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Circus Maximus

Progressive Metal

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Circus Maximus Isolate album cover
3.75 | 204 ratings | 23 reviews | 34% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2007

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. A Darkened Mind (5:33)
2. Abyss (5:00)
3. Wither (4:46)
4. Sane No More (3:55)
5. Arrival of Love (4:10)
6. Zero (4:50)
7. Mouth of Madness (12:42)
8. From Childhood's Hour (4:28)
9. Ultimate Sacrifice (9:17)

Total Time 54:41

Line-up / Musicians

- Mats Haugen / electric & acoustic guitars, EBow, backing vocals
- Lasse Finbråten / keyboards, sampler, backing vocals
- Glen Møllen / bass, backing vocals
- Truls Haugen / drums, percussion, backing vocals, voice

- Jan Erik Salvesen / backing vocals

Releases information

Artwork: Mattias Norén

CD Frontiers Records ‎- FR CD 345 (2007, Europe)

Thanks to TheProgtologist for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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CIRCUS MAXIMUS Isolate ratings distribution

(204 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(34%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(37%)
Good, but non-essential (21%)
Collectors/fans only (7%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

CIRCUS MAXIMUS Isolate reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars An album that blasts your nerve .

Yeah. it's another prog met band! The first time I listened to this CD, it blew me away and it did not require me to have more spins to like this album - it's so good at first blast! When I listened to the opening track of this album, I remembered ADAGIO who shares similar vein like this song to my ears. This band is currently discussed intensely in i-Rock! mailing list down here at my country. Actually, when someone posted about this band couple of months ago, I did not pay attention to it until I visited my colleague Andre's office and he demonstrated this album with full power (loud volume). Wow! It's so energetic!

The opening track "Darkened Mind" is truly a prog met killer as it serves anything you expect from any progmet tune. Do you expect energy and drive? You got it! This song combines heavy riffs with powerful drum beats and stunning guitar melody. Do you expect melody? Oh man . don't tell me .. this song is very strong in melody line. Do you expect a sort of symphonic nuance? Yeah, you got it! The keyboard work serves wonderfully to accentuate the melody line. Even the vocal line is so powerful! This is the kind of song that you expect to blast when you are facing the wall of despair - tired with unfavorable situation due to arguments with clients, bosses, customers or spouse .. It's truly an uplifting track. In fact, it's good track to start the day.

"Abyss" starts off with drum solo followed with intense combination of keyboard and guitar - followed beautifully with excellent singing line. For me personally, this track has great riffs and sound effects that accompany touchy melody through vocal line. Mike Eriksen's vocal is truly excellent. His voice quality really match the music of Circus Maximus. "Wither" continues the beauty of previous tracks with slower in tempo but still maintaining great melody. In fact, the chorus line of this track is really wonderful. In a way it reminds me to the kind of glam rock music but with progressive metal touch.

"Sane No More" is definitely a MASTERPIECE instrumental track. It starts with great staccato combining stunning keyboard work, guitar riffs and powerful drumming and tight basslines. When keyboard takes over the solo, the song changes into more challenging venture especially when the solo is then passed on to guitar. I think you will definitely agree with me that this song is very powerful especially in demonstrating the virtuosities of the band's keyboard player Espen Storo. But it's not only that, the riffs combine with acrobatic guitar and keyboard played at relatively fast tempo are all truly great.

"Arrival Of Love" is a straight hard-rocker with predictable melody and music flow. Fans of prog met might not like this album because it has pop component. "Zero" is a ballad with stunning piano intro accompanying melodic vocal line. This time, the vocal is delivered in low register notes. The orchestration of this track is good. "Mouth Of Madness" starts off wit acoustic guitar fills which accompany vocal. It's a nice guitar work. The music blasts off with heavy riffs and symphonic nuance through the work of keyboard combined with guitar riffs.

