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WHISPERS AND SCREAMS

Shadow Circus

Symphonic Prog


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Shadow Circus Whispers And Screams album cover
3.78 | 88 ratings | 21 reviews | 13% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection


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Studio Album, released in 2009

Songs / Tracks Listing

1.Project Blue (total time: 33:46)
- a. Captain Trips (5:44)
- b. The Long Road (4:15)
- c. Big Fire (3:13)
- d. The Seduction Of Harold Lauder (3:32)
- e. The Horsemen Ride (6:47)
- f. The Hand Of God (4:41)
- g. Coming Back Home To You (5:28)
2. When The Morning Comes (4:35)
3. Willoughby (10:07)
4. Angel (7:38)
5. ...Then In July, The Thunder Came (4:45)

Total Time: 60:45




Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- David Bobick / vocals
- John Fontana / keyboards, guitars
- Corey Folta / drums
- Jason Croft / bass

Guests:

- Matt Masek / Cello on "When The Morning Comes", "Angel" and "...Then In July, The Thunder Came"
- Dione, Rasheedah and Sahirah Dixon / Vocals on "Coming Back Home To You"






Releases information

© Shadow Circus 2009

Thanks to b_olariu for the addition
and to The Quiet One for the last updates
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SHADOW CIRCUS Whispers And Screams ratings distribution


3.78
(88 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(13%)
13%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(55%)
55%
Good, but non-essential (21%)
21%
Collectors/fans only (9%)
9%
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)
1%

SHADOW CIRCUS Whispers And Screams reviews


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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Team
4 stars Prepare thyself for heavenly headphone heaven.

Another great discovery for me this year on the Prog Archives, as far as I am concerned, Shadow Circus are one of the best Symphonic Prog acts I have had the pleasure to listen to. The new CD Whispers and Screams is choc a block full of innovative ideas and amazing virtuoso musicianship. Every track adds a new mood and feel enhancing the overall experience. The band are highly theatrical and emphasise the use of lengthy instrumentals to create incredible tracks. It sounds a bit like Diagonal at times, or Pink Floyd, ELP, early Genesis, Yes and Rush. You have to admire that front cover, a direct homage to Alfred Hitchcock's 'The Birds' complete with crows swarming in the screaming girl's hair.

The CD begins with the lengthy 7 part epic Project Blue.. Part 1 begins with a wind effect and a low drone with a soaring synth. Then a convoluted wild drum beat and jagged guitars crash in and a wall of sound is created. The Hammond blasts away as Bobick's clean vocals begin, phased out and aggressively psychedelic, very 70s like. Kind of like Peter Gabriel in early Genesis. Fontana's keyboards are masterfully executed, at times like the ELP Tarkus sound. Folta's drums pound incessantly, dramatic and complex rhythms. The metrical patterns are nerve shattering. The bass of Croft is relentless and intricate. The keyboard sol is admirable, it is little wonder Fontana has played onstage with the likes of Emerson and Wakeman; the influences are obvious. The lead guitar is terrific, lots of past picking and squeals. What an incredible opener.

Part 2 begins with minimalist piano, simple and beautiful and a quiet vocal that is very easy to understand: 'follow your dreams, to me they will lead you now, there's shadows in the fields, the dark man just won't yield'. Who is the dark man, what is the long road and what the heck is all this about? I have no idea but, similar to Yes, the obscurity of the lyrics enhances the overall mood and atmosphere.

In Part 3 The Big Fire, a warbling mellotron effect is heard and some good vocals from Bobick. It has a quieter feel in the intro but a great drum beat changes the mood which is somber and foreboding. It feels as though you might be walking under a hot sun in a desolate wasteland. The melody kicks in and is quite infectious. Multilayered vocals are effective. The time sig stops and changes throughout. This blends seamlessly into the next part.

Part 4 is a wonderful instrumental showcasing the talents of the band in full flight. A very off kilter time signature that moves from 7/8 to 4/4 and back to more changes. The drums are awesome here. The Hammond and guitar trade off, and I love that ELP feel the band have on this instrumental. Angular guitar riffing and screaming keyboard flourishes. Fontana is amazing, among the best keyboardists on the planet. The track ends with a crescendo that builds into an explosive climax. My highlight for the album. This blends seamlessly into Part 5.

Part 5 settles into a hushed lullaby, that is still dark but gentle in its approach. Mellotron pads and acoustic guitar. An Indian, Shakti or Eastern sound locks in, a George Harrison Eastern influence perhaps. 'What's this coming over me, I cannot move I cannot see, There's something that I just can't hide, alone here in the shadows of my pride' Bobick's vocals are effective as ever as he sings about a dark horseman. It does feel like a horse galloping, the way the rhythms cascade.

Part 6 is The Hand of God, another blistering instrumental. It begins with an ominous Blade Runner Vangelis style synth that echoes in the distance. The piano subtly introduces a new mood swing, it feels like night, the spacey guitar swoops over to prepare us for the onslaught. At about 2 mins in it begins: a heart stopping frenetic beat, drums pounding Hammond stabbing and angular guitar. One of the best tracks that highlights the virtuosity of the band. Its an all out prog jam, improvisational sounding yet tight and complex with heavy emphasis on lead breaks.

Part 7 is the closer to the epic and it simmers down into a more mainstream feel. The lyrics make more sense here: You had the weight of the new world, Restin' on your shoulders, What a way for it to be, But your face burns the memories deep into my mind, And the thought of you moves me on, Through sickness I crawled, By the light of the moon, But the shadow lent his hand, Through rain, sleet and snow he paved the way, And the thought of you moved me on.' Beautiful lyrics and an infectious melody end the epic. One of the best multimovement suites I have heard and worth the purchase price alone.

There is more to offer on other tracks though they never measure up to the opening epic. When the Morning Comes. is soft, balladic and only satisfactory due to the mayhem previously. The piano is beautiful.

