Circus Maximus- Havoc
FFO- Progressive Rock, Progressive Metal, AOR
Norway's Circus Maximus is a band whose light has been shining brighter and brighter since their debut album, The 1st Chapter hit back in 2005. Since then the band has gone through a major change as well that made it's first appearance with 2012's Nine. Instead of going full on progressive metal, the band explored much more into what makes the band tick. Exploring melodies, harmonies, and styles you don't see often in the prog world, which is of course, poppy, more mainstream moments. Havoc, despite having a very metal name, is not as metal as you would imagine. In all honesty, that is what makes the album shine.
The albums tarts with the first single, The Weight, which is quite polarizing for some fans. The organ driven, Led Zepplin's Kashmir style intro riff leads into a very melodic verse and overall melodic song. It almost have a Muse/Coheed And Cambria vibe to it as well. The middle section is where the prog begins to shine with a very technical and beautiful guitar solo that leads into a great prog instrumental section. Overall, a great choice for a potential radio single. Highest Bitter begins with a very Chris Cornell style vocal style with a proggy breakdown style that continues throughout the song. A dark song overall that would have fit well as a song from Dream Theater's Awake album. Without question the title track, Havoc is the most polarizing song on the album. You are either in for the ride or not. It is the song that is undoubtedly the poppiest and top 40 style. If you can't appreciate radio rock in anyway, just skip the song. If you can appreciate top 40 rock, there is a lot to like about the song and it makes you wish that more bands would sound like this on said stations. I know I wouldn't be disappointed. Pages sounds like a loving tribute to Lighting Shadows Off A Dream by Dream Theater. While being overall heavier than said song, the style brings out those great memories. The Instrumental sections are absolutely fantastic. A very mystical sounding song that works great in the middle. Flames starts with an opening keyboard and drum fill before leading into a guitar riffing and vocal melodies that remind you of U2. This is more of what the average CM fan would be hoping for in a poppy song from the band, poppy, yet filled with prog moments. A very beautiful song that I'm sure will sound fantastic live. Loved Ones is BY FAR the best song on the album. A very loving tribute to those that we love in our lives. This has everything that a CM fan could want in a song. Soaring vocals, the right amount of prog, majestic instrumentation and musicianship. It can really bring a tear to your eye. After The Fire starts with a bouncy keyboard line that hearkens you back to Pain Of Salvation's Remedy Lane album mixed with Matt Bellamy vocal melodies. This is carried throughout the songs as one of the proggy slower to midtempo numbers. This song proves that Circus Maximus didn't fully abandon their prog roots. Remember is another poppy tune that is filled with happy sounding keyboards and a very upbeat and uplifting feel throughout. The solo section is one of the coolest moments on the album. The whole song would have been cool enough to end on and give you that rise up and cheer moment, but alas, there's one last song. Chivalry is the song that is not like the others, but unlike The Electric Company, this song DOES belong. It starts off very ominous and sounds far away, it slowly builds up to become fully audible about a quarter of the way in and leads to the best chorus on the album. Slower to midtempo in speed, yet absolutely gorgeous. The instrumentation to this song working the way it does. and makes the very end of the song one of the highlights of the entire journey and makes the whole ride, that is Havoc, worth it.
Havoc is going to be a polarizing album for the band. Dream Theater's Falling Into Infinity as a great example. While it still features moments of what brought you into the band. it showcases some moments you never would have expected. Surprisingly pop friendly moments, shorter track lengths and what may or may not be, an attempt to reach a new audience. You either enjoy the ride or you hate it. For myself. I have listened to the album every day since I received the promo and enjoy it more with each listen. If you are looking for The 1st Chapter or Isolate, you won't find it here. If you enjoyed Nine, you will find something to love about the album. Havoc proves that there doesn't need to be boundaries between prog, metal and pop, good music is good music!
Circus Maximus- Havoc, available NOW through Frontiers Records