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Shadow Circus

Symphonic Prog

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Shadow Circus On A Dark And Stormy Night album cover
3.93 | 220 ratings | 7 reviews | 25% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2012

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Overture (8:09)
2. Daddy's Gone (5:56)
3. Whosit, Whatsit And Which (6:33)
4. Make Way For The Big Show (8:42)
5. Tesseract (5:20)
6. Uriel (5:51)
7. Camazotz (6:22)
8. Ixchel (4:39)
9. The Battle For Charles Wallace (7:00)

Total Time 58:32

Line-up / Musicians

- David Lawrence Bobick / lead & backing vocals
- John Fontana / guitars, keyboards, producer & mixing
- David Silver / keyboards
- Matt Masek / bass, cello, 12-string & nylon guitars, backing vocals
- Jason Brower / drums, percussion, backing vocals

- Roo Brower / vocals

Releases information

Artwork: Randy Pollak

CD 10T Records ‎- 10062 (2012, US)

Thanks to mogol for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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SHADOW CIRCUS On A Dark And Stormy Night ratings distribution

(220 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(25%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(42%)
Good, but non-essential (23%)
Collectors/fans only (7%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

SHADOW CIRCUS On A Dark And Stormy Night reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars A compelling concept, innovative music embracing a 70s texture, complex signatures and well executed vocals.

The latest Shadow Circus album "On A Dark and Stormy Night" is a concept album with some virtuoso musicianship and incredibly infectious melodies along with some of the more enthralling themes in prog. The album is based heavily on the famous Newberry Award-winning science fiction fantasy novel of Madeleine L'Engle, "A Wrinkle in Time", coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the original publication. The musicians are simply brilliant including the sweeping keyboard signatures of the incomparable David Silver, the astonishing guitar work and keyboards of John Fontana, and the rhythm machine of Matt Masek's bass, and Jason Brower's drums. The icing on the cake are the effective vocals of David Bobick, always smooth and easy on the ears so that we can grasp the heavy conceptual content. All of the tracks merge together seamlessly encompassing one long conceptual album.

'Overture' kicks things off with an atmospheric melodic soundscape and gives the album a majestic quality with cinematic orchestration. An overture always signifies the start of greatness , and this track certainly features some incredible musicianship with Matt Masek on cello, and John Fontana on the intro orchestral keyboards. Rain falls heavily and thunder rolls across the heavens. An ominous low drone is heard, the symbol of impending doom, which may be the presence of IT and The Red-Eyed Man ready to strike. The pastoral chimes and strings have a magical fairytale quality. The opening cello phrase may be familiar to those who have heard the previous album "Whispers and Screams" as it is lifted from the "...Then in July, the Thunder Came". It is a nice way to bookend or connect the two albums that seems to flow together well. The uplifting fast tempo melody is bright and exuberant, reminding me of the effervescent melodic style of Premiata Forneri Marconi or Transatlantic. The spacey tones at the end along with the twin guitar phrases are simply magical.

'Daddys Gone' is next which continues the tale where the Murray children are devastated over the disappearance of their father who went missing after an unsuccessful scientific experiment. This experiment is later discovered to involve a Tesseract, that we hear about later on the album. This is a ballad that portrays how the children feel; their sense of emptiness and loss is conveyed, and it is specifically taken from the point of view of the main heroine, Meg. This song was on the recent maxi single with 'Rise'. 'Daddy's Home' is a ballad with a stirring lyrical content. The piano driven song is quiet and emotively sung by David Bobick, "I look to the skies and I feel your love, I don't know why but I feel it above, Just another chance to see you again, They say there's no hope can't I just pretend, So give me a sign when you're coming back home." The lead break is soaring with a David Gilmour flavour, executed with huge string bends and sustain by the extraordinary John Fontana.

'Whosit, Whatsit And Which' is where the album really starts to take off for me, with that grandiose Hammond organ shimmer and hypnotic guitar figure, along with excellent vocal delivery. There is a whimsical Genesis like lyrical content and some wonderful Pink Floydian female backing vocals. The chorus is infectious and memorable. The way it switches signature is awesome and then we are treated to staccato Hammond and a fractured tempo towards the end. The song is based on the three "good witches" from "A Wrinkle in Time" that are supernaturally powerful and are wise ancient creatures with a preternatural state of being, appearing as humans but having malevolent potency when it comes to the magick arts.