Willoughby is a strange one. The title and lyrics remind me of the Twilight Zone episode 'A Stop at Willoughbys'. It begins quietly and I longed for more of the chaotic stuff of previous tracks. At 2:30 it delivers again, locking into a wonderful metronome swinging freak out. The time sigs are off the scale as the Hammond stabs with staccatos and percussive metrical patterns explode. A complex guitar solo ensues and is one of the best examples of Fontana's musical prowess. The fade ins that create the violin sounds are beautiful and atmospheric.

The last track is Angel, a song about a lady of the night: 'So she sold her soul unto the streets, Oh no, they burn right thru her feet, They cut you hard and make you bleed, So you can never, never leave, So take a number wait in line, Little John has paid for time, She wipes away the filth and grime, Back to do the same old grind, Angel with the dirty wings' ? yeah, you know what this about. The music is tranquil and melodic, a melancholy feel with lush soundscapes of percussion, bass, piano, mellotron and guitar. The lead break is once again exceptional. And this ends bookended with the rainstorm effect.

But there is one more instrumental to close it off and it is the brilliant Then In July The Thunder Came. This also has an Easterm Mystical feel with sliding guitars and mellotron. The drum beat is war like as though soldiers are marching into battle. The majestic atmosphere is enhanced by a lead guitar break that screams into the stratosphere. A very impressive album ends with an equally impressive closer.

The intricate musicianship and time sig changes are a progger's dreamchild and this band delivers in spades. It has all the makings of a 70s classic yet delivers something new in its approach. This is one of the most innovative albums in recent years, and although it is not flawless, this is definitely worthy of the 4 stars it is receiving from reviewers all over the net. I am pleasantly surprised at the amount of bands that are rising up and producing this unabashed style of prog that has everything that the 70s golden era of prog offered and beyond.

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Send comments to AtomicCrimsonRush (BETA) | Report this review (#255555) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, December 10, 2009

Review by Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars 2,5 stars, really. Interesting sophmore release by this american prog rock band. After I read a fellow reviewer opinion about Whispers And Screams, I was quite curious about it. And I can say John Fontana & co are a quite talented bunch, but are not quite there in terms of a personal sound. They are close, but not quite there yet. I think their first efford, Welcome To The Freakroom had a stronger sense of direction. And their sound is not really symphonic, by the way, at least in my opinion: the occasional Hammond organ runs, a bit of mellotron here and there and some odd time signatures are not enough to label them as such.

Not that Whispers And Screams does not have its (brief) symphonic moments, specially on the instrumental tracks like The Seduction Of Harold Lauder. But most of the time they play a kind of american flavoured heavy rock, sometimes bordering the prog metal (the opener Captain Trips is a good example), sometimes crossover prog (The Horseman Ride) and sometimes not progressive at all (Coming Back To You is a typical southern rock ballad, while Angel is an average rock ballad). But don´t get me wrong, the songs themselves are quite good and well crafted

The problem I see here is like so many good albums I listen to, Whispers And Screams lacks a kind of personal identity. Every track here sounds like it was done by a different band. There is very little or no common ground that links the tunes to make the album a whole (or maybe I didn´t get the album´s concept!). Certainly those guys are more than able to do it in the near future if they will absorb their many references and produce a unified work that will have their own mark. But this is promising stuff, no doubt about it. If you like the aforementioned styles you should check this out.

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Send comments to Tarcisio Moura (BETA) | Report this review (#256206) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Review by The Quiet One
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This record will set you to burn!

Shadow Circus' sophomore effort is no less than a very creative and diverse Prog album from the 21st century. Please take note that belonging to the Symphonic sub-genre in this site and being from the 00's doesn't mean it has to sound like The Flower Kings and all related bands. No, Shadow Circus pretty much belongs to a wilder style of Symphonic Prog, not simply keeping to the roots of 20+ minute epics, blasting synths and soaring mellotrons and up-lifting melodies; Whispers & Screams introduces the very own Shadow Circus trademark sound which is a milligram of circus-esque music plus blues, hard rock and even a bit of indo-prog to the Symphonic Prog we all know.

Starting with the 30+ minute suite called Project Blue, which is splitted wisely in seven parts which avoids making the epic dense as some of the long epics from nowadays are. The first part entitled Captain Trips shows a strong and powerful beginning to the epic, with a blasting guitar/organ riff with loud drums accompanying it. As soon as David Bobick's peculiar vocals enter, the music gets catchier, however there are classy symphonic interludes within this first part in which David's vocals are rather hard to digest in first listens, but certainly being on purpose, after repeated listens it is just making a notable distinguishment from the rest of the modern day accessbile soft vocalists. The first part finishes with two kick-ass solos by John Fontana's synths and guitar.

The second part called The Long Road continues the themes from Captain Trips with some new interludes mainly made by John's piano, but overall this part has a less rockin' feel. The Long Road also features a very nice variation from David's voice, there's the peculiar style of David but also a gentle, yet very unique, kind of voice. This second part finishes in a very symphonic manner with heavy guitars and lush keyboards, but as soon as this ends, the third part called The Big Fire begins in a very hypnotic psychedelic way with the keyboards and guitar. However, Shadow Circus changes this mood abruptly returning to the rock manner with some great funky influences.

Part four of the suite named The Seduction of Harold Lauder is entirely instrumental which returns to the symphonic way of the first part with plenty of splendid organ resembling Emerson, Lake & Palmer or the Kaye-era from Yes; indeed a great transition to my favorite part of the epic, which is part five. Part five, entitled The Horsemen Ride, has Shadow Circus playing in the way of Shakti(!), yes the group compromised by John McLaughlin and L. Shankar playing wild indo music. However, unlike Shakti, Shadow Circus just focused on the instrumentation of indian-esque music and not the virtuosity needed for it, that means you've got Corey Folta playing some grabbing percussion and John playing his acoustic guitar. However, it's not unrelated with the rest of the epic since David's vocals are still present, and the great atmosphere provided by John's electric guitar and keyboards are also present, and that is what makes it so great.

