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Circus Maximus - Isolate

Published Sept. 10 2007

=Staff's pick

A Darkened Mind*
Sane No More
Arrival Of Love
Mouth Of Madness*
From Childhood's Hour
Ultimate Sacrifice*

Genre Progressive Metal
Michael Eriksen
Tracks 9
Mats Haugen
Runningtime 55 Min.
Label Frontiers Records
Glen Cato Möllen
Release 31 Aug. 2007
Truls Haugen
Country Norway
Lasse Finbråten
Similar artists Dream Theater, Symphony X, Cloudscape

Circus Maximus is a Norwegian progressive metal outfit that was founded in 2000 by Michael Eriksen, Mats Haugen and Truls Haugen. Five years later they released the critically acclaimed debut album entitled The 1st Chapter. Personally I've only heard some excerpts from this album which I liked but didn't impress enough to buy the record. After several gigs and festival appearances they at the end of 2006 started working on the follow-up and now eight months later it's time for Isolate to see the light of day.

Isolate is a concept album with somewhat cloudy theme. The band members states that it's up to the listeners to interpret the story themselves but the basic concept deals with "how much you can loose until you go completely mad, and how much have lost when insanity finally embraces you". Musically it's progressive metal but with an own touch since they have included influences from hard rock and AOR, a fact that really shines through regarding the accessible melodies. The arrangements are superb and the LaBrie/Harnell-reminiscent vocals form Michael Eriksen fit their sound very well.

The album opens with A Darkened Mind which is a great power/progressive metal piece. It is smartly arranged with a calm beginning that makes the song really explode when the pace is picked up and the melodies come from everywhere on this one. The song that stuck the most on the first listening sessions was definitely Abyss. Mostly due to the fact that it has got the most accessible chorus on the entire album but apart from that it's also an intriguing composition in another aspect since it is heavy and dark during the verses but lightens up in the bridge and chorus. In the middle of the song they also have included a symphonic part that actually reminds me of Dimmu Borgir.

The two monster compositions on the album are without a doubt Mouth Of Madness (13 minutes) and Ultimate Sacrifice (9 minutes). Apart from the earlier mentioned Abyss these are definitely the highlights of Isolate. Despite the length of them they never get repetitive or boring because the compositions are varied and interesting all along the way. I also have to mention the beautiful ballad Zero. I am usually not a big fan of ballads but this one really sticks out as one of best I've heard lately.

Isolate is a brilliant record but not without flaws since there are couple of songs that doesn't have that certain magic as the best ones. Despite the fact that I've listened to the record more than ten times I'm still having trouble remembering these songs and that has lowered the grade a bit. But since 2/3 of the record is nothing but fantastic I can nothing but recommend it to all progressive/melodic metal fans out there.








7,5 chalices of 10 - Hawk

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