Circus Maximus - Havoc

Circus Maximus Havoc cover
Circus Maximus
Frontiers Music Srl
Circus Maximus is once more back with their fourth release, a band that has been hotly touted as a brand new hope for the prog/power metal genre in the past few years. Some four years have passed since “Nine” and if one’s been wondering if the band has changed significantly, I suppose, they haven’t really, at least not to a degree beyond what normal album to album progression might be all about. The basis for their sound is the better qualities of what made bands like Dream Theater and Symphony X great, but they seem to be a lot more refined than either of these two bands in their approach. Also for an album called “Havoc”, well this is probably a little softer, than what you might be setup to expect, I guess…
Shifting further and further away from their initial DT worship, the band has been coming into a character of their own and “Havoc” is no different. One of the things that jumps out, even after a single play through, is how rhythmically driven the album largely is. Glenn Mollen and Truls Haugen, on bass and drums respectively, make quite a team and the whole album feels almost driven by the groovy ideas in a lot of parts.
Kicking off with “The Weight”, in which a few early “Theaterisms” are present, but not to the point of making the track a tribute, but sounding like the early era of Theater is a notable influence; the track is quite likable without having to try too hard to vie for attention.
“Highest Bitter” is darker, but thankfully it manages to manifest the elements of elegy, in a way that’s not too bittersweet or sort of pretentious. It manages the atmosphere, without needing to employ too “minor” keys and such to do so, which is a plus.
The title track is a little weirder, with sung prose, as lyrics and a really modern and heavy sound, feeling more like a semi industrial-neo rock metal track… it’s not exactly my favorite, but obviously the driven nature makes it stand out.
“Pages” is the chosen single and feels like a grungier, more eastern sounding version of “Highest Bitter”… probably employing some guitar/key bittersweet melo-dies to work itself into memory, but not neglecting to have some nice leads or a proggier section, just to make sure that things don’t get too one sided.
I’d probably say that “Flames” feels a little better for a single selection, as it’s a little shorter and even more melodic and lighthearted… almost bringing to mind some prog-pop crossover songs/bands.
A couple of eight minute tracks follow “Loved Ones” and “After the Fire”. The former with a more traditional approach, seemed to me like a mix of Theater and Muse, with a bit of 70s pomp thrown in and some heavier latter day Theater experimentation, while the latter is a lot more dramatic and dynamically changing from softer forms to more dynamic ones, in a way that could best be described as quite volatile. Gotta love the solo though. Quite brilliant.
Remember” has an enjoyable rhythm and a cool chorus that clears the tense atmosphere after the previous two more involved tunes, with its lighter tone.
Lastly, “Chivalry” goes on for a couple of minutes very softly and drawing from a multitude of modern (mostly) sources, with a couple of rather simple melodies reoccurring through most of its duration.
“Loathe” is a bonus track, which sort of throws all of the influences in the pot, resulting in a quite tense and dramatic number that’s probably one of the most prog moments of the album, but not necessarily the best.
Also in the “deluxe” edition a second CD is added containing the entire (?) 2012 Loudpark performance of the band in Japan, which sounds mixed quite OK, but quite too perfectly captured… who knows, they’re definitely a band that could have pulled it off, but I just dunno.
All in all, “Havoc” is a pretty good album by the band with more and more originality showing, but while quite good, it’s not their most excellent or defining. I’m not saying that to scoff the band, but to probably denote that they do have their best ahead of them. A band well worth of keeping more than one eye out for…