The suite goes on with part six called The Hand of God. It's another instrumental which has some of the previous rockin' themes reprised, but that's not at all, this part has John Fontana as the main performer letting out some brilliant guitar solos. Finally the suite ends with part seven entitled Coming Back Home To You. A definite standout which evokes a 70's up-lifting blues style which is truly emotional with the addition of backing vocalists, both male and female, plus a marvellous, very 70's-esque, organ solo as well as a bluesy guitar solo, all in all making an excellent ending to this splendid epic.

However, as the epic ended the album goes on with When the Morning Comes. A delicate acoustic piece with some beautiful vocals from David. On the other hand, Willoughby brings back the symphonic rock from Project Blue, unfortunately it barely brings anything that can't be heard(and better) on the epic.

Angel, on the contrary, offers something still not heard from this album. A sort-of ballad with the sufficient twists so as to not get bored. Mainly a magnificent guitar solo, some well-fitting orchestration and a really nice soft synth solo at the end. The last track off the album called Then in July, the Thunder Came is also something fresh, but not much in the good sense. It's an instrumental with a pretty insipid marching-drum all-through in which John Fontana adds over top of it some pretty great ideas with the guitar and keyboards, but the result is pretty much a failure since I'm not really fond of marching-drumming.

So, in the end Shadow Circus' Whispers & Screams ends not as great nor as intriguing as it began, yet the album is played greatly all through with the, already stated, sufficient variety to make the distinguishment from the modern Symphonic Prog stereotype, which that is something to be recognised and valued.

I'll round up the 3.5 stars that this album deserves, meaning that it's a great non-typical modern Symphonic Prog which is recommended to any 70's Prog Rock fan which tends to listen to a bit more than simply Prog music.

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Send comments to The Quiet One (BETA) | Report this review (#257808) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, December 25, 2009

Review by progkidjoel
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars An interesting voyage into several worlds of prog by New York's progressive frontrunners.

As a newcomer to Shadow Circus, I had no idea what to really expect. The symphonic tag only serves to categorize a minority of the band's sound and musical exploration, which as this album displays, is far, far more diverse than expected. The album's flagship piece is a 33 minute epic called Project Blue, made up of 7 small sections. The playing is experimental, technically capable and fantastically executed. Project Blue is a very interesting epic, although I feel it could have flowed better. The tracks after the epic are all great songs, and stand very well by themselves and as part of this album. This is a great album, and one of my favourites from the latter part of 2009. My only real complaint about the album is the vocals - Whilst they aren't bad, they certainly aren't the strongest part of the album. The singing itself is not my problem - It's the numerous effects and muffles which, in this writer's opinion, only serve to drag down the quality.

Project Blue Part One - Captain Trips opens the album with a billowy echo, which transcends into some eerie guitar squeals and eventually into a toe-tappingly catchy riff. The Hammond organ chords over the top of the guitar are great, and the drumming is unpredictable and clever. The bass is rather low in the mix, although still sufficient. The tracks chorus is a little softer than the verses, but the mix of the two is great - The song hops heavy to heavier and back again constantly, which makes it enjoyable time after time. The lyrics are good, although difficult to hear at times. A solid opener, but interestingly, this reveals little of the sound which the rest of the album displays.

Project Blue Part Two - The Long Road is flowed into by Captain Trips, and is a much softer piano led song. This is also a catchy track, and has a slight country tinge. The lyrics are a lot better here, and much more audible. The drumming is appropriate and the background guitar noise plays well into the mix. This track becomes a little repetitive to the end, but if the lyrics are listened to carefully, you can easily hear a flow and a story, which makes replays interesting and enticing. The last minute of this track hops into a great synth solo and some great guitar work.

Project Blue Part Three - The Big Fire opens much more darkly, with an interesting ambient noise and some clever guitar work. As the track continues, it becomes more rhythmically heavy and picks up a lot of momentum. Around the half way mark, the track hops into a piano and guitar chord play, and the rhythm hops at the chorus are interesting once again. This track also feels a little repetitive in sections, although the hops from section to section save it from

Project Blue Part Four - The Seduction Of Harold Lauder has some great synth/guitar chord interplay, and some fantastic drumming. A short instrumental, This track is a bit of a technical display, although a more than welcome one, featuring a stellar synth solo and a great guitar solo.

Project Blue Part Five - The Horsemen Ride opens with ambient noise, and flows into some acoustic guitar work worthy of Steve Howe. This unpredictable guitar work grows into some ethnic drumming, which is a fantastic, original and more than welcome jump of pace. The lyrics and vocals make there return here, and are at their peak in the album. This song's combination of several world music style with their own sound is fantastic, and the instrumentation compliments this great composition perfectly.

Project Blue Part Six - The Hand Of God has some incredibly dark piano, some great synth background noise and some good rhythmic work. This track is very slow in comparison to the Indian tinged The Horsemen Ride, or so it seems...? And then the opening riff of the album comes back, and kicks in your teeth with a fantastic guitar solo and some slight changes. Some of the other riffs from tracks return, but the guitar solo remains as an awesome constant.

Project Blue Part Seven - Coming Back To You is the epic's closer, sporting some lovely piano and vocals in the vein of The Beatles. The lyrics remind me of The Eagles, but they keep their originality. This is my favourite section of Project Blue, and perhaps the most realized. The lyrics are great on this track, particularly at the chorus. The synth chorus in the center is fantastic and the guitar solo which follows is just as good. The claps sound somewhat like a Gospel choir, although this track does fit that mood well - And this mood comes full circle with the women's voices which close this song in a truly epic fashion.

When The Morning Comes is a great acoustic track, made up mostly from acoustic guitar and piano. The vocal melodies are fantastic. The violin is beautiful at the choruses and the lyrics are also incredibly good, and they fit the song fantastically. These words seem to be truly from the heart, which is a really lovely thing to hear. When a band has really poured themselves into a piece of music, it shows, and in this case, it makes the track all the more interesting. This track lacks drumming, other than the soft playing in the last two minutes.

