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Orpheus Nine - Transcendental Circus CD (album) cover

TRANSCENDENTAL CIRCUS

Orpheus Nine

 

Heavy Prog

4.08 | 42 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

IStanBull
5 stars I hate writing reviews but this is an underrated band that deserves more attention. A friend told me about their CD saying I would love the keyboards. I've heard enough shredders and figured I didn't really need another one in my collection, so I blew it off. Then a couple weeks later some guy outside the library had a song playing from his phone, thanks to Shazam I found out was Hand of Make-Believe. It was in 7/4 but melodic and catchy, with kind of Rush flavors. There were some nice harmonies and great lead vocals, with a really sweet and tasteful guitar solo fitting perfectly over Mellotron, and then some pretty Rhodes that went all ring mod before screaming Hammond organ. I decided to look up Orpheus Nine and saw many interesting song titles...so I took a chance.

Not the least bit disappointed! This isn't a meaningless shredding album. It isn't a concept album either as far as I can tell, but a lot of the music still ties together and the whole thing's cleverly bookended. At the center of it is the title track, a 6-part suite called Transcendental Circus that's longer than 21 minutes. By far one of the coolest songs I've ever heard in my life. From any band EVER. There's so many musical ideas packed in here that sometimes they go onto the next one before you know what hit you. But it all holds together, and in different parts you hear references to other parts and realize it's all a unified epic. Most of it's instrumental, but when the singing shows up it's amazing. In part 2 (Hallowed Playground) it starts with the lead singer doing really soulful "mmms" and "ohs" and "oohs" that almost made me cry (and then the solo lead that I thought was guitar but might be synth? WOW!) In part 4 (Swimming In Our Four O'clock Tea) there's like Gentle Giant harmonies and rounds, which are beautiful but have a sense of humor too. And the music in all 6 parts is incredible. Part 1 (Barcarolle Of Bedlam) has tons of crazy time signatures but it sounds so cool and different, a lot of Keith Emerson and King Crimson stuff in here with wild guitars and mind blowing keyboards plus an explosive drum finish. Part 3 (Intergalactic Clown Festival) is jazz fusion with Chick Corea keys and some funky bass. Part 5 (Not Within The Memory Of Elephants) really rocks and has a suprising tribal twist in the middle. Finally part 6 (Freak Tent Mausoleum, which also a lyric in Reaper's Carousel) is a weird freaky carnival that includes a classical waltz and a metal section that's like an orgy between Iron Maiden, ELP and Pink Floyd...and then like Tarkus it climaxes with a recap of part 1. So much talent but it's focused and isn't wasted. The whole suite is powerful and awesome. And fun!

You won't go wrong the rest either. Of Zygotes And Grace Notes is a gorgeous classical piano intro. Eightfold Way is very unique and has many twists and turns, there's lots of different synths and I love the bass. (If you get the CD and read the lyrics they put a cryptogram in it too, but I didn't try to figure it out yet.) Fetish is one of my favorites, another soulful vocal and great melodic song, and in the middle there's kind of an Arabic thing with funny bad news headlines over top of it. No Illusions is the least prog sounding, more of a jazzy blues swing but it's still a good song. Age Of Rhyme And Reason flat out rocks - I could see this one getting a live crowd pumped up. Reaper's Carousel comes right after the title track and has a monster bass line all through it, with more nice harmonies at the end. Sandcastles is mostly piano and vocal with a great deal of emotion.

This all leads to my other favorite, the epic finale, The Fall Of The House Of Keys. It starts with a full orchestra playing about a 2-minute overture before a muted Rhodes fades up. From there it builds slowly and keeps building until it just can't contain itself anymore and explodes. This song is a masterpiece and the perfect ending to a 5-star masterpiece of an album.

Maybe some people will think there's too many different styles and sounds and that they should just pick one. But I think that's part of why I love Transcendental Circus. It isn't predictable, it doesn't all sound the same and again the music ties together and seems right as an album. The music breathes and so does the audio - no loudness war BS here. Also the whole CD design and art look great.

Why isn't this on those top 10 lists I'm starting to see??? It should be. And it should be in your collection too. Go get it today! I can't wait to see what Orpheus Nine will do next.

IStanBull | 5/5 |

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