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Circus Maximus biography
Norwegian CIRCUS MAXIMUS became a full line up in 2000, consisting of long time band-mates Michael Eriksen on vocals and brothers Mats & Truls Haugen on guitar and drums respectively. In addition the band consists of keyboard mastermind Espen Storø and Mats' old high school buddy Glen Cato Møllen on bass. The band has a wide variety of musical influences, from pop/rock to 70's Prog-Rock to Heavy and Death metal, all of which is melted together and gives the guys their unique sound. The melting pot creates a mixture of great melodies, groove, heavy riffs and weird odd time signatures.

Michael is currently also involved in the hard rock band CARNIVORA (who released their debut album "Judas" through FaceFront Records in May 2004). Espen has also been involved in a song or two on the CARNIVORA disc, but is also playing keyboards in a OZZY tribute band called OZZMOSIS. Truls is playing drums in a death-metal band called INSENSE. He also played bass in a Cyber-Metal band called BLACK COMEDY for a couple of years. After he quit that band, Mats stepped in as a session bass player.

After recording 2 demos, which received rave reviews in Norway, as well in Europe and the states, CIRCUS MAXIMUS hooked up with Danish based metal agency Intromental Management in April 2004, and soon after got signed to the American label Sensory Records. During summer of 2004, the band completed the song writing for the debut album, "The First Chapter", which was recorded in various studios in Norway, and mixed in October 2004 in Denmark at Jailhouse Studios with well-known producer Tommy Hansen (HELLOWEEN, PRETTY MAIDS, WUTHERING HEIGHT) at the helm.

The sound is impeccable, the musicianship is out-of-this-world, Michael's voice is amazing (reminding of Tony Harnell, Joey Tempest and Ronnie Atkins), and the songs are simply put outstanding. A superb mixture of classic hard rock anthems and progressive technical bits and pieces. Just listen to such awesome tracks as the upbeat opener "Sin", the beautiful ballad "Silence From Angels Above", the grandiose "Glory Of The Empire" or the 19 minute magnum-piece "The 1st Chapter".

This album will for sure appeal to all fans of bands such as SYMPHONY X X, TNT, DREAM THEATER, PRETTY MAIDS and QUEENSRYCHE.

: : : DimmuS, BELGIUM : : :

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CIRCUS MAXIMUS discography

Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help to complete the discography and add albums

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

3.80 | 200 ratings
The 1st Chapter
3.77 | 187 ratings
3.89 | 172 ratings
2.95 | 46 ratings

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

4.25 | 4 ratings
Havoc In Oslo

CIRCUS MAXIMUS Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

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Showing last 10 reviews only
 Havoc by CIRCUS MAXIMUS album cover Studio Album, 2016
2.95 | 46 ratings

Circus Maximus Progressive Metal

Review by aapatsos
Special Collaborator Prog Metal and Heavy Prog Teams

2 stars Prog metal recipe party

To start with a conclusion, and as a fellow reviewer mentioned, ''Havoc'' is suited more to the younger fans of progressive metal; an extremely well-put-together construct of standard recipe prog metal songs, with the required weight on the guitars and an extra dose of commercial vibe (or ''cheesiness'' if you prefer). A Coheed and Cambria metal version is not far off summarising the sound, but let's see what else is there.

Circus Maximus combine the Dream Theater/Queensryche-laden (albeit less complex) riffing, with Roy Khan-type melody vocals and compositions layered on mid tempos, akin to the style of Coldplay, Muse or U2 (good examples are Flames, Remember) and not far off the mood that the fellow Nords Von Hertzen Brothers manifest. Unfortunately, the one hour of music included here seems to be a waste of the band's (obvious) talent in aiming to create radio-friendly prog metal, to the point where the listener presses the ''skip'' button (title track). There are some better moments in ''Pages'' and glimpses of more elaborate songwriting in ''Loved Ones'' and ''After the Fire'' but these get subsumed in the general lightheartedness of the sound.

If you get excited by power-pop prog metal, then this could be for you - the rest can by-pass or give it a spin on a long summer drive (or a summer's night party).