Willoughby has some lovely piano to open it up, and this continues throughout most of the track. This is the longest track on the LP, clocking in at just over 10 minutes, although this is totally justifiable, thanks to the song's diversity and originality. The rhythmic section truly shines here, and the slightly formulaic flow doesn't harm this great song in any way, but rather compliments the band's songwriting talents. This song also features one of the lovely jumps in tempo from verse to chorus and back, but this time, it seems to bear a lot more meaning, mainly because the serious mood of the verse is conversely complimented by the blissful chorus. The synth work is at its peak here, displaying massive talents across the heavy bridge. The drums and bass also work brilliantly together, playing off and complimenting eachother at every turn. After this chaotic mid- section, the softness comes back, with a soft, repeated piano rhythm and a lovely, bluesy guitar solo. That same chorus comes back shortly after, although played much slower in a way which closes it fantastically. The vocal overlaps are fantastic, and used to an appropriate level. Another incredibly melodic guitar solo closes this track. John Fontana, guitarist AND keyboardist shows off his talents on both instruments in this song, and it's hard to believe one man can pull off what two would often find near impossible to play.

Angel has a lovely, climatic riff reminiscent of Marillion, with some more lovely violin and piano playing. The lyrics here are great again, and slightly country. My favourite lyric from this album appears here, and is as follows: Fingers pointin' everywhere/ Nowhere she can hide her tears/ So she packed up all her wares and cares/ Headed for the street of broken dreams. The chorus on this song is really quite good, and helps to communicate the story of a small town girl gone wrong. This song closes quietly in a soft fashion, although a guitar solo would have been nice and appropriate given the lyrical material.

....Then In July, The Thunder Came is the last track on the album, although it feels rather anticlimactic in comparison to Angel. I think the album would have rounded out better if Angel was the closer, although this is still a great track. An orchestral sound and good guitar work help the track, although I still feel it doesn't fit in with the rest of the non-Project Blue tracks on the album. Still a good track, although not too good of a choice for a closer.

This is a fantastic effort from a great band,and although it is not without its miniscule flaws, I still can't see myself giving this one anything less than 4 stars.

-Joel

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Send comments to progkidjoel (BETA) | Report this review (#257809) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, December 26, 2009

Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Prog Specialist
4 stars This is not the Symphonic I was raised with....But I like it

Before receiving my "Whispers and Screams" copy from my good friend John Fontana, was reading the reviews about this second SHADOW CIRCUS release, and what I read looked really uninspiring, seems that the album hadn't reached the audience, but this didn't surprised me, because their fantastic debut "Welcome to the Freakroom", is criminally underrated in my opinion.

Well, got my copy and I can't understand the Progressive Rock fans anymore, when a band is too close to the 70's icons, they are labelled as "Retro Prog" (A term I find harsh and inappropriate), but when bands as "SHADOW CIRCUS" dare to create a new form of Symphonic, adding Hard Rock and modern elements, people don't understand them and claim for a more classical sound, seems that the worst enemy of a Prog band is a Prog fan.

"Whispers and Screams" is a combination of classical Symphonic structures and Hard Rock elements not new in bands of the region (Hey, they are a USA band from the 21st century, they can't sound as a British band from 1974) , but the sound is fresh and innovative, when they have to play Symphonic, they do it with skill, but when they have to rock, they really know how to do it with the strength of the best Heavy bands, in other words a complete combo for all the tastes.

The album starts with the 33:46 minutes multi part epic "Project Blue", a song that presents us the harder side of SHADOW CIRCUS and how versatile they can be. It's time to rock and "John Fontana" combines his heavy and even distorted guitar with the competent Rhythm Section formed by "Corey Folta" in the drums and "Jason Croft" in the killer bass.

But that's not all, a thick atmosphere is created by John and his strong keyboards, the song is so complex and full of radical changes that reminds me a lot of KING CRIMSON dense structures, and the peculiar voice of "David Bobick" is the cherry on the top of the pie, not that we are before one of the best vocal ranges in the market, but the guy has a very ductile style that melts perfectly with whatever the band is playing.

More than half an hour of pure Prog Rock if you are ready to expect the unexpected.

"When the Morning Comes" is a great contrast, the clean piano blends perfectly with "Bobick's" voice that adapts perfectly to a softer style, sounds almost as another band, but that's only a proof of their versatility, again there's a surprise, some sort of Folksy sound breaks the schemes of the listener.

"Willoughby" begins with a classical piano solo that goes in crescendo (both in speed and intensity) until the whole band explodes in a burst of energy, don't ask me about influences, this is a new bread of Symphonic Prog, but when the listener believes that the style is captured comes a new a change when the frenetic piano turns into a rhythmic and al while the rest of the band stays in the frenetic mood. Reminds me of "Radio People" from their debut album. Again good stuff.

"Angel" is some sort of Prog mixed with Western Rock plus the special taste that the guest "Matt Massek" adds with his cello, again the dense atmosphere with touches of Gilmour like guitar create some sort of mystery and anguish that adds an extra element of interest to the song.

"Whispers and Screams" ends with "Then in July the Thunder Came", that breaks all my preconceptions of the band once again, the sound is so mysterious and dark that breaks with anything done in the past, the instrumental passages with an oriental flavour are simply delightful.....Call it pompous, self indulgent or whatever, the point is that this is what most of us like of Prog, the excesses and the desire to create something that exceeds the mediocrity we listen on daily bases in the radios or TV, great closer.

The importance of this album is that it changes SHADOW CIRCUS status from promising band with one great record into a reality, because many musicians have managed to release a good debut but never were capable of repeating it, but "SHADOW CIRCUS" has two solid albums that prove us we are before a real band with a lot to offer.

Four solid stars for "Whispers and Screams".

