• 8/10
    CIRCUS MAXIMUS - Isolate - 8/10


Release date: August 31, 2007

User Review
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To say that the road of Norwegian Progressive Metallers Circus Maximus has been an overly long and stomach-achingly winding one would be a mild exaggeration. Ever since the release of their debut The 1st Chapter, their career has, possibly with the departure of keyboardist Espen Storø as a sole exception, been a straight uphill race at breakneck speed -– not to say this is not well-deserved; after all, that album was phenomenal. Luckily -– to make that clear to begin with — Isolate is another gem, being just as melodic as its predecessor, but heavier, more intense, and less of a derivative of both Dream Theater and Queensrÿche (although Circus Maximus makes for a far, far more inspiring listening experience than at least the former these days).

The album opens with one of its very best tracks, namely the heavy, but still enchantingly melodic, “A Darkened Mind,” describing the twisted mind of the story’s main character. Yes, this is a concept album, derived from separate stories written by singer Michael Eriksen, bassist Glen Møllen, and drummer Truls Haugen. Stories that all dealt with the same subject -– a lonely man’s way towards, and over, the edge.

Things don’t get any brighter in “The Abyss,” but to be honest – who really gives a damn about this guy’s well-being, as long as the music’s as good as this track; melodic, groovy, driving, progressive — this is Prog Metal at its best.

Together with the 12-minute epic and incredible “Mouth Of Madness,” the catchy “Arrival Of Love,” and the majestic album closer “Ultimate Sacrifice,” these two do stand out as Isolate’s highlights, though, but Shredheads will also drool over the “well-played” instrumental “Sane No More” (understatement of the year), and if you thought Michael Eriksen sang well on The 1st Chapter, you might as well check out his work on a song like the ballad “Zero.” Fantastic stuff.

That track also stuffs the throats off critics who have argued that guitarist Mats Haugen leans a bit too heavily on the school of guitar players that emphasize technique over melody and phrasing; he does play incredible on the band’s debut, but arguably better during the faster parts than on the slow ones. His lead in “Zero” goes straight to ones heart and soul, and literally –- the guy’s all over the place this time around, shredding, soaring, blazing, and sneering through basically every aspect of Metal guitar playing.

Worth mentioning is also the band’s three remaining members, and with the brilliance of Glen and Truls being pretty much declared and accepted by the public, pleasure to announce that new keyboardist Lasse Finbråten has made a great impact on the band’s sound, and his diverse and fresh approach works very nicely with Mats’ riffs.

”From Childhood’s Hour,” and to some extent, “Zero” and “Wither” is not of the same standard as the aforementioned quintet, but this does not alter the impression that if you’re into Progressive Metal you’re going to be into this album, and if you’re truly a music lover, then you’ll GO to the STORE and BUY this album -– the guys truly deserve it.


  • 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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