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Album Review

For a band whose first album — 2005's rather unimaginatively named The 1st Chapter — was modeled so closely on Dream Theater's melodic progressive metal blueprint, Norway's Circus Maximus experienced very little resistance from the brutally judgmental prog metal intelligentsia. And for one simple reason: they wrote some amazing songs — better at times than Dream Theater, in fact, so there! However, these merits did not crystallize quite so unambiguously on the band's sophomore opus, Isolate, two years later (all of the key ingredients remained in place but the resulting musical algorithms just didn't add up as perfectly), and then, worrisomely, Circus Maximus' third long-player, the cryptically named Nine, endured a half-decade's gestation before finally being unveiled in 2012. Well, it seems that the members of Circus Maximus were merely biding their time, honing their new songs to optimal condition around strong melodies, singable choruses, and, yes, copious instrumental woodshedding before unveiling them at last. All of that woodshedding takes charge of several longer, more involved tracks ("Architect of Fortune," "Last Goodbye"), as you would expect, but is sprinkled more judiciously into the surprisingly large number of concise, radio-oriented numbers (the forceful "Namaste," the inspiring "I Am," etc.) that thoroughly dominate this album. Yet, no matter how uncomplicated and radio-friendly the latter become at times (and "Game of Life" and "Reach Within" are essentially metal-free offerings, shredding guitar solos notwithstanding), the album's consistently brainy, at times even recondite lyrics, serve as a constant reminder of Circus Maximus' certified nerd quotient, culminating in the excellent "Burn After Reading," with its curious love triangle between a mysterious woman, a scholarly archaeologist…and his rocks. Rocks? Which begs the obvious question (heck, why not?): does Nine actually rock, and the answer is "you bet!" — though it comes with a level of production gloss and songwriting finesse that may leave harder-boiled metal heads unmoved and fans of prog that actually, you know, "progresses," less than totally impressed. Judged entirely upon Circus Maximus' career-long sonic aesthetic, though, Nine roundly delivers the goods, and the long wait only proves that the band knew they'd better deliver. If not, they would become just another Dream Theater clone, after all.

Customer Reviews

Craigchisel

By far and away the best thing i've heard since Coheed's 'Good Apollo'. As I get older so my tastes change and possibly mellow, but it's albums like this that drag me back to my first love. Supreme playing throughout, huge geeetars and harmonies from heaven scattered librally over the lot! On plenty of occasions I actually laughed out loud at what i was listening too (in a good way!) It has everything. I've never been a fan of Dream Theater so I can't make that comparrison, but if you take the afore mentioned Coheed & Cambria, with their complexity and ability to move from crushing brutality to achingly beautiful, and meld that with the very best AOR around just now, say Work Of Art, and your getting close? Like so many many bands, their early followers will perhaps wonder where all this is going, especially with hints of Muse and Coldplay on several songs, but I'm glad to have found them at this point. Looking back at the two previous albums I can see quite clearly where they are going, and if this album doesn't quite get them there, the next one will!!

Biography

Formed: 2000 in Norway

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s

Norway's Circus Maximus integrate the new millennium's first wave of progressive heavy metal. Formed in 2000, Circus Maximus consist of experienced musicians Michael Eriksen (vocals, guitar), Mats Haugen (guitar), Espen Storø (keyboards), Glen Cato Møllen (bass), and Truls Haugen (drums), and the group's 2005 debut album, The 1st Chapter, drew comparisons to Dream Theater and Symphony X for its melodic and song-oriented material. it anything, the band actually walked a tightrope between prog metal...
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Nine, Circus Maximus
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