2.5 stars

 Havoc by CIRCUS MAXIMUS album cover Studio Album, 2016
2.95 | 46 ratings

Circus Maximus Progressive Metal

Review by Progrussia

3 stars Circus Maximus continue to evolve, from indulging the glossier aspects of Dream Theater prog metal sound to catering to the more popular sounds of today. On this, modern metal starts to creep into their musical palette with its deep bass grooves and stop-start riffs, and at the same time, more of the melancholic-yet-anthemic power pop that makes them sound sometimes as a heavier version of Coldplay. But unlike, say, their fellow Norwegians Leprous, the glories of old are not forgotten, as the catchy vocals and flashy solos are still prominently featured. Kind of like Architect of Fortune on their last album, they start off with The Weight that combines all of their influences into a neat 6-minute whole, while later going on to explore them in more detail. This would probably be oriented towards the more youthful demographic of prog metal fans.
 The 1st Chapter by CIRCUS MAXIMUS album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.80 | 200 ratings

The 1st Chapter
Circus Maximus Progressive Metal

Review by Progrussia

3 stars Promising debut from melodic power proggers in Circus Maximus. Production could use more range, and album does have some cute growth issues (youth maximalism), such as let's-outdo-everybody instrumental (which is actually not bad) and lets-write a 20- minute epic at all costs (which comes across as a poor Symphony X copy). But the album displays a supreme sense of melody, which usually take a couple of albums for other bands to achieve, and some tasteful playing, such as dark, but classy ballad Silence from Angels Above and a tasteful historical epic Glory of the Empire. Other than that, it features great rocker Sin, 80s metal influenced Alive, and more.
 Nine by CIRCUS MAXIMUS album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.89 | 172 ratings

Circus Maximus Progressive Metal

Review by Progrussia

3 stars Circus Maximus is a talented melodic prog power band from Norway. The first thing I noticed on Nine, having listened to their other albums, is the overproduced sound. One could only wonder how many filters instruments went through to achieve this glossy, teenage-friendly wall of sound. Album is about evenly divided between longer, proggier songs and radio-friendly hits about such mainstream things as standing your ground and tragic romantic love. But don't worry, this is still prog, and metal, so you'll get the usual fix of a punchy sound, different musical approaches (an electronic beat, a blastbeat, a bluesy guitar and so on) and instrumental candy.
 Isolate by CIRCUS MAXIMUS album cover Studio Album, 2007
3.77 | 187 ratings

Circus Maximus Progressive Metal

Review by Progrussia

4 stars Norway's Circus Maximius play a kind of slightly simplified progressive power metal with a strong emphasis on melodic hooks. They are also blessed with a very good vocalist, who has a powerful and almost androgynous kind of voice. All their 3 (as of 2014) albums are in same general style but have different production sound. This one is the brightest-sounding. Comes across as a better version of 80s Rush and metal. Even when they sing about insanity (which is the concept here) its so infectious. By now its evident that this is in no way original, but back in the day the idea of crossing prog metal with pop, led by bands like Circus Maximus and Seventh Wonder, was fresh among all the usual doom and gloom.
 Nine by CIRCUS MAXIMUS album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.89 | 172 ratings

Circus Maximus Progressive Metal

Review by arcane-beautiful

4 stars (I'm guessing the album is called 9 cause there is 9 tracks on it)

Norway's prog scene has seen some interesting acts emerge. From Black Metallers Enslaved & Borknagar taking extreme metal to the prog side and bands like Leprous now taking the firm interest

This album is very different to their first two albums, mainly due to the more melodic style which the band has now infused into their style. I'm not saying there was no melody before, but on this album, the melody is definitely a major highlight on this release. In fact, the highlight on melody is such a massive point that most of the songs give off a poppy vibe.

The album does bode a lot of interesting moments and return to forms, but this is definitely a step in the right direction for these guys, and really bodes well for the future.A lot of people always give bands like these guys a bad name, mainly because they sound like Dream Theater. Now let's get it clear. Dream Theater are the world's biggest Progressive Metal band. Just cause these guys play prog metal doesn't mean they are a rip off. Of course there would be similarities, they are in the same genre, but these guys aren't a copycat band.

