Circus Maximus – Isolate

By Mike Maher

This album is excellent. I am a self proclaimed Circus Maximus fan boy, so I am sure that I am slightly biased in my review of this stupendous, unbelievable, epic, mind-blowing, life altering, masterpiece of progressive metal music….but seriously, this is a damn fine album. For those of you who have been living under a rock since 2005, when their debut album The 1st Chapter was released, Circus Maximus is a melodic progressive metal band from Oslo, Norway. They have been to the USA twice for appearances at the world renowned ProgPowerUSA festival and played at several major European festivals. If you haven’t done so yet, go read my interview with vocalist Mike Eriksen on this website here.

Ok, Isolate gives us 9 tracks, one being an instrumental (“Sane No More”) and two longer songs (“Mouth of Madness” and “Ultimate Sacrifice”) , 12+ and 9+ minutes respectively. No 20+ minute epic along The 1st Chapterlines here. Oh well! The album is a concept album, described by the band as a journey through a man’s mind, where the listener follows the central character’s life story.

Circus Maximus seem to have perfected the melodic progressive metal style, with just the right mix of guitars, drums, bass, and keyboards. Add to that the outstanding vocal talent of Mr. Eriksen and you get a contender for album of the year. Glen, Truls, Mike and Mats all show us that The 1St Chapter was no fluke, and as a band are getting even better with the addition of keyboardist Lasse Finbraten, who replaced Espen Store in early 2006. Anyone familiar with their previous effort will know what I’m talking about when I say that the keyboards were an essential part of the band’s sound, and we were treated to some great solos and piano interludes on The 1St Chapter. Lasse fills Espen’s shoes quite well, really bringing the melody, and you’d think he was with the band from day one.

Now, on to the music, right? Anyone who has read my previous reviews will have noticed that I try to say what I like, what I don’t like, and don’t really go for the song by song approach. I feel that takes up a lot of space and the listener can discover the meanings of the 2nd verse in the 3rd track on their own. But I am going to comment a bit on each track here, because the album is exceptionally well done. The intro starts out slow and then, BOOM, right into a nice fast and hard song with “A Darkened Mind.” “Abyss” and “Wither” have great melodies and vocals. “Arrival of Love” has an awesome sound that you can’t help but sing along with. It’s one of those “drive fast with the windows down” songs. “Zero” is slower with awesome solo guitar accompanying Mike’s vocals. “Mouth of Madness” bears the now signature Circus Maximus sound: melodies, solos and vocals.“From Childhood’s Hour” is another slower song that has probably the best chorus on the album. “Ultimate Sacrifice” is a fitting end to the album concept and ends the album with the words “this is my destiny!” Prophetic? I think as long as Circus Maximus churns out music of this quality, this is their destiny…to become kings of the genre.

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