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(58:32, 10t Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Overture 8:07 2. Daddy's Gone 5:57 3. Whosit, Whatsit and Which 6:34 4. Make Way for the Big Show 8:42 5. Tesseract 5:20 6. Uriel 5:51 7. Camazotz 6:22 8. Ixchel 4:39 9. The Battle for Charles Wallace 7:00 LINEUP: David Bobick – vocals David Silver – keyboards John Fontana – guitars; keyboards Matt Masek – bass, guitars; cello; vocals Jason Brower – drums, percussion; vocals Roo Brower – vocals
Prolusion. The US band SHADOW CIRCUS was formed by John Fontana back in 2006, and made their debut the following year with "Welcome to the Freakroom". Sophomore effort "Whispers and Screams" came next in 2009, and towards the end of 2012 the band signed to the US label 10tRecords for the release of their third album "On a Dark and Stormy Night", their most recent production at the time of writing.
Analysis. Shadow Circus is the kind of band that will have a fairly broad appeal I suspect. Not due to the music being easily accessible and made with broad appeal in mind, but due to the manner in which they mix and blend different types of music into their compositions. Their latest one comes in a package that will interest many progressive rock fans from the onset: a striking, high quality cover art, and inside the package we're presented with a 9-part conceptual creation clocking in at just under an hour in length. Shadow Circus mentions quite a few and rather different bands as inspirational to their endeavors. Details and glimpses of most of them is present too in one manner or another: Yes, ELP, Rush, Genesis, Led Zeppelin, Queen and Pink Floyd are the bands mentioned, and right from the onset, following a suitably dramatic orchestral opening movement, a guitar and bass driven escapade that should find favor with fans of 70's Rush kicks off quite nicely. Sporting an organ overlay of the kind that fans of bands such as Genesis should find intriguing I surmise. Elsewhere compact guitar riff constructions bring Led Zeppelin to mind and flamboyant keyboard details of the kind that automatically bring the likes of Yes and ELP to mind can easily be found, a nifty vocal sequence towards the end is a calling card that should sound familiar to fans of Queen, while the somewhat gloomy overall sound of this album catering quite nicely for the Pink Floyd reference. But the recurring feature throughout, as far as associations go, is Genesis. Not that Shadow Circus is a band that first and foremost explores that particular sound, but due to recurring whimsical symphonic movements as well as lead vocals and organ combinations that come rather naturally with associations to that band, as details utilized within a rather more expansive framework. The general style of this production does reside within symphonic progressive rock, but Shadow Circus has opted to blend the various details from their inspirational sources within a rather more contemporary sounding whole. Harder edged, dark toned guitars are a central feature throughout, both as standalone motif providers as well as in combination with or as a contrasting element to keyboard arrangements varying in degree and intensity. Dark, gloomy atmospheric interludes have as much space as majestic arrangements and massive, powerful themes, and fairly often Shadow Circus does approach a style closer to progressive metal too. Perhaps most of all on the stunning instrumental Tesseract, but toned down, metal-oriented riff constructions are a commonly used part of the proceedings from the onset. There's also room for compositions with a gentler touch however, Daddy's Gone as good an example of that as anything, and fairly complex instrument arrangements placed well outside of styles previously mentioned make the occasional appearance too, the opening sequences of Camazotz documenting this quite nicely. The end result is a strong production through and through. As mentioned this album is basically a single composition divided into nine different parts, and this is a case of each of these parts just as interesting as standalone items as they are as parts of the whole.
Conclusion. "On a Dark and Stormy Night" is a well made album of symphonic progressive rock, a production that manages to combine the legacy of the classic bands with a contemporary variety of this type of music, set within a framework that also stretches towards progressive metal in style. An album that should find favor with fans of bands like Magic Pie as well as with those whose scope of interest covers the golden age of symphonic progressive rock just as much as today's harder edged, metal inspired variety of it.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: September 15, 2013
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