“Circus Of Fools” is simply unbelievable. It’s remarkable how far MACHINE MEN have come since their early days of being just another melodic Power Metal band. With the release of “Circus Of Fools”, MACHINE MEN have established with a very powerful album that they are their own band and they aren’t going anywhere. This album is full of new tricks that the band has picked up along the way, the band is edgier, angrier, and more confident than ever. All of these new attributes are on full display with their third release – and not much can be argued here.
Musically, the band is getting a little heavier than previously heard. The rhythm guitars on “Circus Of Fools” really pack a rumbling punch, the riffs are also a lot more vicious then before – allowing the band to pick up a little speed and definitely a thrashy tone. The guitars play well off of one another and the riffing trade-offs are expertly done, while part of this focus on the riff and the structure of the music comes from the guitars pulling back from the melody. Not that the guitars have no melody – but the focus for the guitars is now the depth and vigor of the chord and riff structure.
The melody is graciously taken care of by the keyboards, which are less prominent than previously, with them taking a back seat (more of a back seat driver than anything) to the main structure. The bass and drums hold the melody and guitars together quite nicely while not stealing the show away but really becoming the glue that holds it all together. There are some musical moments I wasn’t expecting on the album too. Some of the ballad-ish songs use an acoustic guitar tone to them (“Where I Stand” for example) for one of the guitars – which although may not be the most Metal practice – gives the album decent variety and a good break from the pummel of normal guitars that are present on most of the other tracks.
Vocally, Toni is one of the most underrated and written off vocalists. Granted, he does have a remarkable resemblance to Bruce Dickinson (IRON MAIDEN) himself, the vocal patterns are moving further away from that “sounds just like” area towards a more recognizable and individual style. It is definitely an influence you can hear – but not some much a mistakable sound. He also varies his vocals with distortions in some songs, spoken parts, and even some choral parts with the rest of the band members, he is moving to his own sound now and it sounds as good as ever.
Lyrically, MACHINE MEN are brilliant writers focusing on more ambiguous lyrics with meanings that are straightforward but with messages that can be interpreted. “No Talk Without The Giant” is a great example of this. The “giant” is never referenced to what it exactly is – but your interpretation is up to that.
On a final note, one must still realize that this is a Power Metal band, there are moments of a little cheese here and there (although compared to most these guys are great at not getting too cheesy). But for Power Metal this is pretty aggressive material on “Circus Of Fools”. With this release, MACHINE MEN are definitely going to establish themselves as a potential in the Metal world – with good possibility of being the next big thing.
Songs to check out: “Circus Of Fools”, “No Talk Without The Giant”, “Where I Stand”.
(Online August 15, 2007)