Some modern-day progressive-rock bands cite so many influences that they lose their own identity. That is not the case with Shadow Circus, a collective of four seasoned musicians who spent years toiling in the New York City scene before finding each other. The six songs on the band's debut, Welcome to the Freakroom, borrowed heavily from Yes, Genesis, Marillion, Jadis, Spock's Beard and the Flower Kings, but Shadow Circus never completely surrendered its originality.
That originality is even more apparent on Whispers and Screams, as the band takes additional inspiration from Magellan, Muse, Coheed and Cambria and The Mars Volta. The album opens with the seven-part "Project Blue," a 37-minute thriller inspired by Stephen King's horror classic, The Stand. (The band's penchant for literary references also can be seen in its name, which comes from the Ray Bradbury novel Something Wicked This Way Comes.) From manic vintage and modern prog to acoustic alternative country that segues into darker and moodier territory before surging forward with its moving finale, the piece is a tour de force and reveals something new on each subsequent listen.
The remaining four songs cover a lot of musical ground, too. The piano-based "When the Morning Comes" sounds like something the Alan Parsons Project might have recorded, thanks to smooth, pleasant melodies and vocalist David Bobick's softer vocals. A cello on "Angel" gives way to an intense jam session with the album's most memorable chorus, and Whispers and Screams closes with the Arabian-flavored instrumental "Then in July, The Thunder Came."
The diverse Bobick may be the guy who brings the most character to Shadow Circus, but guitarist/keyboardist John Fontana, drummer Corey Folta and bassist Jason Croft all back him up with invigorating performances. This is the kind of prog we need more of today – music that blurs so many subgenres into something completely its own, not just something else that sounds like Porcupine Tree.
1) Project Blue
2) When the Morning Comes
5) Then in July, The Thunder Came