Circus Maximus: Havoc (Frontiers)
I'll admit I have come very late to the party in when Norwegian progressive metallers are concerned, having only recently discovered their charms, they have rapidly become one of my most played artists at MoM towers. So when I heard that the band were nearing the release of their fourth album then you can imagine that my palate became whetted. Circus Maximus are styled as progressive/power metal and this is true they do have songs that are complex and intricate but they also have a really knack of merging this with melody and an accessibility that will endear them to even the most avid anti-proggers. They move between power metal and melodic rock in an instant with everything meshing together flawlessly, The band have ramped up everything on this fourth record, the heavier parts are far heavier, the melodic parts of Havoc moving things occasionally into AOR territory, but overall the band play with enough virtuosity that they firmly stay as a progressive band just one that can write an accessible song.
Like all great album you have a journey with the early songs building until the final third where the band really raise their game to become more ambitious and impressive, this is reflected in the song times which go from around 5 minutes at the start of the album on The Weight which owes as much to Coheed And Cambria as it does to Dream Theater, before we get into the much longer songs like After The Fire which starts as dark, electronica before ramping up into a much heavier prospect that fuses the melodic stylings of Muse and more modern djent sounds. The band are all superb musicians Glenn Mollen's bass leads the off kilter rhythm on Highest Bitter and along with drummer Truls Haugen lends an industrial sound to the title track. In the treble sounds Mats Haugen's guitars are ever present in the bands sound, whether giving little flourishes over the rhythm on Pages or really rallying his mettle on After The Fire.
It's Lasse Finbråten's keys that lift this band up to another level though, adding the heartbreak to Loved Ones which has all the emotional punch of a 30 Seconds To Mars song, although clocking in at a longer time, while also giving an understated performance on Flames where the single keys add the extra dimension to the galloping rhythm once again bringing to mind Muse and also Von Hertzen Bros while also giving Remember a driving eurodance backbeat. A hearty well done too to vocalist Michael Eriksen who has a voice that can adapt to any of changes in the musical score. Havoc is another amazing album from Circus Maximus who are not your normal prog/power metal band they have a sound that makes them very special indeed, I just wish I'd discovered them earlier. I'm glad that Circus Maximus are still delivering the impressive music that first endeared me to them, with Havoc being the culmination of the bands career so far condensed into one fantastic disc. 10/10
Bombus: Repeat Until Death (Century Media)
Gothenburg natives Bombus are now on their third album and yes they will indeed repeat until death on this record. Having a similar style to Mastodon or Red Fang, Bombus play riff driven heavy metal with relentless power and stoner influences. The album opens with Eyes On the Price which has an almost dance like rhythm to it and hits you at full force from second one. Both the guitars and the vocals are shared by Feffe Berglund and Matte Säker and they make the bands sound, on the classic metal chug of Rust they fuse perfectly as Ola Henriksson rumbles away on the four strings. As I've said the Mastodon influence is huge most notably on Deadweight and Horde Of Flies but the band also have nods to fellow countrymen Mustasch with groove-laden riff fests and the husky vocals. The album is a bit odd in the middle section as it gets to I Call You Over (Hairy Teeth Part II) which is a slow burning ballad that does feel forced and a little out of place if I'm honest. The album title is a bit very apt, much of this album is very samey but if you are waiting for the new Mastodon record you could do worse than this. 6/10
Sunburst: Fragments Of Creation (Inner Wound)
No I've reviewed a lot of Greek metal on this blog and Greek power/prog metal is always of the highest quality, there does seem to be something about the country that always deals in top quality prog/power metal. Sunburst seem intent on carrying that flag forward and as the rampaging Out Of This World explodes out of the speakers with thundering blast beats from Outloud's Kostas Milonas and top quality riffage from Gus Drax who is also in symphonic metallers Black Fate along with singer Vasilis Georgiou. This is powerful progressive metal that owes as much to Symphony X and Fates Warning as it does to Kamelot or Serenity, Drax's guitar playing is excellent fluid and full of technicality but providing the songs with their melodic hook as he blazes up and down the fretboard on tracks such as the thumping mid-pace Dementia and the excellent Symbol of Life which powers away at 100mph and opens out into a huge melodic chorus. The melodic elements are bolstered by the keys of Outloud/Firewind ivory tinkler Bob Katsionis who plays on eight of the ten tracks, including the Herculean ballad Lullaby where he adds the stirring piano on a track that builds into a glorious chorus and a superb solo from Drax.
What I like about Sunburst is that they are progressive and do have a lot of lighter moments but mostly they are heavy as hell with Nick Grey's low bass rhythms driving songs such as End Of The Game, on Reincarnation which has Wylde-esque pinched harmonics and on the relentless instrumental Beyond The Darkest Sun listen past Drax's guitar clinic (which is hard I admit) and you hear Milonas destroying the drumkit. It's this heaviness that endears me to Sunburst as it reminds me a lot of Kamelot which is no bad thing, with the comparison completed by the resonant dramatic vocals of Georgiou who is a dead ringer for Kamelot's former singer Khan, of course there is also some Firewind in there because why wouldn't there be they are Greek after all? Fragments Of Creation is a strong debut album that gets better and better as it goes along, it's progressive, powerful and in places phenomenal and when the final 10 minute epic Remedy Of My Heart is over you want to do the whole thing again. A tremendous first effort from the Larissa natives I look forward to more soon. 8/10