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Circus Maximus: Nine

Possibly the only two things stopping Norwegian act Circus Maximus from being name-checked regularly as one of the true leaders of the progressive metal bunch, are their propensity to allow melody to rule over virtuosity and the fact that after twelve years of active service, the band are only now releasing their third album - the enigmatically titled Nine. The output may be slow in coming, but across 2005's 1st Chapter and Isolate from two years further down the line, the music itself has been of a stunningly high standard. Fusing huge riffs, a plethora of time changes and oodles of keyboard histrionics to a far more song based melodious approach, where stripped back, beautiful, passages are as likely to seduce and beguile as they are to dazzle and excite. In the end the results created songs as memorable as they are jaw-dropping and as sing alongable as they are dextrously dizzying. Now five years on from the second Circus Maximus album, Nine appears through the haze of copycat prog-metallers to show the new breed how it's done.

Proving that good things come to those who wait, Nine surges into life through the atmospheric intro "Forging", which quickly segues into the authoritative and domineering "Architects Of Fortune" - the first of three songs that epically hover at around the ten minute mark. Immediately it becomes clear that guitarist Mats Haugen, keyboard player Lasse Finbraten, bassist Glen Cato Mollen and drummer Truls Haugen have lost none of their potency, hammering out a gargantuan, pulsating riff that never quite sits still, while the keys power through with authority. Add to that already potent concoction the elegant, yet powerful vocals of Michael Eirksen and it is virtually impossible for the quintet to go wrong. Cleverly the shorter songs on Nine concentrate on being tight and focused, choosing a theme and staying pretty close to it throughout. "Namaste" is muscular and brutally guitar led, even with its bright, captivating vocals, while "I Am" reveals a sultry melodic rock side, that while still containing ever dancing keyboards, multiple time changes and a stinging guitar solo, becomes catchy and irresistibly memorable.

The longer tracks on the other hand allow the band to really stretch out, blending themes in a manner that grabs your attention as moods and atmospheres continually chop and change. "Burn After Reading" meanders through an acoustic guitar passage, before morphing into a soaring clash of layered keys, bulging guitars and whirling drum fills. Every now and again a swathe of melody breaks out of the oppressive gloom, catching the light and glistening briefly through bouncing bass and clear vocals, before being consumed again by galloping kick drums and threatening riffs. Album closer "Last Goodbye" concentrates more on remaining optimistically upbeat, even through a melancholic lyric, to remain more focused on melody over skill. That said throughout its ten minutes-plus, the level of musicianship is enough to make you stop what you are doing to take it all in. However the clashing of almost Latin rhythms, bending riffs and punchy up-front vocals of "Game Of Life" goes a long way to proving that Circus Maximus really don't need to rely on the lengthy tracks to truly tell a musical tale worth concentrating on.

A long time in coming, Nine proves that Circus Maximus are a band capable of combining and adding to the elements that made progressive metal so exciting in the first place, becoming bona-fide members of the progressive metal elite in the process.

Track Listing
1. Forging
2. Architect Of Fortune
3. Namaste
4. Game Of Life
5. Reach Within
6. I Am
7. Used
8. The One
9. Burn After Reading
10. The Last Goodbye

Added: June 18th 2012
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Circus Maximus Official WebSite
Hits: 4167
Language: english

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Circus Maximus: Nine
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2012-06-18 10:03:31
My Score:

Circus Maximus haven't been as busy as many of the other acts in the progressive metal genre over the course of their career, but in many ways their limited output far surpasses the work of their peers. Nine is only their third release, but it's as polished and powerful as a band who have been around for decades perfecting their craft.

Chock full of melodic, tight, and dramatic prog-metal, Nine doesn't try to bludgeon the listener with complexity and extended solos (though there is plenty for the avid genre fan to enjoy), instead working those elements into songs that are as heavy hitting as they are memorable and catchy. "Namaste", "Game of Life", and "Architect of Fortune" are just great songs, made even better with all the virtuoso instrumentation the band bring to the table. "Used" has some wonderful soaring harmonies to go along with crushing guitar riffs, and "Burn After Reading" mixes lush prog with the heaviest of complex symphonic metal for a winning formula. Epic closer "The Last Goodbye" has some of the CDs best vocals courtesy of lead singer Michael Eirksen (who is easily one of the best of the genre) and irresistible melodies to go along with symphonic arrangements.

Hard to fault anything on Nine, as it quite simply is just another stunner from the Circus Maximus camp. This is a band that should be at the top of every prog metal fans list of favorites, and if they aren't they should be.

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