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Send comments to Ivan_Melgar_M (BETA) | Report this review (#257857) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, December 26, 2009

Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars I read much of the Stephen King's behemoth of an apocalyptic novel, The Stand many years ago during a very long train ride through the Appalachian Mountains. Despite my seemingly constant annoyance at the undiminished fear many people exhibit every time there's a pandemic (the H1N1 scare springs to mind), that novel has always left me with a hallow feeling, a resounding "what if" that growls and scratches at the wall of one corner of my mind. So it excited me to discover that a symphonic rock band had taken it upon themselves to dedicate much of an album to The Walkin' Dude and Mother Abigail and the harrowing prevalence of death by plague. Enough about the literature though- what of the music? Well, it's generally excellent, if a mixed bag. There is a variety of styles here, particularly during the back half of the album. If pressed, I might say I hear elements of Yes, Collective Soul, Bon Jovi, and ELP throughout this album. As I said, it's a very mixed bag, but this is a bag mostly full of treats and few turds. The musicianship leaves nothing to be desired, while the arrangements occasionally play hopscotch and therefore don't always satisfy. Still, Randall Flagg would approve, and so do I.

"Captain Trips" An ominous wind and a howling guitar sends chills down the listener's spine. The title is taken from the colloquial appellation for Project Blue- the biological plague that all but obliterates humanity. Rapid guitar with smacked snare and a wooshing bass guitar riff construct a tight rhythm. Initially, the gritty, whiny vocals put me off, but in retrospect, they quite fit the overall feel and theme of the album.

"The Long Road" The second part juxtaposes a jaunty verse with a more symphonic chorus. It describes the second third of the novel, which involves the meeting of the survivors and their journey across a desolate America. At times, it has a heavy southern rock flavor- it's almost like listening to the Georgia Satellites with a synthesizer!

"Big Fire" This one reminds me of Spock's Beard with Neal Morse in "snarl mode." It's a punchy piece with a rather lousy transition between verse and chorus.

"The Seduction of Harold Lauder" Poor Harold was an overweight misfit (well, he apparently fit into his girlfriend quite well). Like Harold, this track is something of a misfit as well, with even stranger transitions. It sounds quite a bit like ELP (in fact, part of it sounds like "The Curse of Baba Yaga"), especially with the heavy presence of the organ. This lack of evenness, however, doesn't really drag the quality of the music down as much as it makes it uncomfortable to listen to, which contextually, may be the point. The more I listen to it, however, the more it grows on me...like some fatal disease or the advances of a woman.

"The Horsemen Ride" After a sinisterly loud beginning, a foreboding acoustic guitar solo assumes control of the track. The song has a dark southern Delta blues flavor, but still retrains a symphonic edge, as well as a great melody.

"The Hand of God" Thick electric guitar over a mysterious synthetic pad and heavy piano take their turns in this next part. The original heavy rhythmic assault returns here, but transitions smoothly into something new.

"Coming Back Home to You" The final part of the main event is a bluesy, organ-driven piece, perhaps something the likes of Larry Underwood might have performed. In fact, this is exactly how I imagined old Larry might sound. Damn, what an ending!

"When the Morning Comes" This bright acoustic track has a pleasant melody and lovely piano. It's a beautiful piece, really, although there's something about it don't quite like (and still can't figure it out).

"Willoughby" Dark piano gives way to a fuller track, which features some stunning bass and organ playing. This is a hard-hitting track that resonates with the heart of those who love Kansas, since the sound and arrangement is quite similar, at least until the final part, which is much more akin to the softer side of Yes (especially with those bittersweet guitar swells). It is a long track with a lot of clear influences, but is not my favorite work on the album; neither does it suffer from excess or disjointedness.

"Angel" Were this a band seeking a hit single, this would be the obvious hit single. It has a decidedly pop structure, with a heavy rock feel and orchestral meanderings in the background. It ends with the sound of a storm.

"...Then in July, the Thunder Came" A splatter of raindrops, a marching drum, and a serene tone introduces the conclusion of the album. This piece sounds like something directly from the beautiful soundtrack of The Last of the Mohicans. It has a gorgeous orchestral element that serves the subsequent electric guitar section really well.

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Posted Saturday, December 26, 2009

Review by E-Dub
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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!

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Posted Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Review by el böthy
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars It´s been three years since Shadow Circus released their first album Welcome to the freakshow, an album which mixed the retro prog feeling of bands like Spock´s Beard, a melodic pop sensibility and, probably, the one thing that set them aside of other retro bands: a sense of theatricality. The album was welcomed with enthusiasm and, although it didn´t reached the Top 40 selling albums list (far from it) it most definitly let us know that there was a new band with all the potential of becoming a name of themself in the prog world.

Now they are back, three years later, with Whispers and sreams, the dificult second album. If Welcome had the task of introducing us to the band, Whispers shows the road the band has taken and probably will keep on taking. The first thing one can´t but help doing is compare both albums. What inmediatly struck me is that the pop touches are not that present; this is a full prog album. It really is, for the instrumentation is richer and tighter, the compositions lenghtier (the first half of the album can be seen as one conceptual piece divided into seven songs) and more varied. But this comes with a price. David Bobick, the bands lead singer, who pretty much gave Welcome that theater feeling, seems less present here and when he is he is not as catchy or melodic nor as theatrical. Not to say he sings bad, because this is certainly not the case, but if it was he who gave them that edge, it seem here they sound too much like a regular retro band. On that note, the word regular might be accurate, yet again not, for, if they don´t impress with new ideas, the excecution is what elevates them form other retro bands. The compositions are good, dinamic, tight when needed and lose and atmospheric at parts, with a great display of solos, courtesy of Joh Fontana behind keys and guitar.

