REVIEW: CIRCUS MAXIMUS – “Havoc”
Circus Maximus, “The Biggest Circus”, is back after a period of 4 years with their fourth album, Havoc, to create havoc. Circus Maximus have always been the talk of the metal industry since their debut album. Beginning as a cover band, the band attracted a lot of attention because of their own renditions of Dream Theater and Symphony X songs, and that’s what made the band unique. But if you’re a fan of Dream Theater, Symphony X and Circus Maximus, you’ll realize the band never really moved on, even when they released their own songs. No doubt that the band had its own sound, but it was also a rare combination of Dream Theater and Symphony X curated in a different and elegant way.
What has always been the most attractive aspect of progressive metal is the fact that it comprises so many genres and presents them in way that is exclusive and distinct to the band. Though some would say the initial albums of Circus Maximus were great, but they were Dream Theater inspired; there’s nothing wrong in that, every band is inspired by some bands; some even show that they have been influenced by certain bands, and Circus Maximus was one of them. Was, because with their third album ‘Nine’, the band started dropping the influences and were fully their own. That was the reason why ‘Nine’ was a stand-out album from the previous 2 albums and sounded more majestic.
‘Havoc’ is different in a way that the influences have been shifted. It doesn’t sound like reiterated rendition of Dream Theater, but the sound that is carried on like a baton from ‘Nine’. The best part of the album is the bassist Glenn Mollen: it is a bass driven-album. Glen Mollen has shown his exceptional talent as a bassist; just shows how much he loves his instrument, and how love can drive you beyond your limits. “Pages”, which has been released as a single, and “Highest Bitter” are the songs that gleam brightly in the album because of the magnanimous bass lines they entail.
Introducing the album with “The Weight”, Circus Maximus really show their best side by just being themselves: no influences attached. Another released single, “Havoc”, is a generic hard rock/heavy metal song infused with their own sound, but the album sticks on with each spin as it seems groovier than the last time; that’s the charm of ‘Havoc’. It doesn’t have many exceptional tracks as you might expect from the band of this level. Circus Maximus have drawn various influences in the album, like Metallica and Ayreon, and can be clearly heard. Intentionally or unintentionally, the band is stuck between influences and their distinctive sound; they just don’t know where the line is yet. And the oscillating pendulum keeps the fans in perplexive state as to where the band is heading. No doubt Circus Maximus is evolving with each album; when you have extremely talented vocalist like Michael Eriksen and guitarist like Mats Haugen, the band has to be one of the best bands of 21st centuries, and it is. The playful game between guitar and keyboard is also amiss this time.
But besides all the drawbacks, it is a musical masterpiece that one would expect from Circus Maximus, just not of the expectations the band is famous for. Mats Haugen’s solos are more melodic and the riffs in ‘Havoc’ are more vile, rough and eclectic. Michael Eriksen’s voice is soothing as usual; the prose-type singing in the title track is something definitely to look forward to; a contender of “Best Album of 2016” lists. If you haven’t heard of Circus Maximus yet, ‘Havoc’ is the album you should start with and then move to the other album. The band has a reputation, and no one can falter that growth. But if you are a Circus Maximus fan, it’ll be preferable to take a back seat in this; great album, but not Circus Maximus great.