It has been way too long from Circus Maximus last release. But finally, after the great album “Isolate” in 2007, the band comes back 5 years later with their new Masterpiece “Nine”. Again with the same label “Frontier Records” but with a different producer and trying also a different sound.
Circus Maximus was always a prog band in which you could hear the influences from the prog giants like Dream Theater and Symphony X but also giving an AOR touch to it with influences like Toto, which all together give the band a unique sound. I think that this album is still very proggy but the pop or AOR sound is much more obvious, so some will like it and some not. Something that is also remarkable is the production; it is really stunning how clearly you can hear everything.
1. “Forging”: the first track of the album is one minute and some seconds long so you can’t say much about it, it has some dark keyboards in it building the suspense for the next track.
2. “Architect of fortune”: This is really the first track of the album and it has everything an open minded prog fan could ask, from atmospheric moments to more riff driven moments to tempo changes. Even if it is ten minutes long this track is so exiting that you can’t realize how fast the track is over.
3. “Namaste”: this song demands some respect from their more metal fans. The bass and drums at the beginning punch you right in t he face and the great refrain makes you want to listen to the song again and again.
4. “Game Of Life”: This is melodic metal that we are used to from Circus Maximus. This is why we love them; they combine melodic playing with more complex playing, Eriksen shows us what he can do with his great voice and Mats Haugen melts our face off with his amazing solo. For me it is also the track that they should have as single-track.
5. “Reach Within”: the single of the album. This song has the very interesting quality of feeling heavy and soft at the same time. While Michael Eriksen gently sings the verse, the bass line pounds beneath, and creates an interesting contrast. The track is a bit radio-friendly but with a prog feel and again a great melodic guitar solo.
6. “I Am”: This song has the most pop feel from all the other songs especially in the beginning but it balances later on with odd time signatures and a cool unison between guitars and keys.
7. “Used”: The intro of the song feels like Symphony X, which makes you want to hangbang right away. Again the band amazes with the time signature changes. Every time you think you know where the band is heading with a song, they surprise you.
8. “The One”: The opening to this song tricks you into thinking it’s an “I’m sorry” type of song, but it abruptly changes to a more stern/angry tone that will have you banging your head in agreement. Again, Lasse Finbraten’s keyboards add some great atmosphere to the song that makes the difference between good and excellent.
9. “Burning After Reading”: the band left us 2 epics for the end. This one, for me, is one of the best songs the band has written and the best for this album. The song begins with some acoustic guitars, almost a muse feeling, many dynamic changes just as you think things are going to get loud, they pull back again, teasing the listeners. Great instrumental sections, amazing harmonies by Eriksen and closing with an epic guitar solo followed by an epic melody on the keys.
10. “Last Goodbye”: Another brilliant epic. The song starts off with some keyboard sounds that are a very, very unusual sound for this band – I can only describe it as a spacey-80’s sound. As the song’s title suggests, this song is a last goodbye to an old friend. Very emotional song and great meaning in the lyrics. Perfect closer.