Overall there are some great songs (pretty much the first half of the album, although it doesn´t necesarly scream out "unity", has some of the albums best parts) and unfortunatly also some not that great ones ("Angel", the albums ballad, is not only way too long for it´s own sake, but ultimatly not interesting enough to help it from being cheesy) which shows the band letting us know they can play like and with the big names of the genre. If anything it shows that Shadow Circus is not a band that does the same thing twice, yet never looses their identity. If they continue this path, but bring the theatricality back, they surely will continue making great genre music.

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Posted Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Review by 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.

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Posted Sunday, February 07, 2010

Review by Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 'Whispers & Screams' - Shadow Circus (7/10)

The new apparent frontrunners in the field of Symphonic Prog, 'Shadow Circus' have crafted a very likable piece of work here. Despite the fact that this particular type of rock music has been covered time and time again by bands over the past four decades, these talented musicians from the Big Apple have made music here that pays obvious respects to their influences, but isn't completely regressive in the fact that there is stuff here that sounds modern and fresh in the mix. Things here are certainly not perfect in their execution and there's alot of room for Shadow Circus to grow as artists, but this is a lovely introduction to a band I can tell will be going places in the future.

The album starts off with a half hour long epic; 'Project Blue.' Taking a trick from the prog book and writing a multi-part suite to kick off the album, all cannons are fired simultaneously with this one. Although I have not read the book upon which this is based, 'Project Blue' is a musical adaptation of Stephen King's post-apocalyptic novel 'The Stand,' in which an engineered supervirus brings the human race to it's knees, and the survivors try to scrape a new life together. Doesn't sound like the most pleasant and cheerful subject to write about, but Shadow Circus puts an unexpected perspective on it. Kicking off the epic with the rocking riff-heavy 'Captain Trips,' the lyrics actually take the viewpoint of the virus itself and it's hatred for humanity, which I found very amusing and clever. The instrumentation is upbeat and very tight, but the vocals start off a little bit nasal- sounding and weak. Fortunately however, by the time the second track rolls around, the vocals start really improving; and David Bobick proves himself to be a competent vocalist on par with the rest of the group.

While some of the different tracks that comprise 'Project Blue' feel a bit separate; it's clear that this was the music they tried to make the best they could. The introduction of psychedelic nuances at the start of 'The Big Fire' and a hefty dose of instrumental madness during the fourth section ('The Seducing Of Harold Lauder') are just some of the gems along the journey. A country-sounding (almost like the Eagles) ballad polishes off 'Project Blue,' and concluding the first side of 'Whispers & Screams.'

As you might have guessed, the best music on 'Whispers' is during the epic. The other tracks are a bit of a mixed bag, but generally keep a fairly high level of quality to them.

'When The Morning Comes' is a pretty laid-back acoustic ballad that has some of the most beautiful vocal harmonies I've ever heard. In terms of the songwriting and arrangement, it is very warm and could have sufficed as a song with bare guitar/vocals and nothing else. It doesn't hurt in the slightest however, that the music is layered with piano and a charming cello section.

'Willoughby' is perhaps the only song here I don't care for. It definately has qualities and musicianship to it, but it seems a bit disjointed in it's execution. While it's a staple trait for prog songs to have multiple sections in them and different time signatures, 'Willoughby' feels like it has parts of a few different songs on it. The transitions are not so smooth, and while the instrumental sections here are on par with the rest of the album, the melodies here do very little for me.

'Angel' seems like the most conventionally written song here, despite the fact that it's almost eight minutes long. If this song was shortened down a bit, I could easily see this being played on a radio station. With a set of narrative-driven lyrics and some piano driven instrumentation backing them up, it sounds almost like a Bob Seger song with alot more going on.

Finally, we have '...Then In July, The Thunder Came.' This is probably the weirdest moment on the album. After an album's worth of what can be considered good, albeit relatively by- the-numbers Symphonic Prog, there's some slowly building, ominous orchestration worthy of a film score. Throw in some Middle-Eastern timbres and dark guitar lead and there you have it... The shame here is that the track ends almost as soon as it begins, while all the time it felt like it was really building to another epic altogether. As it reaches a climax, it suddenly fades into silence and leaves you wanting more. Hopefully Shadow Circus will realize something along these lines with their third album, because there's alot of potential that I feel wasn't completely tapped into here. Despite the sense of unfulfilled yearning that's left after the fact, the journey is a great and memorable one, and Shadow Circus have firmly established themselves with 'Whispers & Screams' as being one of prog's modern frontrunners.

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Posted Thursday, June 10, 2010

Review by Queen By-Tor
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Take your stand.

Well, it's been over a year since I last reviewed for ProgArchives, but hey - I'm still alive and kicking and there's even an album that brought me back for at least one more go. Now I've never really been a fan of the American symphonic progressive scene with the exception of perhaps a couple of the better Spock's Beard albums - and to be honest the retro scene has even become very tiring as of late, although that could be seen from a mile away since they were just going off the nostalgia of the true progressive giants of the 70s. So by construction this little band is something that likely wouldn't appeal to me. And yet... it really does.

I've been weary recently of bands that have been breaking out the 30-minute+ tracks in the last couple of years. It's a trend that's seen some good music, but a lot of pretentious, sprawling, musical wanks have come out of it as well. Like the 70s bands who did the same thing and sealed their graves by doing so, the retro scene may not be able to hold itself if it continued in this way. However, like I said, there's been some good music coming out of it as well. Ambitiously, Shadow Circus decided to go all out on their sophomore effort by writing an epic track inspired by Steven King's "The Stand". Project Blue is a 30-minute+ track that is well worth listening to. Perhaps it's because they broke it up into several distinct parts, or perhaps it's Shadow Circus's unique sound, but everything comes together so well that it's hard to hate.

Like the band said it would be for this album, there's "more shadow and less circus" to be had. Which is great, because while the debut certainly benefited from the "twisted circus" sound, bringing it on for a second album would have been really gimmicky. Instead the band have reinvented themselves, going for the more "dark" sound. Although not so dark that it just seems like they're a bunch of emo kids hiding in their rooms for attention (a la Pendragon). This album is heavier and with more balls than their first, and that's awesome.