The opening epic "Architect Of Fortune" is definitely one of the best tracks on the album. The album's longest song, it is definitely one of the better tracks on the album. With an intro that sounds like Opeth jamming with Dream Theater. The song does progressive into a rather interesting epic, with some brilliant instrumental work. The lyrics of the song also paint a interesting picture and bring up a lot of topics including religion, God and humanism.

"Namaste" is a rather interesting track. With some rather interesting rhythms in the verse, it really is one of the most original prog metal songs I've heard in a while.

One of the most interesting songs has to be "Reach Within." Pretty much a cheesy pop song, but it works well. You may be humming this song for years, so...a warning for those with sensitive ears.

One of the most 'metal' songs on the album has to be the track "Used." Showing the band's more heavier sound, this song is definitely one of the album's most kick ass moments.

The album's second epic "Burn After Reading" is another interesting track. Like the opener, it has a lot of diversity throughout it, especially with a very nice acoustic opening.

The closing track "Last Goodbye" is a rather interesting song. Lyrically, the song deals with saying goodbye to someone, and it's rather good, but also rather cheesy at the same time. Michael's vocals really do shine in this song. The ending is very beautiful as well.

In conclusion, this is something different, and I rather enjoyed it. This really isn't best prog metal album ever, but this is something a bit different. If you like good songwriting with some amazing musicians playing, then I would recommend giving this album a listen.


 Isolate by CIRCUS MAXIMUS album cover Studio Album, 2007
3.77 | 187 ratings

Circus Maximus Progressive Metal

Review by b_olariu
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Circus Maximus from Norway got lot of praise around first two albums were released 2005 and respectivly 2007. Well, I don't know, this is not the type of prog metal I like very much, it has a fat sound that I really don't dig , not very much elaborated arrangements, only on instrumental piece Sane No More they are more then ok, nice musicianship though. The voice of Mike Eriksen is strong, very good vocalist, nice tone a spectacular range, but the instrumental parts fail to impress me big time, it sounds like a Symphony X version with diffrent vocalist and without that neo classical aproach of the masters. Short pieces, only two are lenghty 9 and 12 min, not enough for me, I want complicated prog metal with lots of tempo changes, keybords to run all the time, guitar breaks and all, here is not the case only here and there, to much time is vocal oriented kind of prog, ok the guitar parts are well done and delivers that crunchy kind of aproach but nothing really speacial as it praised all the time. Not bad as a whole, but nothing special either, I know hundreds of more inventive and intresting prog metal albums in my collection. 3 stars hardly.
 Nine by CIRCUS MAXIMUS album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.89 | 172 ratings

Circus Maximus Progressive Metal

Review by Gallifrey

5 stars The Personal Classic

There are those albums. You know, those ones. The ones that you listen to to take you back somewhere, or to make you feel something that nothing else can make you feel. The ones that bring unfiltered amounts of nostalgia, because we all know that music is second to none (ok, maybe smell) in terms of nostalgic value. A few weeks ago, I finally managed to review Hospice, the timeless classic of a feelings album from The Antlers. And when I reviewed it, I mentioned how I felt the need to avoid talking about the music, because the album is just so special that it becomes hard to talk about the reasons why. Nine is one of these albums. But unlike Hospice, Nine doesn't have any of the historical significance or critical acclaim surrounding it. Why this album isn't considered one of the greatest records ever conceived is beyond me, let alone why some people prefer the Dream Theater worship of their first two records to the emotional brilliance of this album.

So really, like Hospice, I feel I need to give this one a hell of an introduction, because this is really quite a significant record to me personally, and there is a very specific reason I am reviewing it today, on the 27th of March, but I shall not go too far into my personal stories out of fear of people disregarding my opinions due to my nature as an emotional teenager. But I will say this:

This I one of the greatest records I have had the pleasure of hearing.

But I should first point out something that may have been misconstrued from my introduction ? this is no depressed emotional wasteland of feelings. I mean, it's a progressive metal record, for [%*!#]s sake, not a monolithic barren indie slowcore wasteland. So despite having several moments of raw beauty and emotion, this record does a whole lot more ? a reason why this album pushes beyond a whole lot of strictly emotional music, because it has the complexity and the intricate parts and the big riffs that progressive metal is usually fluid with.