'Make Way For The Big Show' is next, with a grand piano entrance. It launches into Hammond glory and then some sparkling crystal clear vocals and ghostly backing vox. The title is a quote from the character Charles Wallace, a gifted boy who is regarded as an outcast by his peers. The character is a victim of bullying , and the vicious cycle of abuse takes form in his anger towards others. Thus he becomes a sadistic man with a dark side, making him particularly vulnerable to the temptations of the Red-Eyed Man and IT that appear later in the story. The vocals by David Bobick are well executed as are his lyrics; "To whom much is given much is expected in the end, do you see them do you hear them, those voices in your head, they call to you because the darkness kills the light, come on and see what's happening to me?". The ending has a blistering lead solo, a flourish of cascading piano and sweeping synths drawing us into the drama of the themes. I like how the theme will resonate with those who are bullied.

'Tesseract' follows, an important term of the novel referring to a method of travel through time and space. This song is far more heavier than other songs, with a crunching distorted riff and blazing lead guitar work. The metal textures work well as a departure from the symphonic washes previously. I think it helps to have a bit of vivacious fast paced rock to break things up. The pace is considerably frenetic and the Hammond competes beautifully with the grinding axework. John Fontana is outstanding on this track and it really showcases his talents. The riffs are towering with passion and white hot aggression, and as an instrumental this is simply superb; one of my favourite tracks on the album.

'Uriel' follows, the name of a planet that is created with incredible heavenly beauty, a genuine utopian paradise. It opens with a dreamscape of gentle piano and strings representing awakening on the planet as a hailstorm of flower petals float down. The music builds into a gallop and signifies the feeling of riding on the backs of winged centaurs over mountains and valleys of immeasurable beauty. The lyrics attempt to capture this sensation; as it speaks of a "sanctuary" where one may "smell the flowers in the air", and gaze "in your bright blue eyes, take me with you, my Uriel", sings the protagonist and he promises to "keep you safe within your warm embrace, Uriel, with your oceans of crystal moons" soaring "to the tops of the world". It has an environmental theme in many ways giving a planet the personification of a protective mother but it also alludes to the type of scapes envisioned in "Avatar".

Following this, a presence of darkness enters as the ominous caverns of 'Camazotz' springs into view. A pulsating bassline locks in and then some cool guitar riffs. The vocals are processed and more forced; "I'll take care of you, I'll be there for you, I won't lie to you", lyrics sung from the point of view of the Red-Eyed Man. The promise of "no more bullies in the schoolyard to push you around, don't you think it's time that they were scared of you?" is too irresistible for Charles so he succumbs to the malevolent "IT". This leads to a mindbending Hammond solo over an irregular guitar riff. This is an astonishing song, and again simply jumps out as one of the highlights.

'Ixchel' follows, referring in the novel as a place of healing where the main protagonists take refuge following the horrific sense of hopelessness and abandonment in Camazotz. It opens with dreamy Celtic acoustics at the hand of Matt Masek on nylon string guitar, there are some violining guitar sweeps over swathes of synths. This is absolutely beautiful and moves into some captivating piano sprinkled over. The atmospheric melancholia is compelling radiating with Roo Brower's angelic vocals, and achingly haunting melodies. This lulls me into a dream everytime I hear it, like the calm before the storm, and it never fails me to exude a tranquil temperateness.

It builds and segues into heavy rocker 'Battle for Charles Wallace' with staccato guitar and Hammond stabs. The riff chugs along until it locks into a ruptured tempo. Again there is a heavier guitar attack and glorious Hammond quivers and then spacey synths. The tale has taken on an exciting climactic quality, as things come to ahead. After taking in a bit of a "spa day" on Ixchel, Meg returns to Camazotz with a renewed zeal and she is determined to rescue Charles Wallace from the clutches of the evil IT and the Red-Eyed Man. After a while there is a break in the musical mayhem and an acapella passage returns to the melody of 'Daddy's Gone' and 'Overture', bookending this dramatically. "Don't you ever leave, ever again", warns the protagonist and then the music transmogrifies into uplifting lead guitar phrases that ascend and descend over a wash of synth and a measured rhythm. It culminates in a glorious climax and the tale is over. Or is it?

Overall, this is an astonishing concept album as good, if not better, than the previous "Whispers and Screams"; all killer and no filler. There is so much to recommend this with its deep explorations into symphonic atmospheres and heavier distorted diversions. It is a real grower with very catchy melodies and some gorgeous passages of symphonic elegance. The Pink Floyd qualities are an exceptional touch and it features some blistering lead guitar work and stunning splashes of Hammond that always resonate with me. I have no complaints at all, and in fact have no hesitation to rate this as a masterpiece of Symphonic Prog. It encompasses all that I love in the genre; a compelling concept, with innovative music embracing a 70s texture that still maintains a current style, extraordinary melodic musicianship, complex signatures and structures, and well executed vocals. Shadow Circus are marking their territory with their extraordinary vision, and have created something very special with "On A Dark and Stormy Night".

