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Shadow Circus - Welcome To The Freakroom CD (album) cover


Shadow Circus


Symphonic Prog

3.33 | 72 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars 'Welcome to the Freak Room' by Shadow Circus is an enjoyable listen. Listed here as 'Symphonic Prog' it is obvious that their music does celebrate the golden era of predominantly British prog, but there are also strong 'Art Rock' elements IMO. I can hear nods to the likes of Kansas, The Who and even Gentle Giant in the mix. All the musical ingredients are in place on this very worthwhile debut; charismatic vocals from David Bobick, and superb 'sit up and listen' lead guitar work courtesy of John Fontana. What also wins me over from the off is the piano. I admit a weakness to well played piano in progressive music!

The album opens with the title track, and sets a scene of playful but somewhat dark festivities to come. Strong melodies, and a fine vocal performance underpin this dark and quirky opening. This song perhaps leans more heavily towards the British side of Shadow Circus' influences, but what I like about this band is the way they comfortably juxtapose these Brit influences with their 'American-ness' After having soaked up the delights of Glass hammer for a while, I ended up thinking 'you're American folks. Remember that!' They seemed to have forgotten. All good prog celebrates where it comes from, IMO, no matter how many other influences are obvious in the music. Shadow Circus, thankfully seem to have realised this. The second track, 'Storm Rider' is more of an 'Art Rock' offering, with hints towards Kansas in the vocal melodies. 'Inconvenient Compromise' is currently my favourite track on the album. It's dramatic opening reminds of The Who, and soon dissolves into a Yes flavoured flurry of musical virtuosity. The mood changes thereafter, and Shadow Circus turn to blues and hard rock for the verses.

'Radio People' is irrestistable. A quirky and infectious track that grabs your attention immediately. It seems to combine elements of 80's synth pop, with Drama era Yes. It's straight forward rhythim, and eccentric electronic energy could, albeit in an edited form, make this a potent single to advertise this strong debut album.

'In the Wake of a Dancing Flame' has a majestic organ intro and a strong vocal part. Of all the songs on the album, this is probably one of the most acessable, thanks to both the vocal melody in the verses and the memorability of the chorus. The Kansas element comes into play here too, in the way that a very 'prog' intro works well in relation to what is really quite a radio friendly song. The instrumental middle section is brilliant, slow prog guitar - or is it keyboard - ambience takes over, before the song falls back into the chorus. A contender for my favourite track. I've been listening to this album for about five days now, and this track in particular does get better with each spin.

We end with the epic, or perhaps the mini epic. Clocking in at 11:40, 'Journey of Everyman' has all the vital conponants of a prog classic, but for me leaves me wanting more in some areas. The intro moves through a series of changes and moods, which in isolation of each other are all very good, but sitting side by side something doesn't seem to flow as well as it could. It's a continuity issue for me, which for someone elses ears may not be an issue. At 5:09 the song changes mood again beautifully before the first verse starts, and when it does the issues of 'flow' are resolved swiftly. 'Journey of Everyman' is a heartfelt and powerfull song from thereon. At 8:48 the pace picks up with a great organ riff, which proceeds some more impressive lead guitar work which leads into the outro at 10:40, complete with a melodic lead guitar line and a powerful Mellotron-esque choral backing, which left me thinking that it needed to continue for another 3 minutes or so, and build up even more.

Shadow Circus may not break through any boundaries of innovation as such, but what they do they do very well indeed. They are great musicians, they are blessed with a charismatic singer, and the sincerity of their love for classic music shines through in their writing and their playing. These days I'd rather hear prog bands doing something completly different to what has gone before, even if it's like finger nails on a chalkboard at times. When bands merely celebrate the past it can be tedious and predictable. Shadow Circus, put enough of their own stamp on the classic formulas to avoid falling into that category. In terms of star ratings, 3 stars may seem a little tight fisted on my part, but I dont like the term 'not essential' Parting with money for this album would not be a mistake. It's a good solid debut album, and I think they will continue to develop impressively from this day on. I wish them all the best, and hopefully they will bring their dark circus to my shores one day and I'll have the chance to see them live.

Blacksword | 3/5 |


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