When I first started to get into this record, I was completely shocked. Not just because this is, as I said before, an all-time classic, but also because there was nearly no suggestion of this brilliance on the band's previous record, Isolate. I had heard Isolate a couple of years earlier, when my friend and I were starting to get into progressive metal initially. Circus Maximus were one of the very few bands that he found before I did, and Isolate impressed us at the time as much as any Dream Theater or Symphony X record did, but time taught us that none of these were truly significant. When Nine was first announced, I really didn't go out of my way to hear it. It was on my radar, and I did spend a bit of time looking for a link to hear it, but for a while I just brushed it off as "it'll sound like Isolate".

But what really is a step-up here, and this is truly the biggest step-up I have ever heard, is that not only have Circus Maximus shifted their focus from technicality and shred-core to emotion and lyrical profundity, but the progressive metal portions of the music are also so much more refined and cohesive. Something must have truly happened during that five-year break to these guys, because gone are any hints of power metal, gone are the song-length shredding duels, and any moments when soloing does begin is done tastefully and with some utterly brilliant melodies. Take a track like "Game of Life". Is it a trve prog metal song? Does it have ridiculous signatures and a fourteen-minute solo? No, it's actually more or less a pop song. The chorus on this track is one of the most infectious on the album, the sort of thing you'd sing at the top of your lungs whilst cruising in your sick-as 1955 Morris Minor, and the rather cheesy feel-good lyrics could cause some cynical progheads to compare it to Disney-pop. But I love the melody here, and as I will discuss later, I love the lyrics even more. And while Isolate and The 1st Chapter were prog metal albums, with the prog and the metal underlined in bold, Nine, especially with a track like "Game of Life", focuses on making a song first, before adding the Circus Maximus twist on after.

And it is a fine twist. The song may be pop at heart, but that lead riff, particularly due to the thick and meaty tone on it, is absolutely awesome, as well as the solo, which really showcases the brilliant melodic ear that these guys have developed in the time between Isolate and Nine. There are plenty of solos here, both of keyboard and guitar, and nearly every one is memorable and brilliant. Anyone who knows my taste in music knows that I am no fan of instrumental wankery, and prog metal is one of the worst offenders of this crime, to the point when many, many bands can thrill me in their verses, and bore me out of my mind in their soloing. But Circus Maximus' solos are [/i]different[/i]. I can't quite put my finger on it, but I think that the term I would use to describe them is melodic.

Now, now, to all the Dream Theater fans who just shouted "BUT PETRUCCI IS MELODIC; HE USES SCALES AND MODES AND SHIT" at my hatred for DT's soloing, that's not what I mean. I mean that with basically every solo here, you can remember it. I can basically sing any of the solos on Nine out loud, right now. Sure, a couple of them are in the same key and I'd probably get them mixed up, but the point is that I can remember them, completely. And I think it's Mats Haugen's brilliant sense of melody that creates this. The solos here are crafted in the same way that a vocal melody is crafted ? to be memorable. I don't know anyone who remembers any Petrucci solo with 150 notes a second (except for fanboys), but most of the solos here sound like the sort of thing Michael Eriksen would be singing for that section, with a few more notes in between. Haugen does use sweeps and slides and whatnot, but they're not blatant wank. He has a destination note to get to, and a note he starts the run on, and he rarely will play faster than 32nds, and rarely will play them for more than a couple of measures.

And as well as being a better progressive metal band than most of the leading prog metal giants, Circus Maximus certainly stand out massively in another regard ? their lyrics. I don't usually talk about lyrics when I review music, especially not with progressive metal, but I really just feel some of these lyrics are just so good that I need to mention them. I like to think that I'd still like this as much even without the great lyrics, simply because of how well written the music is, but I'm honestly not sure, because the lyrics are what really drew me to the album this time last year, and are what convinced me to write this review today. I've talked for hours about "Reach Within" before, but I still should give it a brief mention, because it was my theme song at the time, the song that defined my mindset and life, and ultimately it was what brought me down, because showing my feelings and becoming "the one you locked away for years" caused some unfortunately bad things to happen, but the message still remains. Many, many people will mock these lyrics and laugh at Circus Maximus appealing to their teenage fanbase. And I guess so, because these lyrics really do appeal to me. They're meaningful and about real things and real experiences, not about spaceships or the government.

