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SHADOW CIRCUS

Symphonic Prog • United States


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Shadow Circus biography
After 15 years of actively playing in several bands on the NYC music scene, guitarist John Fontana set out to compose music that hearkened back to the golden age of Progressive Rock. His original intention was to compose pieces for his own enjoyment, and to demo his guitar playing while auditioning for bands. But when the music caught the ear of his former band mate, drummer Corey Folta, Corey insisted that the music be fully developed with a band.

Vocalist David Bobick, trained with a degree in Musical Theater, and a variety of rock band credits under his belt, began writing lyrics and vocal melodies. The combination of theatrical training and raw rock-and-roll influence fit perfectly in the context of the music, adding a pop sensibility with his instantly catchy melodies, and a dramatic element while portraying an array of personalities in the songs - from an insidious Circus M.C. in the title track, to a wise old sage in a three-part-epic inspired by the novel The Talisman.

While rehearsing to record their first CD, the band was discovered by bassist Matt Masek, a classically-trained-cellist-turned bass guitarist, who instantly meshed with Corey into a powerhouse rhythm section.

The addition of Matt raised the bar, and John could no longer handle the task of guitars as well as keyboards in live situations, so they set out to find a keyboard player who would be a true prog rock hero. Rising to the challenge was keyboardist Zach Tenorio, at 17 years old already having played onstage at Moogfest with Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman, and touring credits with prog rock legends John Wetton, Tony Levin, and Mike Keneally, among others. Zach's showmanship and undeniable skill completes the lineup of this exciting and inspired new progressive rock ensemble.

Together, this lineup has just completed their debut release, "Welcome to the Freakroom", a full-length disk showcasing appealing melodic compositions, replete with the sounds of the golden age of prog - awash with Mellotrons, Hammond, Moog, soaring guitars, intricate drumming, melodic bass playing and dramatic, memorable vocals, this release is sure to appeal to fans of classic symphonic prog, as well as cross-over to all fans of entertaining and colorful rock music.

S.C.




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On A Dark And Stormy NightOn A Dark And Stormy Night
10T Records 2013
Audio CD$6.73
$7.49 (used)
Whispers & ScreamsWhispers & Screams
CD BABY.COM/INDYS 2009
Audio CD$24.79
Welcome To The FreakroomWelcome To The Freakroom
PROGROCK 2001
Audio CD$23.39
$12.49 (used)
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SHADOW CIRCUS discography


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SHADOW CIRCUS top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.32 | 55 ratings
Welcome to the Freakroom
2006
3.77 | 83 ratings
Whispers And Screams
2009
3.97 | 192 ratings
On A Dark And Stormy Night
2012

SHADOW CIRCUS Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

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SHADOW CIRCUS Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.63 | 8 ratings
Rise Maxi-Single
2011

SHADOW CIRCUS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Welcome to the Freakroom by SHADOW CIRCUS album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.32 | 55 ratings

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Welcome to the Freakroom
Shadow Circus Symphonic Prog

Review by Progrussia

3 stars The first of Shadow Circus' three albums is the rawest, loudest and, well, rockiest. Six songs, most of them pretty long, with tempo changes, although not very complicated, plus one epic. Almost feels like a teaser, EP kind of disk. It evokes memories of 70s U.S. poppy and bombastic hard rock, think Kansas and Styx at their most playful, with guitar leading the way and piano and organ not far behind. The first three songs radiate a distinctive Americana, almost saloon kind of feel with provincial circus traveling thru the vast Americana and western riders catching on a storm. The concluding 11-minute epic features a grand instrumental intro, guitar heroics and catchy vocal melodies, although the theatrical vocalist does have a nasal tone to him.

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 On A Dark And Stormy Night by SHADOW CIRCUS album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.97 | 192 ratings

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On A Dark And Stormy Night
Shadow Circus Symphonic Prog

Review by Progrussia

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 average longer and there are more symphonic synths. There's less country, but still fair amounts of groove and soul. Female back-ups, several uneasy atmospheric soundscapes plus the vocalist's tendency, when singing slow and darkly, to sound very much like Roger Waters (but better trained), adds a Pink Floydian feel to the package.

It's not just fast, un-heavy synths and guitar tinkling here. There are detours into power ballad and atmospherics. But still, guitar and keys tend to sound kind of same-y during the faster sections.

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 Whispers And Screams by SHADOW CIRCUS album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.77 | 83 ratings

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Whispers And Screams
Shadow Circus Symphonic Prog

Review by Progrussia

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 were lyrically pretentious, Shadow Circus is more down to earth, writing songs based on books and TV shows. The first part of this album, for instance, is a quasi-epic based on Stephen Kings's The Stand. A quasi-epic because it is not a unified composition, but a sequence of related songs with some blending-in and recurring themes.

