So far, Norway has not really been known for its Prog Metal scene. Enter CIRCUS MAXIMUS, a quality band which is about to give this scene up there in the north (and elswhere) a boost. Their debut album “The 1st Chapter” is shining with very good compositions, convincing both technically as well as with their catchiness.
The first thing you notice, already during the first listen, is the big influence DREAM THEATER must have had on CIRCUS MAXIMUS. Not only do certain parts remind you strikingly of DT songs, but the keyboards in particular (as for instance during the instrumental “Biosfear”) sound very much like those of their American peers. Nevertheless, CIRCUS MAXIMUS do have a character of their own and a sense for good songwriting, so you can’t just call them clones. After only a few listens, tracks like “Glory Of The Empire”, “Why Am I Here” or the title track proof to be real pearls. The songs are playful in general, but the right parts (such as the chorus) are incredibly catchy. What these Norwegians do, actually, is what DREAM THEATER seem to have lost on their recent outputs: they write really interesting songs that even after countless listens won’t bore you, songs that allow you to discover new details with every listen. As for my personal taste they could add yet some heaviness, but then again, the lack of it on DT’s “Images And Words” isn’t bothering anyone neither. Michael Eriksen’s voice is nice to listen to and its tone is somewhere between James LaBrie’s and Charlie Dominici’s (first DREAM THEATER singer), so we have another thumbs up there. The production, too, is alright, so basically there is hardly anything to complain about with “The 1st Chapter”.
Apart from the obvious similarity to their idols, CIRCUS MAXIMUS offer a really great debut. If the band continues like that and manages to develop a stronger identity of their own, they will quickly get themselves a respected and well known name in the scene. I strongly advise all Prog Metalheads to check this album out. No matter if you also like DREAM THEATER, ARENA or Prog Rock, give CIRCUS MAXIMUS a chance. You won’t regret.
Songs to check out: “Glory Of The Empire“, “Why Am I Here“... (Online January 2, 2006)