threshold, Echoes of Eternity, Kamelot, Thought Chamber, Redemption, and Sun Caged (among others), 2007 has certainly been a great year for the genre. Add Isolate from Circus Maximus to that list. Highly Recommended!
1. Darkened Mind
4. Sane No More [Instrumental]
5. Arrival of Love
7. Mouth of Madness
8. From Childhood's Hour
9. Ultimate Sacrifice