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Shadow Circus: On a Dark and Stormy Night

It's been a few years now since US prog rockers Shadow Circus burst on the scene with their splendid debut Welcome to the Freakroom and follow-up Whispers and Screams, but those releases certainly made an impact with not only genre fans, but also caught the ears of 10t Records, who quickly scooped the band up and got them hard at work on their next platter. Here we are in the early stages of 2013 and On a Dark and Stormy Night is upon us, a wonderful collection of songs based around the classic science fiction book A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle. This was actually a great choice to base a concept album on as it's long been a favorite book of many young people (one of mine as well when I was growing up), and the album has the full cooperation of the L'Engle estate and even coincides with the 50th anniversary of the original publication of the book.

Here in 2013, Shadow Circus are; David Bobick (vocals), John Fontana (guitars, keyboards), David Silver (keyboards), Matt Masek (bass, cello, backing vocals), and Jason Brower (drums, backing vocals). Together, the band have re-introduced us to main character Meg Murry and her friends as they travel through the cosmos using the tesseract looking for her scientist father, who has disappeared while working on one of his experiments. Using all the latest technologies, Shadow Circus inject plenty of bombast, melody, and power into this storyline, and for fans of classic progressive rock, there's plenty to enjoy. From the aggressive, symphonic pieces "Daddy's Gone" and "Whosit, Whatsit & Which", to the grand & majestic piano led "Make Way for the Big Show", the band doesn't skimp on big arrangements and soaring melodies. They can also really rock out when they want to, like on the Dream Theater-meets-Deep Purple influenced burner "Tesseract", complete with some heavy grooves, scorching guitar, and symphonic keyboards. Then again, if it's lush, melodic prog you crave in the style of Yes or Genesis, look no further than the lovely "Uriel", which features some of Silver's most stunning keyboard textures on the album. Lead vocalist Bobick does a fine job throughout, but he's perhaps at his best on the dark, menacing closer "The Battle For Charles Wallace", a real heavy tune in spots with crushing guitar from Fontana, loads of keyboards, and on the soaring vocal sections a great performance from Bobick.

There's beauty, passion, emotion, and power throughout On a Dark and Stormy Night, a progressive rock album that pretty much works on all levels. Epic for those who like the prog rock greats of the '70s, just heavy enough in spots and with plenty of musical virtuosity for the prog metal crowd, and a well crafted concept based on a beloved book that will surely please both camps. Shadow Circus have certainly started off 2013 with a real bang!

Track Listing
1) Overture
2) Daddy's Gone
3) Whosit, Whatsit & Which
4) Make Way for the Big Show
5) Tesseract
6) Uriel
7) Camazotz
8) Ixchel
9) The Battle For Charles Wallace

Added: January 15th 2013
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 4438
Language: english

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Shadow Circus: On a Dark and Stormy Night
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2013-01-15 15:27:14
My Score:

In recent times it has become fashionable for progressive rock bands to create albums that run in parallel with a novel on which their lyrics are intrinsically linked. Roswell Six and Kevin J Anderson tied up to provide free-flowing prog intertwined to books giving a deeper insight into conceptual tales. While with more fanfare Rush brought the idea into the "prog-mainstream" earlier this year through their much celebrated Clockwork Angels, which saw drummer Neil Peart also working alongside Anderson to the same ends. Shadow Circus however are no bandwagon jumpers, having been linking their music to novels and even episodes of The Twilight Zone for quite some time now. With On A Dark And Stormy Night, this band have gone the whole hog, basing the entire album on the award winning science fiction/fantasy classic A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle which celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year. The book and therefore this album tell the tale of a young girl whose father disappears while working as a government scientist on the "Tesseract project" (no prizes for guessing where the band Tesseract got their name from then...) and there's no denying it is a tale that lends itself eagerly to this kind of reinterpretation.

Attempting to re-express a book that will be loved by many is a tall order, however the fact it is endorsed by the L'Engle estate will leave you in no doubt that it's a task Shadow Circus are most definitely up to. In terms of the manner in which they tackle a weighty tale and bring it to life through a mixture of classic progressive rock values, modern prog themes and a very strong storytelling ability, this is a release that works magnificently. Cleverly, whether you want to immerse yourself fully in the conceptual side of things, or purely the excellently constructed music, the effect is never diminished.

"Overture" brings the album to life with an expertly crafted movie soundtrack feel not un-similar to that of Alan Silvestri (everything from Forrest Gump to Chicken Run!), followed by "Daddy's Gone", which as an introductory pair, bravely sets the album's stall out as a classy clash of prog and original-movie-soundtrack. Amazingly for a concept piece, ten minutes go by before the first vocal oozes from the speakers. However when the string arrangements, synth atmospheres and choral effects segue into a fret scorching howling keyboard pyrotechnic, you know you're in for a hell of a ride. From there things veer from full out Transatlantic-like prog workouts, to sumptuous cinematic restraint via Kansas and, well everything from Genesis and Yes to Spock's Beard and Jadis via Marillion and The Flower Kings, allowing the wildly varying emotions of the book to fully come to the surface. Piano dominates one minute, guitar and drums the next, but never is this album anything less than poised and assured, even at its most fiery.

Some want their prog to nod to the past, others crave a dash for the future. Shadow Circus deliver both. On this evidence On A Dark And Stormy Night is just about the most rewarding place you could hope to be!

Shadow Circus: On a Dark and Stormy Night
Posted by Jeff B, SoT Staff Writer on 2013-01-13 11:49:23
My Score:

Based on Madeleine L'Engle's classic science fiction novel A Wrinkle In Time, the latest offering from American progressive rock act Shadow Circus is an epic concept album with some seriously cool things going on. Shadow Circus first grabbed my attention with 2009's magnificent Whispers and Screams - an album that I consider to be one of the finest from that year - and 2012's On a Dark and Stormy Night is of equally high quality, if not even higher. The group's brand of progressive rock won't alienate fans of the seventies' classics, but they offer enough of a twist on this well established formula to make for a fresh and invigorating listen.

On a Dark and Stormy Night is primarily symphonic progressive rock with influences from acts like Yes, Genesis, and ELP, but some hard rocking sections reminiscent of Deep Purple and brief hints of Dream Theater-influenced prog metal prevent things from ever sounding too familiar. Just in the first handful of tracks, the listener is exposed to acrobatic instrumental technique in "Overture", lush symphonic textures in "Daddy's Gone", and infectious guitar grooves in "Whosit, Whatsit, and Which". To name just a few songs, Shadow Circus continues this eclectic approach with the seriously heavy riffs in "Tesseract", beautiful ambient sounds in "Ixchel", and the bombastic closing piece "The Battle for Chris Wallace". On a Dark and Stormy Night features enough variation between tracks to keep you on your toes the entire time, but it also remains stylistically cohesive as a whole.

To top it all off, On a Dark and Stormy Night features a crisp production and tight musicianship in addition to the memorable songwriting and arrangements. Shadow Circus has offered progressive rock enthusiasts an exciting and powerful observation once again, and it would be a shame for any fan of the genre to miss it!

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