I first met Zak Stevens in Atlanta during ProgPower USA IV, when he was promoting the first album by his post-Savatage project Circle II Circle. We hung out in his hotel room and talked about family and fatherhood, not to mention his band's debut album, Watching in Silence. He seemed like a regular guy, somebody you'd want to barbecue with on the weekends.
But over the past four Circle II Circle albums, Stevens has proven to be anything but a regular guy when it comes to his music. He has consistently made dramatic, heavy and memorable music that sets him apart from the burgeoning melodic-metal pack – and Delusions of Grandeur is no exception. A bit harder, rougher and faster than previous releases, these 10 songs – most co-written with former Savatage mate Jon Oliva – are no less potent and have everything Circle II Circle fans (and, indeed, fans of latter-day Savatage) have come to expect: the big anthem ("Waiting"), the grand, acoustic ballad ("Echoes") and the counterpoint-vocal epic ("Every Last Thing").
As solid as Delusions of Grandeur sounds, however, it wouldn't hurt Stevens – who has enough respect in the metal community to step out of his comfort zone without getting crucified by fans – to shake things up a bit more next time. We already know this guy's good (hell, he turned Savatage into an entirely different band by singing on such albums as Dead Winter Dead, Handful of Rain and The Wake of Magellan), but how much better would Circle II Circle be if Stevens and his four-man band attempted to defy expectations?
1) Fatal Warning
2) Dead of Dawn
6) Soul Breaker
8) So Many Reasons
9) Chase the Lies
10) Every Last Thing