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Shadow Circus - Whispers And Screams CD (album) cover

WHISPERS AND SCREAMS

Shadow Circus

 

Symphonic Prog

3.78 | 79 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

J-Man
Prog Reviewer
4 stars What do you get if you mix the bombastic organ of ELP with the accessible American style of Spock's Beard? Then add some hard rock styles of Deep Purple and the Southern bluesy progressive rock from Kansas? Then throw in some modern pop/rock, theatrical, and even some Celtic and folk influences?

You would get the unique style of Shadow Circus. This is the first album I've heard from this American progressive rock quartet, and I was very impressed from the first time I heard it. One of the things that really impressed me was that the band had a sense of originality that's hard to find nowadays. They show their influences in various ways, yet it never becomes derivative of the 70's prog giants (or anyone else for that matter). That fact alone impressed from my first listen, but the superb music kept bringing me back for more.

The musicianship throughout the album is a real treat, and each musician shows their worth without "showing off". The songwriting is fantastic, and it only makes the musicians shine even brighter. I have a few problems with the production of the album, but for the most part, it sounds warm and inviting. There are a few parts where the arrangements may sound a little dry, and there are a few weak transitions, but these are scarce. The majority of this album is a brilliant gem, even though you will find a few scratches.

THE MUSIC:

"Captain Trips"- The album ominously opens with the sound of wind blowing in the air with an atmospheric guitar. Almost out of nowhere a heavy riff with pounding organ and heavy guitar enters. The drum rhythm is captivating and well played. The singing is slightly distorted and fits the tone of the song well. This song has a variety of moods, ranging from dark and atmospheric to heavy riffs, and even some happier moments. This is a great opening track, and one of my favorites from the album.

"The Long Road"- The second song opens up with a light piano melody. The chorus is memorable with melodies that will get stuck in your head for days. The mellotron is excellent throughout the song, as are the vocals. This has a rater melancholic mood and it works exceptionally well.

"The Big Fire"- This opens up with haunting keyboards and slowly builds into a cheerful melody. The vocal production is a little annoying, but otherwise this is a pretty good song. This occasionally has a Beatles sound to it, and that's a plus in my book.

"The Seduction of Harold Lauder"- An ELP influenced organ section starts this song. It progresses into one of the themes introduced in the first track. This song is completely instrumental, and serves kind of like an interlude. This has some really good soloing, especially on keyboards. The organ on this song is excellent, and that alone makes for a great instrumental.

"The Horsemen Ride"- Atmospheric keyboards open up the song, followed by a solitary piano note. A light acoustic guitar enters playing a dark chord progression, and it progresses into an almost Celtic sounding section. The percussion works well with the atmospheric nature of the song. The songwriting is full of memorable melodies, catchy hooks, and excellent progressions.

"The Hand of God"- After a short introduction, a piano melody enters. It intentionally sounds similar to "The Big Fire", and it soon builds into a heavy organ section with Nick D'Virgilio-sounding drumming from Corey Folta. The guitar playing is superb as well throughout the track ? there are some really great solos from John Fontana.

"Coming Back Home To You"- The final song in the Project Blue suite is uplifting and bluesy. This sounds like a blues-rock ballad straight from the 70's. The organ adds a nice touch to the nice melodies and chord progressions. There is a solid organ solo near the middle as well. This is a fitting end to the suite, and proves that not all endings to epics have to be bombastic and overblown. Sometimes simple is better.

"When the Morning Comes"- This is a mostly acoustic ballad that never seemed to grab me. The piano and strings are excellent, but I never was captivated by the melodies. This is a well crafted piece of music, even though it's not my favorite from the album. This has a true sense of beauty.

"Willoughby"- The second longest song after the epic Project Blue doesn't disappoint, and may actually be my favorite from the album. An ominous piano melody opens up the song and almost seamlessly goes into a fast organ section with excellent drumming. The mellotron in this section is fantastic, and this really makes for an excellent opening. It goes into fast, almost musical-sounding, piano chords. The chorus to this song is excellent and very memorable. The vocal harmonies are superb, and the transitions are seamless. This has an excellent instrumental passage past the middle of the song, and the musicianship is really fantastic. A beautiful guitar solo ends this song perfectly.

"Angel"- This has a rather pop-rock feel to it, but it works very well. The symphonic approach is excellent, even though it is a little formulaic. The chorus is memorable, and the guitar solos are spectacular throughout the song. The arrangements and some transitions can feel a little empty at times, but the songwriting makes up for that. This is a good song, but not one of my favorites from the album.

"...Then in July, the Thunder Came"- The closing song opens with an almost Celtic-feel to it, with pounding percussion and oboe (I think). It progresses into the same melody, but with guitar. I always think of a sci-fi movie when I hear this song, probably due to the march tempo and dark melodies. It's a cool song, but I think they should have ended the album with a different track. I don't think this is a great choice for a closing song.

Conclusion:

Whispers and Screams is an excellent album by Shadow Circus, and I'm really glad to have heard this. This is a highly original and innovative symphonic progressive rock album, and that's become a rarity nowadays. I applaud the guys in Shadow Circus for creating something new and exciting in a rather tired genre. When you add on the fact that the musicianship is excellent and the songwriting is well above average, you have a great album on your hands. I'm going to award this great effort with a 3.5-4 star rating. This isn't without flaws, but I'm sure that in the future Shadow Circus can create a flawless work of art.

4 stars.

J-Man | 4/5 |

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