Aside from the big, epic track there's a lot of worthwhile material on here. Most noteworthy of the bunch is Willoughby, the 10-minute pseudo-epic that shows a band in transition. If you go back to any of the greats and listen to any of their albums you'll always find a song that shows style from the previous album mixed with the one that they're currently on and shades of what's to come next. On this album that song is Willoughby, a fun and bouncy song at times that goes through time and tone changes, expresses excellent solos from every angle and comes together perfectly.

All in all a fantastic album that was well worth the wait. Saying that it's better than the first album is a bit of an unfair statement because they're two completely separate entities. This one just happened to appeal to me more. Definitely recommended for anyone who is losing faith in the modern progressive scene or anyone who heard the first album and thought the band had potential. My guess is that there can only be more good things in store from this band. 4 Circuses out of 5! An Excellent album.

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Posted Friday, July 09, 2010

Review by JJLehto
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Always great to see another great local band! I like to boast to friends of mine about the music scene and good bands of the New York Metro Area, and I think I have another band to add to the list! I am not familiar at all with symphonic prog, the closest I've come being Symphony X, but if the rest is as good as this album, I am going to like it!

First, the musicianship on this album is superb. These are some talented guys. Every member involved knows hows to play their instrument, and are quit good at it, and more importantly know how to make music. The album is very driven by the keyboards and guitar, not surprisingly, and keyboardist/guitarist John Fontana is amazing. His skill at both instruments is quite good, and displays good variety with them. I really like the drumming, good and not too over the top. Though certainly shows off his skill! Would like to hear a bit more bass, but that's not really a knock...would just like to hear some more is all! The vocals are pretty good. Certainly not the best, but they are far from the worst, and really they are fine. Not going to blow anyone, but is much more than adequate as well.

The album begins with a 33 minute suite that will take you for a ride! Each piece of the suite is great, with good progression and variation throughout each song. Some are more laid back, some are a bit more frenzied, all showcase some great talent and composing skills. "The Seduction of Harold Lauder" is my personal favorite of the suite. A wild section that ranges from ominous and Symphony X-esque frantic attacks, to upbeat keyboard and guitar driven rock sections, tempo and dynamic changes, with some interesting time signatures thrown in there. The best part is in the middle. A nice electric background guitar while a 70's southern rock type keyboard solo plays over it, with a really sweet drum beat over it. An awesome guitar bit kicks in after that as the song progresses to a thrash, just to stop abruptly with a slower, staccato section. Really great piece of music.

Talk about variation! "The Horsemen Ride" the very next piece sounds almost like a folk song. A folky almost tribal drumming permeates the song, with mellow, (sometimes trippy) keyboard and guitar. The vocals reminded me of Simon & Garfunkel at times!

The suite ends with "Coming Back Home to You" which almost sounds like a 70's southern rock band. Everything from the vocals to the keyboard solos. If I didn't know better, I might of thought this was an Allman Brothers song. Not that this is bad, in fact quite the contrary. This was a great musical piece, and a really unique way to end the suite.

"When the Morning Comes" is very laid back and mellow. A bit slow and seems more like a transition than a song.

"Willoughby" is an intriguing song. Has some brilliant moments, but also some drag a bit. Luckily it never carries on for so long that I start to feel the urge the hit next. But overall a great song, and I'd say my second favorite behind the opening suite.

"Angel" most likely the most "pop" oriented song, it is fairly mellow with a pretty straightforward song structure with light sections, and is not to unorthodox. Does sound like a single. However, its a pretty nice song and I really love the section from about five and half minutes to the end. Really awesome. Also, no one can deny the powerful and honest emotion in this song, especially in the guitar solos. Oh and obviously in the powerful sections. Song really grew on me!

The ending of that song flows directly into the next. A really interesting song. A long, slow and steady build, reminding me of a classical song in both its feel and instrumentation. The climax actually does sound a bit like a classical music song, but with an epic guitar solo over that grows as well. Things are taken back down, just so we can another more dramatic ascension. Then it all fades away, leaving us with a feeling of a cold wind blowing, (just like the album started!)

Overall, really good album. Great musical talent and composition skills. There is no bad song, though there is also no part that will really blow you away. Overall, a well played and crafted album that may follow a bit of a "standard" prog feel, but has lots of creative and original parts considering. The 33 minute opening suite is without a doubt the best song on the album, and a really good one. Solid album that I think many would enjoy.

FOUR STARS

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Posted Saturday, July 31, 2010

Review by Windhawk
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars US band Shadow Circus was initially founded as the solo vehicle of composer and guitarist John Fontana, which over time evolved into a full-fledged band project. Their debut effort "Welcome to the Freakroom" was released in 2006. "Whispers and Screams" is their sophomore effort, and was issued in 2009.

When describing this album, one of the vital aspects of this production is that it is very much an effort consisting of two rather different halves. The first of these is a mammoth composition clocking in at the half hour mark, divided into seven parts each taking up one slot in the tracklist. Eclectic in nature, this many-faceted construction opens with the sinister Captain Trips, a track residing somewhere between The Flower Kings and Deep Purple in stylistic expression but with dark undercurrents and arrangements adding a rather unique identity to this endeavour. From this opening number to the final part Coming Back Home, a tune that should bring a smile to the face of any dedicated Procol Harum fan, Shadow Circus twist and turn their way through musical landscapes deep set in art rock territories. Most intriguing of these the atmospheric, ominous Irish and country inspired The Horsemen Ride, showcasing just how haunting and sinister folk inspired songs can be with the right arrangements.

The remaining songs on this disc isn't as interesting as far as I'm concerned, pleasing efforts closer to vintage symphonic progressive rock in style. Well made and well performed efforts, but not managing to inspire beyond that level. Final effort ...Then in July the Thunder Came ends the CD on a high note though - or perhaps one might say a dark and sinister one - featuring dark string and synth arrangements and subtle dramatics in a cinematic instrumental number laden with a rich and distinct atmosphere.

