Circle II Circle - The Middle Of Nowhere
The Middle Of Nowhere is the follow up to the critically acclaimed debut Watching From Silence from Circle II Circle, a band that is perhaps mostly know for its singer that sang with Savatage for about eight years. Zak Stevens has now been joined by new band-members since the others left the band, and ironically joined forces with Savatage mastermind Jon Oliva for his solo-project. And according to the included info with this album, all focus seems to be on Zak instead of Circle II Circle as a band, making it seem like this is a solo album.
In This Life is a strong opener on the album with a mid-tempo pace and a powerful melody reminding of his past in Savatage. All That Remains picks up the pace a little and is heavier than what is usual for the band and Zak demonstrates his great voice and the huge range it holds as he sings with well-controlled power. Even though the mastermind Jon Oliva himself hasn't been involved like with the debut album Watching In Silence (2003), it is obvious where Zak has learned to write songs. His past is apparent and it has left its traces.
It is more of straightforward melodic hard rock on this album, it might also be heavier and more solid but is not as complex and it also starts to sound less of Savatage. And as it is moving away from Savatage, Circle II Circle also comes closer to the sound of Brainstorm, not only that there are a vocal likeness but also in the slower and mid-tempo tracks there are similarities.
With heavy riffing, while they keep a softer melodic touch with the music, the pounding bass and drums is what makes good flow. The band members might be new but they are sure able of making good music, like in the track Open Season where they get a melodic hard rock groove going, which makes my mind wonder towards Talisman. Even if it isn't as complex as earlier, there is of course one of those multiple vocal lines tracks on The Middle Of Nowhere as well. The title track holds a piano part and a might that is similar to the times when Zak was in Savatage and is followed by vocal parts that are not as great as the song Chance (Savatage - Handful Of Rain album from 1994) for instance, but nevertheless a highlight on the album.
It is definitely a heavier and a more compact album making it more even seen overall, but although Zak has learned from the master it is not as fascinating or innovative when he does it on his own. And the music is relying a bit too much on his voice to hold it all together at many times, and without the Oliva magic it tends to be partly running on fumes.