I guess Frontiers Records is best known for their high quality releases of melodic (hard) rock bands. Night Ranger, Harem Scarem, Tyketto, House Of Lords; all bands I like and respect. These are just a few mentions from their huge back catalogue. A number of years back the label embraced progressive music and started to release top notch progressive bands; Vanden Plas, Royal Hunt and Operation Mindcrime all found a home with the Italian label. In other reviews I will write about bands like DGM, Withem and Seventh Wonder, but today Havoc by Norwegian progressive metallers Circus Maximus will be discussed.
Havoc is the fourth album of Circus Maximus; a band that has a steady line up; vocalist Michael Eriksen and the brothers Mats Haugen and Truls Haugen; guitars and drums stood at the cradle of the band, together with bass player Glenn Møllen. Only keyboard player Lasse Finbråten joined the band before the release of Circus Maximus' previous album; Nine. (2012, see review). Where the previous albums had a heavy progressive vibe, Havoc kind of takes a turn, musically. The influence of the keyboards have grown and the compositions show the more melodic rock side of Circus Maximus. Does that mean this album is less interesting? No, absolutely not! The shift to more accessible music, shorter songs and AOR influences will lead to a more varied kind of listeners and for the progressive fans, there still is a lot to explore on Havoc. Listen to the eight minutes lasting Loved Ones, a song that starts as a smooth bombastic melodic song, but the addition of an almost eighties pop sounding midsection and the heavy guitar part, that really is way too short, gives the song something special. Another influence comes from the alternative side of music, Circus Maximus wants to take a bite of that genre as well. Highest Bitter is a nice example of this style, but still the band manages to incorporate the progressive element to this song, which makes it interesting to listen to the music. The album's longest track After The Fire blends the vocal style of Muse to this keyboard driven composition. Half way the track the guitars become more dominant, resulting in some powerful riffs and some nice solos. Although the guitars sound great, the keyboards are the main instrument on the track. I guess that is another thing regarding Havoc, the strong guitars that impressed on previous releases, is way less present on the new album, in favour of layers of melodic, sometimes bombastic keyboards. A strong point is that the bands holds a still recognizable Scandinavian style of progressive music.
With the release of Havoc, Circus Maximus might add a number of new fans; the ones that like the more accessible side of progressive rock. Also fans of radio friendly alternative rock will absolutely find music of their liking on the album. On the other hand, the progressive metal aficionados that loved The 1rst Chapter, Circus Maximus debut album from 2005 will certainly have to take some extra time and spins to find songs that relate to the amazing debut album. In the end the mixed feelings remain, I loved the Nine album for the delicate Dream Theater references, dearly missed here. On the other hand I do like the more melodic rock approach and the addition of the alternative side. Anyway, what still stands out are the beautiful compositions on Havoc and the fabulous way the songs are presented, and that is what counts.
The special edition of Havoc is presented as a double CD, packed in a nice digipack and contains Circus Maximus live performance from their 2012 concert at LOUD Park Japan.
**** Pedro Bekkers (edited by Astrid de Ronde)
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