"From Childhood's Hour" is another excellent track with keyboard section serves as string arrangements. The guitar solo is stunning especially when it's combined with piano work. The concluding track "Ultimate Sacrifice" is another favorite of mine. It starts with heavy riffs textured by the multi-layer keyboard work. Again, I love the combined guitar riffs, keyboard work and vocal line at the opening part and throughout the rest of the song. It's another uplifting track that I really enjoy - especially during transition pieces where keyboard serves like string section and brings the colossal nature of a movie like Lord of The Rings. The guitar solo by Mats Haugen is really stunning.

Overall, this is an excellent addition to any progressive music collection. The music of Circus Maximus is basically progressive metal with some classical music influence. The songwriting and composition are top notch! Combined with flawless performance and excellent sonic quality of the CD, they make up four stars rating for this album. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Review by ProgBagel
2 stars Circus Maximus - Isolate 2.0 stars

This was a pretty bad album and is even worse when compared to Circus Maximus' very strong debut album. It seemed to me that their heavily influence music is what made them strong and they weren't mature enough to let it go. The exceptional chorus work that brought the best out of the band was gone. Lasse Finbråten is the new keyboard player replacing Espen Storø; I have no confirmed sources as to why he left so I can't really go beyond here.

There is not a single track that is above par on this album. Even the traces of brilliance are too few to even name. Although nothing is above par, the songs do have structure to them; it's still composed carefully. The keyboard and guitar are also a lot more tame in this, which I think takes a little bit out of them as well. The guitarist and keyboardist are very talented but they didn't really go wild except for some moments in the first album and the fact that they do even less on this one was really disappointing.

I'm sorry for the short review but there is not much to talk about, this release was extremely bland and distasteful. I you are a big fan of Circus Maximus, you might like it. I wouldn't consider myself a fan and I found it to be quite poor. To me this is nothing but a collection of pretty poor tracks with few traces of exceptional moments.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Circus Maximus debut album The 1st Chapter was praised very much in various heavy metal magazines when it was released. Many compared Circus Maximus to Dream Theater and Symphony X. I would like to add Stratovarius to those influences as Circus Maximus also have those extremely memorable choruses that Stratovarius are known for. To me The 1st Chapter was a good progressive metal album even though I found it a bit unoriginal. The mix of progressive metal and more traditional metal/ power metal is something a thousand bands have done before. Circus Maximus is clearly one of the better bands in the genre though. Isolate is Circus Maximus second album and the style they started on The 1st Chapter is continued here without many surprises.

The musicians are one of the main reasons why I want to use my time on Isolate, as it is a joy to listen to such competent gentlemen play. Lead singer Mike Eriksen has a very strong voice even though it is pretty typical for the genre.

There are lots of keyboards in the music and they can at times sound very eighties like which of course is an aquired taste. I´m ambivalent towards just that as it depends on my mood wether I can stand it or not. The compositions are very well composed and there are solos and other little variations to keep the songs exciting. The songs are very memorable due to the sing a long power metal choruses which of course also is an aquired taste. People who think a mix of Dream Theater and Symphony X could satisfy their desires should give Isolate a chance as it is a very worthy purchase in that genre.

The sound quality is excellent and again Circus Maximus prove that they are one of the best in their genre. With this kind of production Frontiers Records really show that they believe in Circus Maximus. It must have cost a lot.

If I was more into this genre this would have been a 4 star album, but as I find it a bit cheesy and really not in my personal taste I´ll give it 3 stars for the brilliant musicianship and the fantastic production.

Review by The T
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Definitely an improvement, though not quite there yet.

CIRCUS MAXIMUS's first album, "The 1st Chapter", left me with good expectations for the band's future, but also a little bit cold because of its derivative nature and the lack of brilliant melodies. Many people liked the choruses in that album, but I've heard many bands do much better than that. The band sounded like it was trying to sound like DREAM THEATER without really masking it.

This time around, in "Isolate", the band starts to find a voice of their own. The DREAM THEATER influence is still huge, and now we can also detect hints of SYMPHOPNY X and STRATOVARIUS in the mix, plus some PAGAN'S MIND (the vocal style is very similar.) But there's an inner voice, an until-now hidden personality in CIRCUS MAXIMUS that is starting to emerge. The music now doesn't sound too much "like band X" but more like "it was influenced by band X".