This is pure retro-prog, with a vintage sound. Apart from brief occasions of energetic riffing from the guitarist, it is almost entirely oblivious of modernity. More or less catchy. Vocals are theatrical, but not in Shakespearean theater sense, rather circus-announcer sense. Shadow Circus, indeed.

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 On A Dark And Stormy Night by SHADOW CIRCUS album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.97 | 192 ratings

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On A Dark And Stormy Night
Shadow Circus Symphonic Prog

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.

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 On A Dark And Stormy Night by SHADOW CIRCUS album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.97 | 192 ratings

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On A Dark And Stormy Night
Shadow Circus Symphonic Prog

Review by BrufordFreak

4 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.

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 On A Dark And Stormy Night by SHADOW CIRCUS album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.97 | 192 ratings

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On A Dark And Stormy Night
Shadow Circus Symphonic Prog

Review by Vibrationbaby

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 " firmly cosolidates the New York City quintet's status as one of the front runners in the second coming of progressive rock that began back in the 1980s with bands such as Marillion that some people these days refer to as neo-prog. While the band has always displayed a penchant for early seventies prog rock stylings the music heard on this gem has a very forward looking aspect as well, future / primitive if you like, that by it's nature is bound to attract younger listeners just as D'Engel's enchanting story did back in the early sixties.

Although the band has played around with themes from literary works in the past, this is the first time that they have dedicated a complete album to a single work. Metallic and melodic ; angry and poignant, the Shadowmen couldn't have chosen a better story on which to base their latest audacious musical foray. Progressive rock or art rock is the perfect musical medium, where just about anything goes, through which to interpret this time travel/ fantasy story with it's religious inferrences and abstract events. However, the stylings of the individual tracks take musical cues from all over the map, from metal to the classics. A dominant feature throughout the work is the extensive employment of keyboards both in deep expansive layerings and forlorn introductory melodies. I don't know, but it sure sounds like a real hammond organ that makes appearances on most tracks which captures the quintessence of progressive rock of the glorious seventies. It is also obvious that the band had access to better recording facilities than on the previous two outings when listening to some of the synth passages.

The dramatic instrumental orchestral opening, simply entitled Overture revisits a theme from an instrumental track from the band's previous album , '' Whispers and Screams ''. It develops into an Emeristic blowout which seems to me to be a combined prologue and summary for all that is to come: shadows of good vs evil shrouded in mystery and umcertainty. Even without having read L'Engels novel anyone can get high on this work, such is the calibre of the dynamic musicianship and songwriting. The ballad ''Daddy's Gone'' can be a song about loss and emptiness while the spooky '' Camaztoz '' can be describing a totalitarian society emphasized by Bobick's theatrical vocalizations and female counter harmonies. A Roger Waters influence is apparent here. The most '' accessible '' track, '' Whosit, Whatsit and Which '' refer to three mystical women ( not witches ! ) who act as chaperons for the the two protaganists, Meg and her younger genius / empath brother Charles on their quest through time and space. It is the catchiest track on the work and can be compared to '' Radio People '' from Shadow Circus' first release '' Welcome To The Freakroom '' albeit with much more depth, while Uriel ( a mystical planet inhabited by mythical winged centaurs ) with it's haunting cello / grand piano intro has as early 80s Marilion feel to it ( think Market Square Heroes ).Those familiar with the two previous Shadow Circus offerings will notice quantum leaps in every department on '' Stormy Night ''. Two new members Jason Brower and David Silver on drums and keyboards respectively and the return of original bassist /Cellist / back up vocalist Matt Masek complement the two mainstays John Fontana guitar/hammond organ and Dave Bobick on lead vocals. I also hear one or two female back-up vocalists who appear on several tracks..

The apex of the work arrives on '' Make Way For The Big Show '' with it's minor keyed early Genesis inspired grand piano intro that builds into a manic synth freakout that reminds me of Laszlo Benko's synths on Omega's tour de force '' Help To Find Me '' from '73. The most complex and coolest tracks on the album is the spasmodic Tesseract which describes a 4 dimensional hyper cube that acts as an abstract conduit in the story transporting the protaganists through time and space. John Fontana's guitar playing travels through the whole spectrum here. His metallic swirling guitars recall Hawkwind's '' Space Chase '' off their 1980 Levitation album in addition to venturing into fusion jazz territory. The prettiest track on the album is the ballad, Inxchel ( one of my favourites off the disc ) with its sublime introductory nylon string guitar reminds me of Jan Akkerman's Lute playing in Focus and on his solo albums from the early seventies. The piece features a Vangelis-like bridge that segues into a wordless spectral male / female hymn-like vocal harmony that reminicient of the Neptune movement from Holst's '' The Planets '' representing the two protaganists in the novel, Meg and Charles as they search for their scientist father who gets lost in time and space as a result of a fifth dimension time travel experiment gone horribly wrong. The work culminates with a powerful frantic orchestral piece, The Battle For Charles Wallace, dedicated to the end of the novel that resolves itself into a vocal madrigal building up with instrumental accompaniment crescendoing into a brilliant conclusion.

