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Shadow Circus - Whispers And Screams CD (album) cover


Shadow Circus


Symphonic Prog

3.80 | 90 ratings

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars In 2006, the vision of John Fontana's was realized with Welcome To The Freakroom, the debut album from his band Shadow Circus. Not only did it give a clear indication that progressive music was alive and well, but that a new generation possessed the firepower to produce thought-provoking music with an emphasis on design and execution. With the Freakroom gathering new fans and receiving critical acclaim, the band had to re-focus on a follow-up. This wouldn't be an easy task, with shifting band members and health issues. Still, three years later we were given the second album entitled Whispers And Screams. Suffice it to say, Shadow Circus are back?healthy and hungry. And for a starving prog community, we're ready to dig in!

The longest track on Freakroom was 12:00. Buckle up, Butter Cup, because this bad boy is going to give you an open hand chop to the Adam's apple with the 30 minute epic "Project Blue", which is based on Stephen King's The Stand. It pulls no punches with an all out assault on the senses with some furious drumming from Corey Folta, which takes on a Nick D'Virgilio-like feel. The epic is divided up into 6 parts, which takes you to the highest heights, but finishes with the almost gospel infused "Coming Back Home To You". In between is a whirlpool for the listener. One of the finest moments is the Middle Eastern flavor of "The Horsemen Ride", which takes on a sinister emotion. For you guitarists out there, "The Hand Of God" has a solo that will make your head spin. Hands down, one of the finest moments from this band.

The initial shock of such an epic piece slowly burns, giving way to the Fontana/Bobick collaboration, "When The Morning Comes". Beautiful melody set against a lovely acoustic guitar and piano (played by John Fontana, who is really coming into his own as a master multi-instrumentalist.) It really is a lovely piece, as vocalist David Bobick slows it down and guides the listener with tender vocals with brilliant orchestration enveloping him.

The surprise track for me is the 10 minute piece "Willoughby". Mr. Fontana reminds me of two icons with this, with his Tom Scholz-like Hammond organ, but sounds a bit like Angus Young of AC/DC on guitar. All the while bassist Jason Croft lays down a wicked bass line that reminds me of Iron Maiden's Steve Harris towards the beginning and middle of the track. A bit of a schizophrenic piece, as the beginning is a bit harsh, but will lull you back down with the peaceful chorus.

When I first listened to Whispers And Screams, I always said (in a positive way) that this doesn't sound like the same band. If you are longing for that band from the Freakroom, don't fear because there are a couple of tunes that sound as if they came from the debut. One of them is "Angel", which has original Shadow Circus bassist, Matt Masek, as a guest, but this time playing the cello. A slow, slithering track that is reminiscent of Bad Company.

My only hiccup on an otherwise brilliant album is the closer?the Bolero-esque "?Then In July, The Thunder Came". Not that it's a bad tune, but to me feels a bit out of place. Maybe because it reminds me of something ELP would do, and I'm not exactly a big ELP fan. Aside from that, I think the future of progressive music (and most importantly to me, American progressive music) is in good hands with bands like IZZ, Salem Hill, Glass Hammer, Iluvatar, Neal Morse and Spock's Beard. Now, you can add another name to that list, and that would be Shadow Circus. And it should only get better from here!

E-Dub | 4/5 |


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