Callenish Circle - Forbidden Empathy
Melodic death/melodic doom metal
Disc 1: 15 songs (68'11") Disc 2: 14 songs (76'42")
Release year: 2005
Callenish Circle, Candlelight
Reviewed by Alex

I often felt that Dutch metallers Callenish Circle always got the short end of the stick. I am quite sure that the majority of the US fans and quite a bit of them in Europe count the beginning of the band with 2002 Metal Blade release Flesh_Power_Dominion. This band’s history is somewhat of an unknown thus legitimizing all the reviews describing how Callenish Circle jumped on At The Gates/The Haunted bandwagon with their death/thrash metal on Flesh_Power_Dominion. The truth is the band evolved into it starting to play melodeath in the early 90s. I was one of the lucky few to pluck 1999 Graceful … Yet Forbidding from eBay some time ago, but I wouldn’t pretend to know anything about Callenish Circle history before then. With the 2CD retrospect Candlelight release Forbidden Empathy the band has a chance to pool all of their earlier recordings together and set the record straight.

You can listen to Forbidden Empathy any way you want to, in order of how the discs are, or backwards, starting with the end of Disc 2. Everything that the band ever released before signing with Metal Blade is here: 5 track 1995 Lovelorn demo, 1996 full-length debut Drift of Empathy on Hammerheart Records (which relied on the demo tracks quite a bit), 1998 MCD Escape on the little known Polar Bear Records and 1999 Graceful … Yet Forbidding, the album I have, but the one whose unlucky fate almost destroyed the band. The album was released on DSFA Records for Benelux and picked up by Edgerunner Records for the rest of Europe. DSFA financial troubles ultimately deprived the album of the proper distribution.

Listening to Forbidden Empathy I understood that when Callenish Circle got started they were quite a bit into melodic doom. Slough of Despond, Disguised Ignorance and The Dreamers Path from the Lovelorn demo rely quite heavily on guitar producing noodly doom riffs, overriding brooding melodies, sprinkles of piano and ever present Patrick Savelkoul’s very low intelligible growls very reminiscent of Nick Holmes. You can safely say that young Callenish Circle were solid Paradise Lost fans. Drift of Empathy built up on this melodoom foundation bringing pieces of Gothenborg style into equation. Where the Moon Meets the Sea bounces between slower dark melodic character and jumpy Maidenish riffs adding a mid-Eastern leaning lead into the mix. Mental Affection has a supercatchy classic riff, and the opener Inner Sense borrows from Death with its progressive guitar twists. Patrick’s vocals remain largely growls, but here and there spoken dejected phrases are used adding to the feel of sadness and despondency.

Moving on to Graceful … Yet Forbidding I have to say that Callenish Circle always possessed a very noticeable sad and melancholic edge. Their music has as much to do with Amorphis Tales from the Thousand Lakes as with In Flames Jester Race. Finnish melodic death metal bands are always able to combine somber melodies with their riffs (Amorphis, Sentenced, Insomnium), and Callenish Circle excels at this trait as well. Graceful … Yet Forbidding steps up the speed significantly (No Reason, Forgotten). No longer wallowing in doom, Ronny Tyssen and Jos Evers on guitars shred and glide, but the band remembers to be slower and sensible. Guitar leads, just as Patrick’s growls, remain tortured efforts (chorus of Broken, No Reason). Patrick adds higher pitch shrieks to his repertoire, and they sound just as passionate as his growls are tormented. Callenish Circle manages to come up with some extremely memorable riffs, as I claim that opening riff of Beyond is no worse than Moonshield and the verse of Broken is on par with Jotun. Gavin Harte on drums, another band’s mainstay along with Patrick and Ronny Tyssen, now propels the band sound, having upgraded from being somewhat mechanical on Escape. Without his double bass the lead on Forgotten would not sound as a distorted flute and tremolo melody of Oppressed Natives would not be as sharp cutting. Tempo changes and speed turned up, moody melancholic moments are still some of the best music nuggets Callenish Circle come up with (Silent Tears, chorus of Broken). Outro Alone again incorporates piano which sounds very epic, especially when drums kick in.

It feels to me that when signed to Metal Blade with Flesh_Power_Dominion, the band pointedly made a decision to streamline and shorten their compositions. They wanted their songs to be more to the point and hard hitting, and thus the slight change of sound. In my review of Callenish Circle latest My Passion Your Pain I tried to speculate on how heavier At The Gates/The Crown chords blended in well with melodic leads and the band’s trademark dark and gloomy attitude. It is going to be quite interesting to see where the next full-length, coming out sometime in 2005, will take Callenish Circle.

Meanwhile, if you call yourself a melodic death metal fan you have to possess at least Graceful … Yet Forbidding. As I am not going to sell you mine, and evilBay is going to run you very high, Forbidden Empathy is your best bet. In addition to the aforementioned hidden gem of an album you will get another dozen songs or so, all rare, which should upgrade you from a fan to a Gothenborg metal junkie. From what I see on the promo sheet the price of this release is very economical and Candlelight is doing us all a favor bringing this collection to light. At the very least, now we all should know that Callenish Circle has been composing Gothenborg style music at about the same time or only a few years later In Flames and Dark Tranquillity came out with their landmark releases. Let’s count the Dutchmen among the Gothenborg pillars and give them their long deserved overdue.

Killing Songs :
Out of 29 tracks there are lots to choose from so I have to be judicious: Beyond, Broken, Shadows of the Past, Where the Moon Meets the Sea
Alex quoted 82 / 100
Other albums by Callenish Circle that we have reviewed:
Callenish Circle - [Pitch.Black.Effect.] reviewed by Al and quoted 68 / 100
Callenish Circle - My Passion Your Pain reviewed by Alex and quoted 92 / 100
Callenish Circle - Flesh_Power_Dominion reviewed by Danny and quoted 80 / 100
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