Review by J-Man
4 stars Based on Madeleine L'Engle's classic science fiction novel A Wrinkle In Time, the latest offering from American progressive rock act Shadow Circus is an epic concept album with some seriously cool things going on. Shadow Circus first grabbed my attention with 2009's magnificent Whispers and Screams - an album that I consider to be one of the finest from that year - and 2012's On a Dark and Stormy Night is of equally high quality, if not even higher. The group's brand of progressive rock won't alienate fans of the seventies' classics, but they offer enough of a twist on this well established formula to make for a fresh and invigorating listen.

On a Dark and Stormy Night is primarily symphonic progressive rock with influences from acts like Yes, Genesis, and ELP, but some hard rocking sections reminiscent of Deep Purple and brief hints of Dream Theater-influenced prog metal prevent things from ever sounding too familiar. Just in the first handful of tracks, the listener is exposed to acrobatic instrumental technique in "Overture", lush symphonic textures in "Daddy's Gone", and infectious guitar grooves in "Whosit, Whatsit, and Which". To name just a few songs, Shadow Circus continues this eclectic approach with the seriously heavy riffs in "Tesseract", beautiful ambient sounds in "Ixchel", and the bombastic closing piece "The Battle for Chris Wallace". On a Dark and Stormy Night features enough variation between tracks to keep you on your toes the entire time, but it also remains stylistically cohesive as a whole.

To top it all off, On a Dark and Stormy Night features a crisp production and tight musicianship in addition to the memorable songwriting and arrangements. Shadow Circus has offered progressive rock enthusiasts an exciting and powerful observation once again, and it would be a shame for any fan of the genre to miss it!

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars This is a theatric album of heavier rock that synthesizes and regurgitates some pretty obvious classic and prog rock sounds, stylings, and riffs. The result of this synthesis is often odd, surprising, and awkward. Sometimes it works. There is a lot of pleasant, if familiar, music to listen to here with one particular gem worth citing: the delicate and beautiful instrumental, "Ixchel."

1. The opening instrumental, "Overture" (5:57), has quite a RUSH feel to it?especially the final five minutes. I like the spacey first two-and-a-half minutes best. (7/10)

2. "Daddy's Gone" (5:57) A voice and singing style quite similar to that of NOEL McCALLA (of Mike Rutherford Smallcreep's Day fame) As a matter of fact, other than the guitar lead and the drum work, this song has quite a Smallcreep feel to it. Like the full use of the background synths on this. (8/10)

3. "Whosit, Whatsit, & Which" (6:34) has an awesome spacious, spacey first minute before a very standard bluesy 70s-ish guitar and Rhodes piano chord and A-B construct establish themselves. The singing this time sounds more like GUY MANNING with PINK FLOYD's famed Dark Side of the Moon background singers providing the support. I actually get bored with the way the keyboard and Peter Frampton-like electric guitar (by the way: I rather like P.F.'s guitar sound and styling) constantly mirror one another throughout instrumental cadences and interludes. (7/10)

4. "Make Way for the Big Show" (8:42) is the album's longest song. It begins with quite a nice piano intro in a pseudo classical Broadway musical-like style. At 1:37 the song shifts into rock mode with electric guitars and organ becoming part of the support. The rock portions of this album are beginning to sound so familiar. Halfway between ANDREW LLOYD-WEBBER's Phantom of the Opera and some of LOVERBOY's stuff from the late 70s. Or perhaps like today's hot new prog phenom, HAKEN. The piano and organ play, in particular, are particularly theatric/operatic.

5. "Tesseract" (5:20) is a CORVUS STONE-like instrumental that begins with quite an engaging, if familiar, pulse. The initial guitar soli/playing are also engaging, if very 70s-ish (Loverboy, Led Zeppelin). Little musical development is necessary in this one as it is really a vehicle for instruments to solo and show off their tight chops. A great recapturing of that 1970s metal sound and feel. (8/10)

6. "Uriel" (5:51) begins with piano, synths and cello weaving a loose, melodic tapestry which is then joined by the guitars and rhythm section at the end of the first minute to give us another kind of Smallcreep song. Pretty, syrupy, and pretentious. The singer is not quite up to the Noel McCalla skill level. The song shift at 2:50 is refreshing . . . until the singer/lyric and synth join in. Standard chord progressions and rock hooks throughout. (7/10)

