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Shadow Circus: Welcome To The Freakroom

Let me guess…Prog is now the "nouveau" alternative with this REM meets "Weird Al" Yankovic drizzler as heard on "Radio People" and at other times an irritating southern drawl? Throw as much stuff at the wall and see what sticks might be the motto for Welcome To The Freakroom because for the most part much of what you hear is directionless meandering. When the band is laying down more classic rock styled instrumental sections they are effective and convincing, as heard on "Journey of Everyman", but unfortunately there is not enough of that to make nice. If the whole CD were instrumental it could be fairly decent because the singing overall is extremely weak throughout.

Wait! The music does go somewhere! You wanna guess where?


Track Listing
1. Shadow Circus
2. Storm Rider
3. Inconvenient Compromise
4. Radio People
5. In The Wake Of A Dancing Flame
6. Journey Of Everyman

Added: September 24th 2007
Reviewer: Hugh Dark
Score:
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 1314
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Shadow Circus: Welcome To The Freakroom
Posted by Duncan Glenday, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-09-23 17:42:34
My Score:

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.



» Reader Comments:

Shadow Circus: Welcome To The Freakroom
Posted by Jason Lee on 2007-09-23 21:03:05
My Score:

I think part of the reason for the vastly different reviews for this CD, apart from taste in vocals, is that there are two versions of this CD...I have both...the first one the band mixed themselves and had it released only briefly before it was remixed and re-released by Progrock Records. The production quality of the first one is horrendous, whereas the label release has spectacular production. (IMO)

Shadow Circus: Welcome To The Freakroom
Posted by Gary Sauer on 2007-09-17 04:19:01
My Score:

It's funny that when you post a comment here, there's a page that states:

"We reserve the right to delete, at our discretion, any comments that we deem childish, crude, insulting, or discriminatory, which ultimately is a waste of our bandwidth."

It's a good policy, however maybe it needs to apply to reviews as well as this review certainly falls under the headings of childish and insulting. It's one thing to not like something, it's another to explain in detail why when writing a review. Being a fan of Weird Al, I fail to see any resemblance between him and this release. Yes, I understand how some people don't like certain vocalists. I feel that David Bobick's voice and delivery sometimes remind me of Dennis DeYoung, which I think is a good thing. My advice to consumers is to look for other more insightful reviews of this album elsewhere before making up your mind. I think the album is excellent with a lot of different styles of music that is well played and I happen to enjoy the vocals.

Shadow Circus: Welcome To The Freakroom
Posted by Michael Citro on 2007-09-14 19:29:07
My Score:

Wow, this is one of the worst reviews I've ever read. I like the Shadow Circus album and the band pulls it off nicely live. But it's not the fact that I disagree with the reviewer that makes it a bad review, but just that it doesn't really help the music buyer in any way. I expect better from SoT.

Shadow Circus: Welcome To The Freakroom
Posted by Shawn Gordon on 2007-09-13 21:06:56
My Score:

What a pathetic review, there is no redeming quality to it at all. It's perfectly valid to not like something, but try to have better than a 5 year old reasoning for what you think is wrong with it. Sea of Tranquility has been known for many years for their top notch reviewers like Duncan, Mike and Pete and it is sad to see all those fine reputations be brought down by someone like this.

Shadow Circus: Welcome To The Freakroom
Posted by Jason lee on 2007-09-13 19:16:13
My Score:

Obviously the standard of writing has suffered on this site, when editors allow these kind of vulgarities. This CD should have been given to a reviewer that appreciates good prog, but that's besides the point.




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