CIRCUS MAXIMUS – The 1st Chapter

CIRCUS MAXIMUS - The 1st Chapter


Frontiers Records
Release date: May 14, 2005

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Norwegian Prog Metal has, several years after conception, experienced an upswing in popularity led by Ark, Pagan’s Mind, and Kamelot (which, of course, is far from being an all-Norwegian band, but much of the music is at least written in Norway), and there are quite a few bands popping up in the underground also –- Departure Plan and Illusion Suite are two names to look out for in the near future. Circus Maximus is also such a band, but with an album like this it’s more than likely they will see themselves taking giant steps towards the magic halls of Prog Metal stardom (a very Prog Metal phrase indeed …).

The 1st Chapter is an impressive debut indeed, mixing Shadow Gallery-style melodies with Dream Theater-grooves, Symphony X-riffs, and Geoff Tate-ish vocals, to describe the sound in a tabloid way. Except for a few parts that sound a bit too much like the aforementioned bands, Circus Maximus has managed to create their own sound to a very big extent. This is mainly due to the vocal melodies of singer Michael Eriksen, whose voice is very emotional and suits the music in a very good way. The vocal arrangements also add to this impression –- choirs and polyphonic lines are used in a very clever fashion in “Sin” and the title track, for example.

These two songs may very well be the highlights of the album, if one has to pick them. “Sin” is the album’s opener and is riff-based, but still a very melodic track with a chorus arrangement to die for, while the title track is a 19-minute opus, reminiscent of Symphony X at their very best, with a majestic main theme and once again an ingenious arrangement. But wait … there is more … “Glory of the Empire” is also clocking in at more than 10 minutes (10:27 to be precise), and is a downright beauty with Espen Storo’s very clever keyboards and more incredible melodies (the chorus for example … **sigh**). The opening may be a bit too strongly influenced by Symphony X’s “The Accolade,” though, and things may get a tad too close to pure rip-off here, but for this time only, the benefit of the doubt can be given to the accused. “Silence From Angels Above” is a beautiful ballad where Eriksen gets to show off the Geoff Tate side of his voice. Basically, every track could be listed as a highlight, this is clearly one of those albums that really hasn’t got any fillers whatsoever.

The band, which in addition to Eriksen and Storo, also consists of Mats Haugen on guitars, Truls Haugen on drums, and Glen Mollen on bass, gets to strut their stuff in the instrumental “Biosfear,” a Dream Theater-style shred-fest guaranteed to satisfy even the most x-tuplet hunger out there. There is no doubt that these guys are awesome musicians, and that pretty much speaks for itself as only very competent musicians could compose an album like this –- a strong candidate for Prog Metal disc of the year!


  • Torgeir P. Krokfjord

    Torgeir was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio. After hearing Malmsteen's "Vengeance" on a guitar mag CD at the age of 12 or 13, he began doing hopeless interpretations of Yngwie licks and it just took off from there. After shorter stints at other zines he was snatched to Metal Express Radio in 2003. Alongside Yngwie, Savatage, WASP, Symphony X, Blind Guardian, Emperor, Arch Enemy, In Flames, Opeth, Motörhead, Manowar, and Queensrÿche are a quick list of musical faves. Torgeir is also guitarist in the Heavy/Prog/Thrash outfit Sarpedon.

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