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Circle II Circle: Burden of Truth

Circle II Circle's previous effort The Middle of Nowhere was a let-down for some; gone were the band's amazing keyboard and piano arrangements, terrific lead playing, and even Zak Stevens' vocals seemed to suffer from the sub-par production. Compared to their debut album Watching in Silence, it just didn't have the staying power despite some really well-written numbers.

On their third album Burden of Truth, it is obvious that Zak Stevens and his new band spent more time honing their sound. For starters, the production is absolutely classy, highlighting Zak Stevens' amazing vocals and melodies thoroughly. Andrew Lee and Evan Christopher's guitars have a lot more punch to them; the riffs are heavy and well-timed. Add to this the solid rhythm slam of drummer Robert T. Drennan and Paul Michael Stewart and you have a strong work of melodic metal. On the previous effort, Stewart's bass was the best thing, as they had mixed it a bit high and made it really audible. The guitar work, on the other hand, was less interesting; some of the solos seemed to drag on without developing into anything. This disc puts the band back on track. Starting with the ambitious "Who Am I To Be?", a Sava-like number, bringing forth dramatic piano and melodic guitar crunch and underpinning Stevens' impossibly amazing vocal harmonies. The rhythms provided through drums and the two brief guitar solos also add to the richness of the song.

One of the most striking aspects of Burden of Truth is the way the guitars and vocals were arranged. Stevens apparently has made an effort to stray away from the paths of his former band; some of the songs he's written sound nothing like Savatage, which is a big plus. Rather, he's set out to do his own thing, and the result is more than satisfying. He knows how powerful his voice can be when backed up by melodic threads of guitar and the occasional keys, and that's what he does on songs like "A Matter of Time", "Heal You", and "Evermore". The songs are faster and more energetic. The soaring chorus of "Heal You" and the strong backing harmonies of "Evermore" will make excellent choices in a live setting. Both songs also have slightly rock-flavoured lead solos, unlike the more metallic, heavy explosions heard on their debut.

Zak Stevens absolutely shines on "Revelations", one of his greatest achievements in Circle II Circle. The song begins with crushing staccato riffs in an almost thrash metal sense before dissolving into a sea of melodies. The guitar playing on this song is mind-blowingly beautiful; the short yet sweet tapping lick in the beginning of the intro brings to mind the late Criss Oliva circa Sava's Streets and it's really emotionally fatiguing in its aura. On the acoustic ballad "Your Reality", Stevens opts for clever dynamic shifts in mood and tempo, and makes it work perfectly.

"Into the Black" and "Sentenced" find the band still retaining unmistakable Savatage characteristics, but unlike Watching in Silence, they really try to add their own spin to the pieces, which is great to notice obviously. The melodic singing on "Into the Black" is right up there with the statements Zak made on Handful of Rain, one of the darkest and most powerful albums ever. "Sentenced" has a cool bass groove to it, planted underneath an acoustic and electric guitar respectively, yet it really heightens the song's quality.

"Messiah" is an unapologetic rocker and one of the heaviest songs Circle II Circle have written. The ferocious guitar work and heavy riffage throughout will undoubtedly please fans of melodic heavy metal. This song also being in between the two Sava-like cuts helps diversify the nature of the album and prevents it from sounding samey. The title track is easily their most challenging work. It begins with neat acoustic guitars and strong vocals before Andrew Lee lays down a phenomenal lead solo. The feel on this track is immense and underscores the great counterpoint vocal experiment at the very end.

The lyrics of the album suggest Burden of Truth is a conspiracy theory conceptual work and there is also a secret message hidden in the artwork for the die-hard fans to figure out. I myself haven't gotten to it yet, but it will certainly be interesting to check it out.

While Watching in Silence still remains a personal favourite, I feel Circle II Circle have come very close to matching its magic with their new album Burden of Truth. If you want to hear one of the finest vocal performances of the year, you can't pass this disc up.

Track Listing

  1. Who Am I To Be?
  2. A Matter of Time
  3. Heal You
  4. Revelations
  5. Your Reality
  6. Evermore
  7. The Black
  8. Messiah
  9. Sentenced
  10. Burden of Truth
  11. Live As One

Added: October 25th 2006
Reviewer: Murat Batmaz
Related Link: Circle II Circle website
Hits: 5185
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Circle II Circle: Burden of Truth
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-10-25 10:25:57
My Score:

Circle II Circle's debut album Watching in Silence was and still is a tough act to follow. The band kind of fell off the mark a bit with their sophomore release The Middle of Nowhere, but seem to have gotten back on track in a big way with their latest Burden of Truth. Returning are the big guitar riffs and soaring vocal harmonies that the debut had so much of, as it seems like Zak Stevens and crew felt like they had something to prove here. The story behind the album is based on the concept behind the blockbuster Dan Brown novel The Da Vinci Code, that Jesus Christ married Mary Magdalene, and the discovering of the "holy bloodline", the direct descendants of Jesus.

Musically, this is a pretty rich album, and while it's somewhat lacking in the symphonic department as compared to their debut, there's plenty of crunchy and textured guitar playing here from Andrew Lee and Evan Christopher. Overall, the songs are very melodic, and Zak gives a great performance, especially on songs like "Heal You" and "Burden of Truth" (complete with a ripping guitar solo and orchestral synths), and there are some really heavy yet classy moments on "Messiah" and "Revelations". While there are some moments that recall Savatage, I think with Burden of Truth Circle II Circle are really starting to form their own identity, which is a good thing no matter how you look at it.

Chalk up a real winner for Circle II Circle, both lyrically and musically, and a release that should be a favorite of many here in 2006.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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