I feel a bit like a journalist right now, typing on my laptop in an expensive hotel in the far away land of Norway. Of course I’m not a journalist, and I don’t wish to pretend that I am. In fact, I was one of the 14 lucky winners of a competition, where I was to meet with one of my favourite bands, Circus Maximus, have dinner with them, and be the first to hear their new, long-awaited album. But I am excited, and I want to write! Forgive me if I am slack on grammar, I am too tired to care 🙂
Titled “Nine”, CM’s third album is ready for release no sooner than 5 years after their previous album, Isolate. Isolate is best described as highly melodic, synth-orientated prog rock and perfect for those who have an appetite for thorough-composed, classic prog music akin to Dream Theater’s “Images and Words”.
After enjoying a fat, juicy steak burger at Hard Rock Cafe with the band and my 13 co-winners (including a close friend who accompanied me to Norway) and discovering how delightfully nice company they were to have, we were all transported via Limo to a high end listening room (OK, I may have lied about the Limo). It was here I listened to what I would summarize as what will most definitely be one of the best progressive albums of 2012, and potentially a magnum opus for the Norwegian prog masters.
Unfortunately it is very difficult to give a realistic opinion on an album you have only heard once, on a state of the art system, alongside the band that wrote it. And it all went by so quickly. I can only give general thoughts and an idea of what you can expect.
What you can expect is a very different album to Isolate and The 1st Chapter. It is far more guitar-orientated than Isolate, though there are still layers of complex and atmospheric keyboards – I can only recall one keyboard ‘solo’. The first two songs were so unexpected that I wasn’t overly sure how I would feel about the album (though everyone else seemed sold) – this quickly resolved once I realized that I needed to throw away all my expectations.
I was immediately impressed with Mats’ guitar playing – I feel it has improved drastically in 5 years though he assured me he hasn’t been practicing much – rather, he approached the album with the intention of giving the guitar tracks more ‘edge’. This goes to show how important the music is to him rather than showing off his abilities, if he had refrained all that technical playing in Isolate. Somehow, he managed to shred and tap like crazy (with VERY clean playing) and still remain interesting, unique, and melodic.
The other stand out musician for me was Michael and his vocals. At first I was a little doubtful and surprised – the first two tracks used lower ranges and didn’t seem overly belting or powerful. It was soon I realized that this was probably intentional – Michael is using his powerful high register more sparingly, which gives it a lot more impact when it IS used, not to mention is probably far healthier for his vocal cords. There was so much detail in his singing, and a lot of emotion. I was seriously impressed. It gives Michael’s voice a character and an identity, rather than just being another fantastic belter.
Expect to hear a lot of Muse, Meshuggah, Opeth, and Kamelot influence in this album. At times I seriously felt like I was listening to Dream Theater at the top of their game. The band should take this as a huge compliment, I’ve very rarely had that feeling before. Despite the step up in progressive and hard rock nature, the choruses were mostly far more “euro-poppy”, too. Alyson Avenue springs to mind.
Ending thoughts? Fantastic album. Fantastic band behind it, too. I am eagerly awaiting the release of the album so that I can give it many more listens in many more sittings and form a more reliable opinion.