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Circus Maximus The 1st Chapter Frontiers Records
FRCD240
Produced By: Circus Maximus

Running Time: 70.37

Release Date: Out Now

Released: EU

Musical Style: Progressive Melodic Metal

Links: Frontiers
89%
Songs: 86%
Sound: 93%
Circus Maximus have instantly put themselves on the progressive metal map with their debut album thanks to an album which contains some very catchy songs, great performances and a major label production quality.
It also helps that the band has a sound that mirrors possibly the most acclaimed band of the recent progressive era Dream Theater. In fact, these guys sound more like Dream Theater than even they do these days.
While I spend too much time lamenting why that band doesn't repeat the energy and sound of their best album Images And Words, Circus Maximus have gone and done it instead.
9 tracks spread over 70 minutes sees the band work both ends of the scale, with straight up melodic metal punched into some short and relatively straight forward tracks, mixed in with some epic progressive moments, including one track clocking over 10 minutes and another nearly 20 minutes.
The band claim producer's credit, but master mixer Tommy Hansen ensures a clean crisp sound and perfect balance.
Circus Maximus hail from Norway of all places, but sound straight from the pages of California's Dream Theater.
Vocalist Michael Eriksen sounds like James LaBrie, but with an extra melodic touch that adds a little Geddy Lee and perhaps a little Tony Harnell when he goes for the higher register and the extra melodic hooks.
Musically speaking the guys are as tight and as talented as just about any other prog-metal outfit out there.
But they have the edge on everyone right now because this set of songs is truly memorable. I'll be the first to admit I generally like it straight up and filled with hooks, but even the longer tracks on this album kept me entertained and interested. No mean feat that and credit to the guys for this.
Highlights? Well, there are no low points, but the opening two tracks and Why Am I Here pack a powerful and melodic punch, along with the epic 10 minute Glory Of The Empire, which is laced with solos, harmonies and great hooks.
I'm not really taken with the instrumental track Biosfear (see Royal Hunt review), but everything else rocks.
I'm still not sure the bonus track Hanuted Dreams adds anything to the album. Perhaps the label was worried about releasing an 8 track album. At any rate, it's not an essential addition and the album might have been better to end after the 20 minute epic The 1st Chapter.
The Bottom Line
The progressive metal title moves to Norway, safe in the hands of Circus Maximus, who have delivered the best prog-metal debut since Images & Words (yes, I know that was DT's second album but their first with LaBrie and a new label).
Extremely well played and produced and even better extremely well written and arranged songs. Catchy, memorable and played like seasoned pro's.
Discography / Previously Reviewed
The 1st Chapter

Line Up:
Michael Eriksen: Vocals, Guitar
Mats Haugen: Guitar
Truls Haugen: Drums
Glen Mollen: Bass
Espen Storo: Keyboards

Essential For Fans Of:
Dream Theater
Starbreaker
If you enjoyed this release - also check out:
Dream Theater - Images & Words
Track Listing
Sin*
Alive*
Glory Of The Empire
Biosfear
Silence From Angels Above
Why Am I Here?*
The Prophecy
The 1st Chapter
Haunted Dreams
--*Best Tracks


17/06/08: dave - imavis@lycos.com
Rating: 95
Great CD! Although, personally I find more music similarities with this album and Dream Theater's Awake album. When Eriksen wants to hit the high notes he can, but he spends a majority going lower than LaBrie.

16/04/06: Maximilian Fuchs - fuchsmax@hotmail.com
Rating: 97
Great Sound,real progressive heavy rock, a great complement between Dream Theater and Queensryche

03/08/05: Casper Bolte - carbiel@gmail.com
Rating: 96
Heavy prog rock is still alive and well. I'm glad that Dream Theater has some serious competiton. Looking very much forward to more releases. This will be a hard CD to follow up on though. I hear many influences in these songs...DT, Rush, Queensryche, Kansas, Dio, Deep Purple and it's all good. Very catchy rhythms and melodies. In the running for album of the year 2005!

12/07/05: Steve - clements.clan@tesco.net
Rating: 99
WOW! - Absolutely superb debut album. Not only debut album of 2005 but also the album of 2005! Personally I love Dream Theater's new release Octavarium, but this is way better. Not since 2004's release by Mind Key - 'Journey of a Rough Diamond' has an album had such an impact - it's not left the CD player in the last week since it popped itself through the letterbox.
The song structures, the melodies, the technical ability are all brilliant. There is not a weak link in this band. Of particular note is the vocalist who has a fantastic range and brings the songs to life. Then there'the drummer. This guy is awesome - a Mike Portnoy clone?
There are no fillers on this album, each track has it's own identity, highlights and point of reference. Just one instrumental track, Biosfear, which allows the band's technical abilities to shine. Then there are the 2 'epic' tracks, both different. The 1st Chapter comes in at 19 mins and is a classic. Starts off with similarities to Symphony X and then at around 11mins it slows right down to piano and vocals to build again in classic Dream Theater style with a lovely guitar solo. It is also worth mentioning the keyboard player who varies his sound between piano, synth and Hammond Organ (so rarely used these days!) and this adds so much to the overrall sound. So many other keyboard players stick to the same sound throughout a whole album which tends to be a bit boring after a while (Richard Andersson for example).
Many reviews make reference to the fact that Circus Maximus are Dream Theater wannabes and in fact I've made reference to them myselves - but why not treat that as a good thing? This band has its own identity and for me this is a great progmetal album. Do youself a favour, get this album and just enjoy great music depite who they sound like! I can't wait for the next Chapter, in fact, the whole book!

27/06/05: Paulo - magnavis@hotmail.com
Rating: 95
Nice surprise from this new band! Circus Maximus's debut shows us what progressive rock is nowadays. Influences are easily found: Dream Theater, some Kansas melodies, a lot of Hammond (reminds me Deep Purple sometimes) everywhere...this band got everything going on for them! And what a job on the vocals! Every little detail is clearly rising from the songs. Keep it coming, guys! I'm waiting the next one!


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