Aside from "Reach Within", I guess the opener "Architect of Fortune" tackles a similar sort of topic. I distinctly remember the day I first realised what this song was about, long before any of the events I am now alluding to, and in even worse context, but it was such a punch in the gut. "I never knew I could map out my life." I mean, if this isn't something that makes you sit and think "damn", I really don't know what is. It's weird, how if I subconsciously think about my worldview today, about how I am aiming so high in every field I am attempting to be in, about how I am trying to be something no one has ever been before, and then think about what I was like before Nine, I really start to realise the impact on my personality that this album has had, and I really can't say that about any other records, at all. It's even shaped my direction, musically. This album taught me that to make prog metal, you didn't have to write about spaceships or terrorism, and to write meaningful and lesson-based music, you didn't have to sound like Linkin Park.

But it's not as if it's just the lyrics that make "Architect of Fortune" one of the best songs ever composed. In my mind, this is an example of the perfect epic, structured so immaculately and flowing so smoothly. I even feel, in this regard, it's better than the closer "Last Goodbye", but as I will talk about later, that song is something else. I absolutely love the mood of this track, the uplifting revelation tone, quadrupled by the near-symphonic keyboard parts and thunderously pounding drumming. This song, heightened by the lyrics, feels like a blissful realisation of the universe, like a manifestation of a spiritual experience, in song form. The verses are introspective, observing the narrator's current worldview in a new light, but the chorus is euphoric, immense, uplifting, inspirational. It's beyond anything I could put into words here, yet somehow it's not even the best part of the album.

Or even the best part of the song. No, there is something even more beautiful later on. This is one of those moments that, on first few listens, I would always go "Oh. Oh. I forgot about this part.", and the song would raise tenfold. I'm referring, of course, to the absolutely crushing little piano melody that comes into the bridge about six minutes in. It's so simple, yet it destroys you, emotionally. And then when it comes back, full blast on the keyboards in the most rich synth tone, it lifts you back up into space. The mood lifts so perfectly for Haugen's second solo of the track, even better than the first, yet still not even the best on the record. I'm sure if I were to list my favourite guitar solos of all time, at least half of the top 10 would be from this record, and the second solo on "Architect of Fortune" is certainly one of these, especially in the way it leads into the final chorus. Needless to say, this song is phenomenal. (Obligatory comment about how it still isn't even the best).

Oh wait. Damn, I forgot to talk about the awesome 11/8 riff in Architect, one of the best uses of 11 ever, and the default riff I drop to when I want to show off that I can play in 11. I also didn't even mention the basslines, or the first solo, or actually a whole lot of it. But I really don't want to ramble. The point is ? I could talk about many specific parts of this record for hours, and I feel I need to cut down. So I'll try to focus a bit more.

The last two tracks here, being the other epics of the album, are probably the ones that need discussion the most, and Circus Maximus have certainly made these tracks stand out from the shorter stuff; they really feel like they were meant to be long, not just long because prog dictates they must be. I really like how "Burn After Reading", when you first hear it, sounds like it could be a short acoustic interlude. In fact, you nearly expect it, since that's a regular practice in prog metal, but the song slowly develops around the simple acoustic guitar melody before exploding into one of the biggest riffs on the album. I'll admit, the midsection of this song is the only time on the album when the soloing verges on the wanky mess from Isolate, but there are enough moments on either side to rectify this, especially the final chorus. Yes, it's hard to really use my superlatives well enough to separate awesome moment from awesome moment on this album, but let me say this ? this chorus is awesome. Italicised. And to go back to the melodramatic reasons for my nostalgic review today, it really does mean a bit to me lyrically. "Every shimmering rock I've collected kept dragging me down." As well as the obvious "All that I have left now of us is a memory" and the title, Burn After Reading, about truly moving forward from something that you have been dwelling on. Because no matter how good it once was, reminiscing about better times will always bring you down in the present.

