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Circuline - Counterpoint CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

3.82 | 16 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Like the other American prog rock band, 3RD Degree, that had requested me to review their album, Circuline is short on releases but long on experience. Some of its lineup have already been performing for 25-30 years. Unfortunately, it shows.

The musicianship is consistently top notch, often outstanding. The music is also very authentically prog; it's not pop/rock with a few time signature changes thrown in in a couple of tracks. The problem, from my perspective, is not a lot of it sounds very new.

Maybe the problem is me as I am almost heretical when it comes to retro-prog (and my idea of retro-prog is a little different from what is commonly understood; if it's Queensryche-like and it's 2016, it's still retro prog to me). From the beginning, I felt like I had been transported to the beginnings of prog metal in the mid-late 80s. When bright guitar leads, heavily influenced by the ace shredders that were a huge part of that decade's rock music, abounded. When powerful, pounding drums were favoured over the busy subtlety of the 70s. Case in point: the shred-coda of Hollow, the album's obligatory 10 minute plus mini epic.

It is certainly technically very impressive but at this point, it takes a lot for this kind of music to draw me in (colour me jaded but it is what it is). Outstanding vocals might help. I don't really hear that on this album with all due respect to Billy Spillane's resume. The vocals are competent and fairly typical of what I'd expect to hear on a prog album, nothing more, nothing less.

It would be one thing if this material was all put together in the 80s and it never left the nest until now. Perhaps, that was the case too; but the band describe themselves as modern prog. Maybe to some extent it is an accurate description given that a lot of modern prog pays homage to sounds from bygone eras. But when I hear the word modern, I expect a little more 21st century. This album is not completely devoid of 21st century sounds but you have to kind of search for them in the midst of largely 80s sounding music (including 80s keyboard tones, I kid you not).

Although much of the above may sound harsh, I did enjoy listening to the album while it lasted. It's just not engrossing enough for me to return for more listens. There are moments of brilliance, like a piano break in Hollow just before the guitar shred ending. As said before, this is one talented, accomplished band and at times there is a spark that shines bright and makes me go wow. I just wish I had had more of these wow moments.

I am tempted to go with four stars just to reward the excellence in musicianship and production (the recording sounds beautiful). But from a prog perspective, it's not excellent, at least not as a studio album. Would I love hearing this live in a concert? Without a doubt. So, three stars it will have to be but a strong three star effort.

rogerthat | 3/5 |


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