All in all a good second effort by this band, bordering on solid, with a few moments of sheer brilliance that should interest most people with a soft spot for the progressive rock universe.

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Posted Sunday, August 08, 2010

Review by TheGazzardian
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars In the '70s (according to this website), Symphonic prog ranged from everything from Yes to Genesis to Camel to ELP - sure, there were similarities, but the bands were all pretty distinctly different. Nowadays, you say "Symphonic prog" and it's pretty easy to guess what a Symphonic band will sound like. Of course, there are exceptions, but it's not quite as surprising as it was in the past.

So it is entirely refreshing to hear Symphonic prog like this, Symphonic prog that could not in any way be confused for any other band. On their second album, Shadow Circus have come into their own sound, and what a sound! It is somewhat gritty, somewhat bluesy, somewhat symphonic, and somewhat hard rock. And, as great as all the players on this album are, I find the vocals of David Bobick and the drumming of Corey Folta (which can be described as noisy, off kilter, and precise) to be perhaps the most identifiable aspects of the music.

It seems that the average length of an epic keeps on getting longer these days, and Shadow Circus' first epic, Project Blue (based on the Stephen King novel, Captain Trips) clocks in at a respectable 33 minutes. Of course, the longer an epic, the more likely it is to flounder, but luckily Shadow Circus have avoided this pitfall, Project Blue being full of interesting sections, catchy music, great instrumentation, and definitely emotion. It is split into multiple sections on the album, and really it's not too hard imagining the sections each being their own unique song at times, but they do work best as an extended piece. The highlight for me is The Horseman Ride - wow! this is an epic bit here, once again very distinctive in both the drumming and vocals, and such a build up. "No way we're going to run and hide - when darkness comes, the horseman ride." Excellent!

Project Blue is, of course, the tour de force of this album (as an good epic should be), and takes up just over half of it. Of the remaining tracks, Willoughby (based off of an episode of the Twilight Zone) is probably my favorite. It truly is an emotional piece, and while I suppose some credit for that has to go to the excellent source material they were working with, really the band just pulled this piece off excellently.

The rest of the album is alright as well, with Angel being perhaps the weakest track. Regardless, for those looking for fresh sounding symphonic rock with a big sound and great tracks, this is an album not to be missed.

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Posted Friday, August 20, 2010

Review by jampa17
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This is one of those hidden jewels that you find in a lucky day. I didn't know about this band and I just have seen the cover of the album around this site. I thought it was some extreme metal band but after a brief research I discovered they were symphonic prog. And after getting the album and give it the first listen I was completely interested on the concept, the sound and everything about the project. It is indeed a great experience and is not a love in the first listen, but it does leave you wondering enough to keep trying it.

First thing that I noticed was that even though you can identify the influences, they never sounds like "anyone else" but as a collective pieces of different styles very well balanced and oriented into a very nice sound achieved. I thought I was hearing a merge between prog metal and symphonic prog, but then there are those John Lords kind of keyboards, some bluesy moments, some heavy rock riffs and some interesting vocals, not catchy but very interesting, that gives to the overall sound a special taste. That's what I found after the first listening.

So I spin it again some more time and the music keeped growing. I think it's hard to be "original" or "progressive" nowadays, when we have legions of creative bands that put the standard too high in the past, but this is one of those special projects that promise a lot in the near future, but at today standards, they are over the top. The songs are original and fresh, with a lot of 70's evident references but keeping it modern, keeping it refreshing.

As for the musicians, all of them are masters in what they do. But above that, the style is what gets my attention better. More than intricate music, more than too-hard, too-tricky, too fast to play riffs, they concentrate on putting emotion and drama around the music and the result is a very cohesive material with all the styles listed above.

I do believe that any ELP, Deep Purple or Kansas fan could enjoy this music, as well as any prog metal and heavy prog fans. The music is original, cool, interesting and I feel this band understands very well what is to be "progressive" and keep evolving in this beloved genre of music. 4.5 stars is fair. Maybe it will grow more and get the attention it deserves. Great album.

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Send comments to jampa17 (BETA) | Report this review (#297006) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Latest members reviews

3 stars Shadow Circus belong to the rare breed of prog that combines classic British prog with prominent vintage keyboards (think ELP) from the 70s with traditional American music - country, blues, western, gospel. They are not pioneers, of course, - Kansas obviously comes to mind. But whereas Kansas we ... (read more)

Report this review (#1068681) | Posted by Progrussia | Tuesday, October 29, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars OK, that's whats called American symphonic prog then. I will make this short and sweet because of the other reviews of this album. Where Shadow Circus debut album was far more accessible, the normally very difficult second album comes with some very complex songs....... or pieces of music ... (read more)

Report this review (#295465) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Friday, August 20, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars You've heard the screams in the night, the distant whistle that whispers to you from deep in far meadows, and you've turned away and buried yourself further in your bedclothes, curled up closer to your lover for fear of being found. You have heard about it. You have read the reviews. You know ... (read more)

Report this review (#273699) | Posted by rustedsynapse | Tuesday, March 23, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars And when 2009 turned to annals, it happened that with a trick of the tail it further enriched our music collection! "Whisper and Screams" is a higly enjoyable record, full of progressive elements, but not only, blues touches are indeed adding value rather than dimming lights on the work. Nice mel ... (read more)

Report this review (#270347) | Posted by ingmin68 | Monday, March 08, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Classic prog mixed with a newer sound After just over two years of listening to progressive music, I have become a much more picky listener. When I first started listening, I was up for anything that was labeled progressive. I loved listening to Train of Thought (Dream Theater) and Paradise Los ... (read more)

Report this review (#260738) | Posted by godfrey11 | Wednesday, January 13, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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 ro ... (read more)

Report this review (#258355) | Posted by Vibrationbaby | Tuesday, December 29, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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