But this entire album is really just building to an ending. Yes, "Burn After Reading" would be one hell of an ending and would likely still plant this album in my top 20 if the album finished there. But it doesn't, because everything on this album pales in comparison to the final track, "Last Goodbye". The odd thing about this song, which is in my top 15 or so songs ever written, is that I've never really liked the verses. At all. I just think they're a bit weak in comparison to most of the album, and especially weak in comparison to this song. I like the lyrics during them, but the syncopated guitar and vocal melody doesn't really fit them, or mesh with the rest of the song awfully well. But you know what? I don't care, because the rest of this song is that good. I can just ignore them.

The song opens with my favourite guitar solo of all time. Yes, the best, in my ears. It starts so subtle and beautiful, gliding gently over the rather odd 7/4 acoustic guitar. At this point, the song reminds me a bit of opener "Architect of Fortune", although that track opened up bombastic, this one starts of solemn, building the intensity throughout the intro. When the distorted bass comes in, I hear hints of that wonderful riff in the intro of "Reach Within", but with so much more intensity. But it's only when the guitar soars up to play the chorus melody over the intense drums that the goosebumps come in. And it is really quite spellbinding. The lyrics on this track hit an even more personal note, writing about the loss of a close friend, but rather than crying about it in a depressed emo way, this song is euphoric and uplifting, feeling like a celebration rather than a mourning. Yet it is somehow just as beautiful. I love the ending of the track, how long after the song has died, we have the long and fading outro, with "this is our last goodbye" softly fading outwards. To bring this album back to Hospice in comparison, this definitely reminds me of the ending of "Epilogue", but in nearly the opposite way. "Epilogue" was a slow and painful death, with her memory drifting out and his life force with it, "Last Goodbye" is a tribute; a final message before passing, and the passing seems actually quite pleasant, because it's not an ending, it's a new beginning.

This is about the point when I talk about the letdowns on this album - the things that stop it from being perfect. And yes, there are some, but I think they are so minimal that they can be completely ignored. I didn't mention many of the tracks in this review, but even they are pretty damn good. The weakest on here is certainly "Used", but that has an absolutely bitchin intro, the most headbanging thing on the record, and is actually tons of fun to listen to. "Namaste" is weak in comparison as well, but it has a fantastic intro, as well as the obligatory catchy chorus. "Burn After Reading" has a fair bit of wank in the solo, and a couple of the verses, including the aforementioned slab of perfection "Last Goodbye" are a bit lacklustre in comparison to their choruses.

It's hard to really write a cohesive opinion of a record like Nine without losing myself to a mess of superlatives and listing things that are awesome or awesome, but I really felt this record needed someone to point out just what a classic it is. Of all my favourite albums, I've seen at least a few others agree with me that they are classics, but not really this one, which seems a bit odd. This may not be my favourite album of all time (although it's damn close), and it's not even my favourite from 2012 spoiler: click to read, but this is certainly one of the most influential records on my life, and I can definitely tell that that was what Circus Maximus were aiming for with this album. It's profound, it's beautiful, it has moved me to tears on many occasions, and yet at other times it's ripping, it's fun, it's catchy. It goes through so many moods, yet keeps its backbone meaning and style. It has both emotion and technicality; ambition and tribute. And at this point of my review, I'm really starting to wonder about that rating I've given at the bottom, and whether it is truly high enough.

I never really found out what Nine meant. The title, I mean. There are 10 tracks here, none of them hit are nine minutes or have nine anything, although I guess track nine gets the closest. I suppose, if you were to drop the intro, we would have nine tracks, but that leaves the question of why did they split it at all? My friends and I used to joke about how Nine was subliminal messaging for reviewers, to subconsciously give it positive reviews. Well, your devious plan has failed, Circus Maximus, because this isn't a nine, it's a?


Oh wait?

Originally written for my Facebook page/blog:

 The 1st Chapter by CIRCUS MAXIMUS album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.80 | 200 ratings

The 1st Chapter
Circus Maximus Progressive Metal

Review by Ytse_Jam

3 stars Circus Maximus is a group that I approached with a little of hesitation, both because most of the post-1990 metal leaves me uninterested, if not disgusted (yes, I'm still stuck in the 80s when it comes to Metal, I must admit), and because some confused and superficial listening I gave made them appear to me as a botched copy of Dream Theater. Since, however, you do not judge what you do not know, I decided to give "The 1st Chapter" a full listen, which debunked some ideas I had about them and confirmed others.