Also, the melodies and choruses are much better in "Isolate". A good example is "The Abyss", probably the best all-out-metal track in the album. The band's musicianship was never in question (no poorly-skilled musicians could ever sound like DREAM THEATER after all), but now with this newly gained confidence that I can hear between the notes, they shine even more. The production is superb, with clarity and values typical of more commercial-ready bands.

I think that CIRCUS MAXIMUS' best moments are yet to come. The band has been gaining ground slowly but steadily. From decent semi-clones to very good sound-a-likes, I'm sure the third chapter in this story will be the one where all elements finally fit in the puzzle. As of right now, "Isolate" deserves 3.5 stars , averaging musicianship, originality and the enjoyment I got from listening to it. This time I'll round up, as the effort clearly deserves it, and also to draw a line between this excellent record and some less-inspired progressive-metal albums I have reviewed.

Review by Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Isolate' - Circus Maximus (8/10)

Circus Maximus' 2005 debut 'The 1st Chapter' blew away the progressive metal world and suprised everyone that a band of musicians so young and relatively inexperienced could make such technical, complex music while maintaining a very strong sense of melody and direction. Heavily influenced by the likes of Symphony X, Circus Maximus certainly made a strong impression in the world of progressive music. Obviously, their sophomore release would be anticipated with very high expectations. The band's 2007 release 'Isolate' was what they came up with.

'Isolate' represents a darker, more weathered side of Circus Maximus. There isn't so much of a happy light feeling anymore; instead it is replaced by a more introspective and sad sound that really helps to mature the band's tone and sound. While I can't say that it has the album cohesion that a masterpiece like it's predecessor would, 'Isolate' is a dose of some amazing progressive metal, with some really stellar material.

'Isolate' is certainly less consistent then the first album. There are songs that leave me speechless, but there are also songs that while good, don't have the epic quality about them that was found much more consistently in 'The 1st Chapter.' The song 'Abyss' is a fantastic song, and combines frantic progression with strong vocals (the singer for this band is absolutely amazing, by the way) and a powerful sense of melody to make a song that could be considered the 'quintessential' CM track. It shows what the band is really made of, and got me into the band in the first place.

The epic of the album, 'Mouth Of Madness' is probably my favourite Circus Maximus track yet. While the epics of the last album have garnered much more critical acclaim, I find this song to be much more focused, directed, and well, 'epic.' The song begins slow but gets very intense towards the middle, and climaxs with all guitars firing, and a gregorian choir chanting to exacerbate the dramatic effect. It's simply stunning, I love it.

While as an overall product, it wasn't as stunning and consistent as the first, it's definately not dissapointing, and Circus Maximus proves that they have a very bright future if they continue their musical career.

Review by jampa17
4 stars What is Prog Metal all about.

Circus Maximus is a wonderful "new" band of the post Dream Theater wave. The influence of this band is evident. They pushed a little beat more into Stratovarius routes (especially in the melodies) but the complex arrangement, quality of songwriting and great concept of melodies leads this album to a total success. Of course, if you are into Prog Metal, you should try this particular album for sure.

I know that some do not like the so many "alike" bands that are out there right now, but I can mention Pagan's Mind and Anubis Gate as well as Circus Maximus as the best bands of the movement right now. A controlled singer, great musicians association and a good production in the overall will prove that this band is on the level. The rare thing I want to point at is that the theme of the album is a dark one. A person struggling with "Isolation" is a tough concept but the music is up lifting (just like Stratovarius) and not that depressive or obscure it might have to be. But at the end, the songs work great and there's cohesiveness through the whole album.

Maybe the most evident difference of them with the rest of Prog Metal bands is that they don't show off, not at all in fact. The music works fine and the instrumental sections are quite focused on moods and shapes and less in acrobatic solos.

There's a mellow spirit through all the album and it's really up lifting. I do recommend this album to anyone who dislike Prog Metal in general. This is very clean and sophisticated and I don't think people should pass it down.

The best definition of this album is Power Metal with great melodies and original instrumental sections. You should not pass down this band. 4 stars is what they disserve for a great production with wonderful songs.