I would hope that this mercurial opus of progressive rock will encourage listeners to read L'Engels endearing story if they haven't already done so which is why haven't given away too much about the story itself here. Even though '' On A Dark Stormy Night '' Stands up phenomenomly well on it's own, much more is to be gleaned if one is able to associate the novel with the Shadow Circus interpretation which fires on all cylinders with the intensity of prog and classic rock of the glorious seventies in this campy world of Justin Biebers, Lady Ga Gas and CĂ©line Dions. . Accolades for this progrock jewel that comes with artwork that actually has something to do with both the band and the alluring story they are so fasdiciously extrapolating. An easy 5 golden stars.

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 On A Dark And Stormy Night by SHADOW CIRCUS album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.97 | 192 ratings

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On A Dark And Stormy Night
Shadow Circus Symphonic Prog

Review by J-Man
Prog Reviewer

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!

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 On A Dark And Stormy Night by SHADOW CIRCUS album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.97 | 192 ratings

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On A Dark And Stormy Night
Shadow Circus Symphonic Prog

Review by progrocks2112

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 of a cd. In this case its just the beginning.Somehow It came across that this track is somehow ties to Whispers and Screams but i cant put my finger on it.Daddy's Gone is a terrific track, gotta love a good ballad in prog.Song of children missing "pop".just great lyrics on this track. This is one that I should have heard when i was 5, would have made me think a lot different.contains a great guitar section that makes me wanna spread my wings and just fly away.Whosit, Whatsit And Which follows and im not real sure what to say about this track. it has some Gabriel type lyrics in it.love the organ play..makes the track rock at the end. Make Way For The Big Show is next with a piano starting things out.then the organ come along and perks up the track to a winding trail of musical wonder.Tesseract follows and i assume the best place in the order of the cd. its a roadtrip for the senses. ears and mind.an instrumental that deserves a set of head phones to hear in its own adventure.Uriel begins as a peaceful one.over looking a meadow with flowers and juts good ole peace and quiet. this gives one time to reflect on what has been played before. vocals are sharp and not once allows one to go of into a world of slumber.althio the end of the track semingly builds into the next as it gets a bit "heavier". Camazotz is a tad on the "scary" side..i imagine creatures of some kind running about while i listen to this.then all of a sudden a protector is there to watch over you. then it hits you again with strong guitar work like a bomb has gone off. Ixchel follows..its the perfect calm before the storm on the cd..the sun before the thunder. calming and peaceful with angel like voices leads us to the last track which brings the whole thing together. the first 3 mins or so are full of anarchy and bravado,then settles down to just vocals and pulls the track into yet another direction. the ending calms the whole song down into a finale that fits well with the entire cd. now i have done a few "reviews" i am not a writer or anything close. just check the typos..but i know that this cd will make at minimum top 10 for 2012 and deservedly so. i also have zero musical training or any idea what it takes to be a musician other then determination hardwork and the hope of us fans will like the end result. i find concept cds are very difficult to listen to as a whole. i was not aware that this was a book "converted" into music until after i had written this. but this cd is a very good case for others to follow. had i known it was a book the whole cd may have made more sense to me. but overall i enjoyed this cd very much and will give this 4.5 stars. missing the other half due to my ignorance alone....i suggest all fans of symphonic prog to order this and allow the band to enjoy the they so deserve!!! I have listend to this 3 more times since original review..i nnow give this 5 stars...

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 On A Dark And Stormy Night by SHADOW CIRCUS album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.97 | 192 ratings

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On A Dark And Stormy Night
Shadow Circus Symphonic Prog

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

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".

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 Rise Maxi-Single by SHADOW CIRCUS album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2011
3.63 | 8 ratings

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Rise Maxi-Single
Shadow Circus Symphonic Prog

Review by Vibrationbaby

3 stars New York City's Shadow Circus has come a long way since their ambitious 2006 release " Welcome To The Freakroom ". The light heartedness of that album ( I still groove to '' Radio People '' ) that gave way to more sophistication on the follow up, '' Whispers And Screams " has been carried over to this teaser for their upcoming full length concept CD '' On A Dark Stormy Night ''. One thing that these two contrasting tracks ( one ballad, '' Daddy's Gone '' and one mini-epic.'' Rise '' ) are a sure indication that the circus is in to town to stay and has found a definite voice. Young rogressive rock influenced bands are a hard sell and risk being compared to the " heavy hitters " such as Dream Theatre or Opeth but Shadow Circus seems to have broken out of this constraint. Too early to tell really ( could have included a couple of more tracks! ), but this warm-up single has all the inklings of another jewel from Shadow Circus.

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