Circus Maximus - Isolate
Sensory Records
Progressive Metal
9 songs ()
Release year: 2007
Sensory Records
Reviewed by Ben

This second album from Norway’s Circus Maximus is a nugget of pure gold. Isolate recalls some of the finest moments of bands like Queensryche, TNT, and yes, Dream Theater in a seemingly effortless display of high caliber musicianship. The nine songs pressed on this piece of plastic roll out of the speakers with a fluid, graceful, motion that so many bands yearn to capture yet will never attain and definitely not with a sophomore release. What I find most endearing about this band is their strong slant towards AOR territory. When I heard their song Alive for the first time I was blown away. Here is the best melodic rock song of 2005, on a prog metal disc. The progressive side of the band was the sort that showed off their chops on their respective instruments but was restrained enough to as not become annoying. But still, like the AOR fans that are drawn to the band, prog fans can’t help but become enamored with the lightning fast shredding of Mats Haagen or the ultra clear and passionate voice of Michael Eriksen. As powerful as James LaBrie from Images And Words this guy is one of those natural singers akin to Daniel Heiman and Hubi Meisel. For album number two, Circus Maximus decide to write a concept album, which in all honesty, doesn’t exactly thrill me too much. Thankfully, the story is well thought out and explained thoroughly in the lyrics and liner notes. While being interesting in nature (going from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other in the most extreme fashions) the music can stand alone. Each song is strong enough that knowledge of the story is not required to take in the full effect of the music.

A Darkened Mind is where I got my Queensryche comparison from. It begins the album with a punchy riff that segues into a climbing orchestral buildup before Michael’s crystal clear voice cuts through the music and causes the listener to stand upright. Instantly, I noticed that he has much more control over his abilities than he did on The First Chapter. He can move from note to note with perfect precision and is really quite a treat to hear. A pure, powerful, prog metal track that gets the disc going in the right fashion. Abyss is a bit more complex than A Darkened Mind in the music department. Here the guys go off on a good stretch of soloing that doesn’t become redundant. Wither slows the tempo down and is a half ballad of sorts. It is very dark in nature despite the happy sounding melodies that seem to pop up near the end. When they do they are drenched by an overall feeling of sorrow that drowns any sense of uplifting emotion. Arrival Of Love and From Childhood’s Hour are the two melodic rockers on Isolate and my personal favorites. Arrival Of Love sounds like a tribute to Pretty Maids and TNT while From Childhood’s Hour is more of a power ballad with huge harmonies.

Isolate shows Circus Maximus ponying up the goods. They have become stronger in all the right categories and have created a blend of music that appeals to so many senses. Technical precision that is razor sharp combined with an arena rock melodic sensibility has never sounded sweeter. Just like Redemption’s Fullness Of Time and Sonata Arctica’s Silence, Isolate will be this band’s high water mark to reach for the rest of their careers.

Killing Songs :
Arrival Of Love, This Darkened Mind, From Childhood's Hour
Ben quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Circus Maximus that we have reviewed:
Circus Maximus - Havoc reviewed by Joel and quoted 82 / 100
Circus Maximus - Nine reviewed by Thomas and quoted 79 / 100
Circus Maximus - The 1st Chapter reviewed by Alex and quoted 78 / 100
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