The transition into song "Camozotz" (6:23) is my favorite part of the album. But then, at the one minute point, a bouncy vaudevillian piano ruins it for me. The rhythm shift at 1:40 is equally awkward and mysterious. I actually enjoy the treated vocal--but don't really appreciate or understand the use of the Clare Torey/DSotMoon female background vocals. The 3:20 shift to ROGER WATERS-style music and vocal is again, nothing short of odd and awkward. Then at 4:10 a classic RUSH-like section ensues. Wild song! Wild ride! Quite a cut-and-paste imagination! The final minute, I have to admit, really works--screaming treated vocal with screaming background lead guitar over slow, hard-driving rhythm section. A classic Pink Floyd ending! (8/10)

8. "Ixchel" (4:40) changes things up a bit with a very beautiful STEVE HACKETT-like nylon-string guitar intro. At 1:25 synths and guitar enter in a slow volume and entry- and decay-controlled fashion. At 2:40 multi-layered voices (male and female) beautifully mirror the piano's right hand melody. Then 'strings' take a turn doing the same mirroring and support job, finishing, then, with the voices and piano. A gorgeous, delicate, mature song. (10/10)

9. The album's final song, "The Battle for Charles Wallace"(7:00) is another re-visitation to the realm of classic 1970s blues-rock as so well put together by another 2012 album, CORVUS STONE's eponymously titled debut album. After a nice three-minute intro, the song shifts into an almost straightforward "it must be love" rock song. At 3:45 a 25 second burst of whole-band syncopated heavy metal power chords takes us in another direction. But then at 4:10 we are treated to a section of multi-layer rondo- and MOON SAFARI-like vocals. At 5:50 we are treated to a cool upper register electric guitar arpeggio riff to shift us into the finale mode--ascending and descending electric guitar scales over thick, heavy Phantom of the Opera organ. (I wonder: Are the theatric, Phantom-like similarities and flourishes intentional or accidental?) Weird song that kind of works. (8/10) Nicely crafted, well-produced recreation of 1970s heavy-yet syrupy theatric melodic rock in the STYX/LOVERBOY/HAKEN vein.

As my reviews of 2012 album acquisitions comes nearer to the end I have to say that the trend I am feeling from today's "prog rockers" is more of incorporation, assimilation, synthesis, replication, regurgitation with some re-interpretation of older prog and classic rock themes, sounds and styles. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does leave one with a bit of a let down because there is this constant feeling of "heard this before" or "this isn't anything really new." If this is what it takes for modern bands to grow and internalize the roots of progressive rock in order to, then, crysalize and morph into their own innovative, uniquely creative "progressors" of (rock) music, then so be it. I will gladly wait out this evolutionary period--I await the emergence of new, fully-formed and independent . . . butterflies.

Review by Windhawk
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars US band SHADOW CIRCUS was formed by John Fontana back in 2006, and made their debut the following year with "Welcome to the Freakroom". Sophomore effort "Whispers and Screams" came next in 2009, and towards the end of 2012 the band signed to the US label 10tRecords for the release of their third album "On a Dark and Stormy Night", their most recent production at the time of writing.

"On a Dark and Stormy Night" is a well made album of symphonic progressive rock, a production that manages to combine the legacy of the classic bands with a contemporary variety of this type of music, set within a framework that also stretches towards progressive metal in style. An album that should find favor with fans of bands like Magic Pie as well as with those whose scope of interest covers the golden age of symphonic progressive rock just as much as today's harder edged, metal inspired variety of it.

Latest members reviews

4 stars On their third, Shadow Circus continue and expand on their brand of retro, fastly played keys times hard rock-ish riffs, influenced by traditional American music. It's more ambitious this time. Suite based on a "thinking pop culture" item now lasts not half, but a full album. Songs are on averag ... (read more)

Report this review (#1068951) | Posted by Progrussia | Wednesday, October 30, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Stellar Progressive Rock For The 21st Century Shadow Circus' third endeavour is a collection of musical depictions and images from Madeleine D'Engels '' A Wrinkle In Time''. Taking it's title from the award winning novel's opening line, "On A Dark Stormy Night ... (read more)

Report this review (#910982) | Posted by Vibrationbaby | Thursday, February 7, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars On A Dark and Stormy Night has some incredible tracks. The members shine on this one. I was first "awakened" by Whispers and Screams and then by Welcome to the Freakroom. I WAS HOOKED. Overture starts things off with an epic gesture. I have always felt the 1st track of a cd was the start or end o ... (read more)

Report this review (#878191) | Posted by progrocks2112 | Tuesday, December 18, 2012 | Review Permanlink

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