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Shadow Circus - Whispers And Screams CD (album) cover

WHISPERS AND SCREAMS

Shadow Circus

 

Symphonic Prog

3.80 | 88 ratings

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Vibrationbaby
4 stars The Circus is back in town !

The second full length album from New York City's progressively minded Shadow Circus, appropriately titled '' Whispers And Screams '' presents a melodious popourri of ballads, rockers and curios that once again embrace the inclinations and idiosyncrasies of the art rock effusion of the early seventies. Although they have been known to play killer verions of Pink Floyd and Jethro Tull classics don't expect an unmitigated retro-prog blowout here ; Shadow Circus continues on with their own captivating take on the neo-prog revolution that seems to have caught on over the past decade, drawing on a broad range of sources and inspirations from Maurice Ravel to American R&B.

While not a quantum leap from their acclaimed debut, '' Welcome To The Freakroom '' that established Shadow Circus' firm prog rock convictions, this second offering consolidates the versatile and dynamic songwriting partnership between guitarist/keyboardist John Fontana and vocalist Dave Bobick. Also noticeable on this latest offering is the pristine production which was handled by the band themselves. A glaring improvement over '' Freakroom ''. While the quartet do not confine themselves as much to '' serious '' prog rock idioms this time around, there are still plenty of moments on '' Whispers And Screams '' where early '70s progheads will rejoice, particularily during Fontana's fired up guitar and keyboard runs on such tracks as '' Captain Trips '' as well as the instrumentals '' The Hand Of God '' and '' The Seduction Of Harold Lauder ''.

A multi-sectioned 34 minute centerpiece entitled ''Project Blue '' introduces the album and focuses on themes and ruminations that occur in the first part Stephen King's 1978 post-apocalyptic novel '' The Stand ''. Presented in 7 contrasting musical impressions with fluctuating moods, some confusion might arise for those not familiar with the novel when confronted with some of the lyrics and song titles. Having not read King's book myself, a quick cross-reference to Wikipedia and a glance through the graphic novel version at the local public library alleviated some of my confusedness, particularily with the fiery instrumental '' The Seduction of Harold Lauder ''. Lauder turns out to be a insecure teenaged geek and this seems to be a tongue-in cheek reference to his sexual experiences by the band here. Briefly, the title Project Blue refers to a viral biological weaponry experiment which gets out of hand, spreads and kills off over 99% of the world's population leaving the characters to fend for themselves. Despite the implications of the chosen subject material, Shadow Circus do a commendable job in their interpretation of King's book allowing the 7 pieces that comprise the suite to be considered individually and one really needs not to have read the novel to appreciate the lyrical insights. My personal favourites from the suite are the the foreboding delta blues / east indo beat fusion '' The Horsemen Ride ( Project Blue Pt.5) '' and the rootsy '' Coming Back Home To You ( Project Blue Pt. 7 ) '' complete with a soulful girlie chorus which reflect the overall ambition, depth and intensity of this elongated concept piece.

Although I would have put them at the beginning, four rather thoughtful compositions complete the work which reflect a more emotive side of Shadow Circus that was largely absent on the debut that exploit the crystalline vocals of Dave Bobick. An extended proggy piece, Willoughby, almost certainly refers to a popular episode from the 1960s fantasy television series The Twighlight Zone that was entitled '' A Stop At Willoughby '', although I suspect that there is some sort of autobiographical statement intended by the band here as well. The charming ''When The Morning Comes'' and ''Angel'' are straight ballads which are enhanced by some nice keyboard / cello orchestrations that feature former member Matt Massek on cello who also returns on the dramatic grand finale ''...Then In July TheThunder Came'', an interpretation of Ravel's famous Spanish Dance that caps off the album with a tragic twist, leaving in it's wake a sobering overtone that invites subsequent listens.

Although consciously progressive in approach it is difficult to categorize Shadow Circus' second opus. I certainly find it easier to like than most of the neo-progressive rock music that I have recently explored ( hey I'm still stuck in the seventies, man!) and ''Whispers and Screams'' seems to be more noticeable by virtue of it's seemingly inherit propensity to opt for catchy musical phrasing, whether raiding one of the classics or conjuring up an original . I also get the impression here that not only did these guys listen to a lot of ELP, Jethro Tull and Yes albums when they were kids ( just like myself ) but also possess their own individual ambitious musical prowess not to mention the collective audacity to turn a Stephen King novel into an epic rock musical. The Alan Parsons Project did it with Edgar Allan Poe's work so why not?

Epic and all, a delectable menagerie of modern progressive rock that will enthrall and delight.

Vibrationbaby | 4/5 |

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