|Shadow Circus: Welcome To The Freakroom
Posted by Duncan Glenday, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-09-23 17:42:34
This review was added after many of the reader comments below
Welcome To The Freakroom starts with a circus parody - recalling ELP (Welcome back, my friends), Yes (Tormato), Nektar, Germany's Flying Circus ... and so many others. It has all the standard 'circus music' cues, right down to the melodramatic showmanship of the exuberant ringmaster - it's unoriginal, but it's fun.
The rest of the record is fairly solid, with the style falling somewhere between neo-prog and third wave progressive rock, with capable musicianship and unfortunate production. Think Styx, or Saga, or a more mainstream version of recent-era Spock's Beard.
The 3-part 12-minute closing track is a far more solid effort than their dramatic opener. It's more akin to traditional Marillion-esque neo prog with a nice build up to big walls of sound and decent tempo shifts from section to section, nice guitar work from band leader John Fontana, and interesting cello textures. It's inspired by the novel The Talisman, it's clearly the standout track, and it's a positive way to end the album.
Despite its criticism of the "Radio People", that song is a 5-minute radio friendly power-pop piece that might open the album's music to a wider audience than Prog Rock Records's traditional audience. Track 3, "Inconvenient Compromise", is a mostly-instrumental piece, and will probably be viewed by some as one of the better songs because of that. Vocalist David Bobick, is formally trained and deeply experienced in the rock world, and rather than simply singing the lyrics, he attempts to bring fully developed characters into each song. His delivery might find a love-it or hate-it reception, though. His vocals are very dominant on most of the simpler tracks, and pitch control sometimes loses to theatrics.. Some sections feature predictable but pleasing choral vocals that are way back in the mix and aren't clearly heard. Pity - they add a nice texture.
Production needs attention - with clearer separation of instruments, and perhaps a bit more space, the musicianship would be easier to appreciate. Songwriting is solid - not stellar for this genre- and the tempo shifts are somewhat subtle occasionally yielding a 'samey' quality. Welcome To The Freakroom is far from perfect, but it's a promising debut.
Clearly, Sea Of Tranquility reviewers opinions are somewhat diversified here - so we'd urge you to try it before you buy it - the band's MySpace page has samples. It might not be your cuppa tea - but then, you just might love it.