Review by Tarcisio Moura
4 stars Wow, I was quite surprised of how good this CD actually is. I never heard of this band before and I got Isolate by pure chance. Ok, I did have a four year period when I was listening almost solely to prog metal bands, or just classic metal. But from 2002 onwards my tastes shifted back to symphonic prog again and it has remained so ever since. Besides, the prog metal scene, so fresh and exciting during the 90´s, had become dull and repetitive by the new millenium, I had little reason to think that would change. I´m glad now to say some groups do stand out, making the style still worth checking out from time to time. And Circus Maximus is definitly one of them. They have everything I like from the style: high energy, skillful musicians, a superb singer. great production. But most of all they know how to write great songs, the melodies are terrific and the arrangements are clever and creative. Not bad at all!

I heard they were heavy influenced by Dream Theater or Symphony X, and certainly those influences are clear, but the band is more melodic, accessible and have greater hooks than both groups. The interplay is absolute fabulous, with little room for endless noodling or unnecessary displays of too much technique. They are certainly team players and the music flow is simply terrific, with all the songs being very strong and remarkable (just listen to Abyss, probably the best track here). Mike Eriksen is a an excellent vocalist, perfect for the style: powerful, technical and emotional at the same time. What really impressed me the most was how they balanced the AOR-like melodies with heavy guitars and drums, making their sound quite unique and highly pleasant. With no weak moments at all, Isolate became one of my favorite CDs this year. I just can´t get enough of it!

Rating: this is a very difficult one to rate. I personally would love to give it 5 stars for its sheer qualities, but I should point out that PA is primarely a progressive site. So I guess a 4 star rating is more fitting, for it´s an excellent addition to any music lover collection, prog or otherwise.

Conclusion: a real nice surprise. One of the most interesting albums done by a Prog metal band I heard in a long, long time. I´m looking forward to listen to their other works. If you like a energetic mix of memorable melodies and heavy guitars, performed with conviction and intelligence, then you can´t miss this one!

Review by b_olariu
3 stars Circus Maximus from Norway got lot of praise around first two albums were released 2005 and respectivly 2007. Well, I don't know, this is not the type of prog metal I like very much, it has a fat sound that I really don't dig , not very much elaborated arrangements, only on instrumental piece Sane No More they are more then ok, nice musicianship though. The voice of Mike Eriksen is strong, very good vocalist, nice tone a spectacular range, but the instrumental parts fail to impress me big time, it sounds like a Symphony X version with diffrent vocalist and without that neo classical aproach of the masters. Short pieces, only two are lenghty 9 and 12 min, not enough for me, I want complicated prog metal with lots of tempo changes, keybords to run all the time, guitar breaks and all, here is not the case only here and there, to much time is vocal oriented kind of prog, ok the guitar parts are well done and delivers that crunchy kind of aproach but nothing really speacial as it praised all the time. Not bad as a whole, but nothing special either, I know hundreds of more inventive and intresting prog metal albums in my collection. 3 stars hardly.

Latest members reviews

3 stars When I acquired this album more than 10 years ago, I was quite amazed about its drive and sonic quality. The vocal range is great, playing is very solid. Compositions are mainly melodic, chorus quite inspired by classic heavy metal movements. You can hear the inspiration by Dream Theater but th ... (read more)

Report this review (#2494982) | Posted by sgtpepper | Sunday, January 17, 2021 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Wups.. I have a mixed feeling about this album. There are great progressive tracks in this album, but few other tracks are quite light. Opening track 'A Darkened Mind' is my favourite track of this album. The song is opened by a killer guitar riff, anthemic but dark and heavy at the same tim ... (read more)

Report this review (#2448364) | Posted by Mark-P | Thursday, September 17, 2020 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Norway's Circus Maximius play a kind of slightly simplified progressive power metal with a strong emphasis on melodic hooks. They are also blessed with a very good vocalist, who has a powerful and almost androgynous kind of voice. All their 3 (as of 2014) albums are in same general style but have ... (read more)