The disc opens with "Sin", where immediately appears the appreciation that the group has for Scenes From a Memory. Here, however, the clear DT-ish influences are proposed in a more melodic way, with pieces that remind me of Sonata Artica (that I don't really like), and a brilliant voice that "fits perfectly" with the music.

"Alive" carries on with the style of the first song: a modern symphonic metal, not surely my cup of tea, but that never appears banal, thanks to the progressive elements. The timbre of the singer also reminds me a lot of Midnight, the voice of Crimson Glory (progressive metal band of the 80s) who died in 2009.

It's the turn of "The Glory of the Empire", where I can hear a lot of Symphony X'V reminiscences. Yes, this band doesn't appear to be very innovative and original, and this may be an issue for somebody, but I usually judge a group by the music it offers, not on the degree of originality or innovation. There is nothing wrong to pay tribute to a band or a genre you like, if this generates good music. With Biosfear we have a 5 minutes instrumental track. If you didn't know Circus Maximus were originally a Dream Theater cover band, after listening to this song it will appear to you as clear as daylight. Seriously, here the legacy of our friends from New York gets quite obvious, but this instrumental is very well played (the whole album has a fine technique in it) and very enjoyable, for sure the best track so far. Yes, because we also have some nice Zappa-flavoured solos in this Beyond This Life, and the group... Oh wait.

"Silence From Angels Above" is the model of song I usually skip, as it includes sounds that, as I said, just do not belong to me, even if I recognise the quality of the track and the ability of the singer on this type of song.

Let's go back on track with what I consider one of the best songs on the album, "Why Am I Here". Here the whole group, especially the guitarist Mats Haugen, shows his appreciation for an album called Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence, by a little-known group from New York. The song is, as mentioned above, one of my favorites in here, since it is melodic but in a way I really like, and, though it's not King Crimson, it appears pretty inspired and fresh.

The quality raises again with "The Prophecy", a very good guitar-voice intro that leads into one of the best pieces I've ever heard among this genre, with an almost pop/AOR chorus and a great arrangement full of prog elements. After an average start, these two songs appear like fresh air, and ... here comes the epic! Every note of the first 4 minutes of "1st Chapter" shouts "Symphony X" loud right in my ears, but I decide to carry on listening not caring about them. In fact the song is pretty good, though not being so awesome as I expected from a 19 min-long title track. The song flows for his entire duration without particularly capturing my mind, and leaves me a bit disappointed after two very good songs. Good track, with few interesting points, but quite average overall. The last song on the album, "Imperial Destruction", has a very interesting initial riff, but fails to amaze me. I don't know what to write about this, just an average song.

So, listening to "The 1st Chapter", as I said earlier, has led some denials and some confirmations in me. Originality does not appear as a main quality of the group (or, at least, in this album), that shows a sound very inspired by late 90s/00s progressive metal (where Dream Theater and Symphony X are the biggest examples). Of course, everyone has their influences, the band never falls completely in plagiarism, and although sometimes these "tributes" to their beloved bands may seem annoying, I think in most cases they just make the album more enjoyable to those who are already accustomed to certain type of music. However, in addition to the strong progressive element, this album owes much to a certain type of (mostly scandinavian) melodic metal, that unfortunately reduces my appreciation to the whole work, but this is my opinion and the songs are well written and played, so if you like this type of metal more than me you will surely enjoy this debut a lot. About me, "The 1st Chapter" does not appears certainly in my top 20, but when I'm in a modern-styled melodic prog metal mood, it's able to give me 70 minutes of enjoyable music. Despite my jokes about their similarity with Dream Theater and Symphony X, I don't consider C.M. a clone of this or that band and I think a 3.5 stars rating will be appropriate.

 Isolate by CIRCUS MAXIMUS album cover Studio Album, 2007
3.77 | 187 ratings

Circus Maximus Progressive Metal

Review by Tarcisio Moura
Prog Reviewer

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

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

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

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

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition.

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