Circus Maximus - The First Chapter
Indicative of a band that can do everything and does, this new Norwegian act come up a little fatiguing and rudderless, though impressive in small doses. The sound is a maelstrom of progressive metal maneuvers topped with hair band keyboards and hair band vocals. That is a blunt generalization, but it captures the vibe here - daunting, modern, chunky Dream Theater-styled heaviness icing sugared by Dan Swano's elegant Nightingale which in turn hearkens back to Saga and GTR. Planet X comes to mind as well, given the synthesized funk madness of the thing, as does Symphony X, Romeo's circular geometrics embedded in songs like Why Am I Here. The artwork captures that sort of Hugh Syme/Marillion sincerity and sanitization of purpose as well. Rating this any lower than a 7 is an insult to the band's instrumental and production mastery - weird, but there's a floor to records like this - Circus Maximus will have to start from that floor and work their way brave and humanly flawed and enigmatically away from the cliches, much the way Pain Of Salvation has.
Dew-Scented - Issue IV
If you're looking for that bridge between recent Destruction and Kreator, and the work of middle-agers like The Haunted, Arch Enemy and The Crown, then Germany's Dew-Scented fit that tight, hair-splitting bill. Distinguishing the band are the hollowed-out, lower-throated, exasperated, aerated vocals of Leif Jensen, and really not much else, except that the band has included a greater amount of groovier, slower passages on this, the band's sixth album. Production is... ack! What's to say anymore about production? This sounds ProTooled to death, not a bad thing, just... there's nothing odd to point out, except the vague generality that Dew-Scented have chosen the very bright, coldly-hitting end of the spectrum, with a snare tuned so tight it sounds like it's gonna snap. Out of about 30 albums o'er the last 24 months that thrash with spirit, riff with brains, and rhythm with a cogent cross between precision and abandon, this is certainly one of them.
Hard Reviews Page 4