Report this review (#1158922) | Posted by Progrussia | Tuesday, April 8, 2014 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I want to take a moment to encourage anyone who listened to Circus Maximus' first album, The 1st Chapter (how appropriately titled, eh?), and found it good but not good enough to keep listening to try this album out. They've really developed their own individuality in this album, the album has a ... (read more)

Report this review (#755129) | Posted by dtguitarfan | Saturday, May 19, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars What a good album.. Though it's been a while since I listen to it but when I was checking my music library couple days ago 'isolate' just pop-up in front of my eyes and directly crawled into my MP3 player, and what a result, it still sounds strong and cohesive as l listened to it for the first ... (read more)

Report this review (#584541) | Posted by Tarek | Thursday, December 8, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This second album of the so talented band from NORWAY-CIRCUS MAXIMUS is simply STUNNING!I cannot believe my ears each time I make an audition of this album!I don't know what exactly this album has to make it be o catchy and interesting,but I realise in the same time that ISOLATION is a wonderful ... (read more)

Report this review (#293003) | Posted by Ovidiu | Sunday, August 1, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I liked a lot that first album. Sin, Alive, Glory of the empire and why am i here? were my favorite from the first chapter. Isolate is different. It sounds more comercial but that does not mean that is not so good. This album is more catchier than the first one. This album is more open to anyone ... (read more)

Report this review (#280022) | Posted by javier459 | Friday, April 30, 2010 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Second album from the norwegian progmetal band Circus Maximus. 1st chapter was a pretty good first album even though it's orginallity can be discussed. The second album is pretty much the same even though I find it slightly better then their first effort. The sound is obviously influenced by ... (read more)

Report this review (#187259) | Posted by Arnold | Tuesday, October 28, 2008 | Review Permanlink

1 stars wuakala! these guys did an excellent job with "The 1rst Chapter", but they missed theyre way, in some point, they lost the good ideas, this album sounds like a dead album: no passion, no ideas, no feeling, no nothing. i don't know how to describe this album, too monotone, too boring; the soun ... (read more)

Report this review (#154804) | Posted by CGH Tompkins | Saturday, December 8, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Can AOR Metal be technical and progressive? What new can you expect on the Dream Theater area of music? Well, thank god Circus Maximus are here to give us a new prespective to things. They did it greatly with 1st Chapter and they are back with Isolate. CM created a genuine progressive metal album ... (read more)

Report this review (#151086) | Posted by Sophocles | Friday, November 16, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This album is definately one of best prog metal disc ever. I rate this to the level of Images & Words by DT and Operation Mind Crime by Queensryche. Every each track of this album is full of hooks, melodic moments, awesome singing and brilliant playing. Mike as a vocalist does a perfect job and ... (read more)

Report this review (#135720) | Posted by Fihalhohi | Saturday, September 1, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars A very well crafted album to which I'm addicted right now. Every band member shines through the album: the singer has an incredible range and uses some pop attributes in vocal melodies, which are great, and never over the top; the KB and guitar players are very technical and neither dominates, giv ... (read more)

Report this review (#133671) | Posted by omarello | Saturday, August 18, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This is in my mind the best album of 2007 so far and the "Abyss" is the best song, all categories! The main difference between Circus Maximus and other prog metal bands is that CM has great melodies and harmonies. It's also an incredibly tight band with Truls Haugen's drumming being the main ite ... (read more)

Report this review (#132317) | Posted by Wenhov | Wednesday, August 8, 2007 | Review Permanlink

1 stars The First Chapter should have been the last chapter. CM first album was so original,not a typical prog metal album,it had a mix between symph.,space,rio. etc...very good. ¿¿¿!!!But what happened now!!!??? In this album it seems CM inspired theirselves in hardrock bands - that made some ... (read more)

Report this review (#128083) | Posted by robbob | Wednesday, July 11, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I have played this only twice and like it very much. I`m sure most of you will know the CD "The 1st Chapter" this is a logical follow on from there with all the great power/prog elements still intact. Judging by the cover art you expect a dark depressing CD however I didn`t find this to be the cas ... (read more)

Report this review (#127851) | Posted by Big Kansas Fan | Sunday, July 8, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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