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On disc: Circle II Circle



Watching In Silence - Claudia Ehrhardt - 9 stars
All That Remains - Claudia Ehrhardt - 8 stars
The Middle Of Nowhere - Claudia Ehrhardt - 9 stars
Revelations - Claudia Ehrhardt - 7 stars
Burden Of Truth - Claudia Ehrhardt - 7 stars
Delusions Of Grandeur - Claudia Ehrhardt - 8 stars
Consequence Of Power - Claudia Ehrhardt - 8 stars
Full Circle - Claudia Ehrhardt - 9 stars


www.circle2circle.net







Full Circle

Full Circle
(AFM Records - 2012)


Savatage always had a lot of fans, but if you want to hear the voice of Savatage's Handful Of Rain or Dead Winter Dead albums now, you have to listen to Circle II Circle. In 2003 the first Circle II Circle album Watching In Silence came out and in 2010 Consequence Of Power hit the stores and was their 5th full-length album. Now a compilation called Full Circle is coming out and it is a great way to check out Circle II Circle as it has songs from all albums.

The double CD is sold for the price of regular CD and so it's a good way to get an overlook of the first decade of Circle II Circle - next year it's 10 years since Watching In Silence came out. Very often you get just the regular album versions, but Zak wants to give a bit more and so all songs got remastered and he decided to add something special - live versions, some acoustic stuff and an edited version of Every Last Thing, a song which offers counterpart vocals la Savatage. But not all songs have a Savatage-sque sound, so the compilation shows all facets of the Circle II Circle sound.

Even fans should consider to get Full Circle, coz the live and acoustic versions haven't been released before, it's a little gift to the Circle II Circle fans!



Track list:

CD 1:
01. All That Remains
02. Who Am I To Be
03. Consequence Of Power
04. Watching In Silence
05. Dead Of Dawn
06. Into The Wind
07. In This Life
08. Out Of Nowhere
09. Revelations
10. Blood Of An Angel
11. Heal You
12. Open Season
13. Echoes
14. Out Of Reach
15. Forgiven
16. Redemption

CD 2:
01. Every Last Thing (edit)
02. The Circle
03. Sentenced
04. Take Back Yesterday
05. The Middle Of Nowhere
06. Soul Breaker
07. Darkness Rising
08. Into The Wind (acoustic)
09. Shadows
10. Symptoms Of Fate
11. Stay
12. Watching In Silence (live)
13. Burden Of Truth (acoustically enhanced)
14. Against The World
15. Evermore (live)
16. Strung Out


9 stars

Claudia Ehrhardt
 

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Consequence Of Power

Consequence Of Power
(AFM Records - 2010)


With Consequence Of Power Zak Stevens and Circle II Circle present their 5th album. Drummer Tom Drennan is no longer in the band and got replaced by former Dr. Butcher drummer John 'Ozzy' Osborn. Guitarist Bill Hudson who replaced Evan Christopher only stayed for a short period and didn't got replaced, so Andy Lee is handling the all guitars now.

This time Zak Stevens and Circle II Circle offer a concept album which tells the story about someone getting into the machinery of political interests and organized crime.

Musically CIIC still offer power metal with heavy riffs and some catchy hooklines. The songs are vary in speed, so you get everything from balladesque rocker to fast tracks. On Consequence Of Power CIIC combine power metal and rock guitar, some songs really carry the vibe of late 70's / early 80's rock. Especially at instrumental passages guitarist Andy Lee seems to break free, but it seems to happen at every song and so is you start to expect it. On of the tracks sticking out is Episodes Of Mania which hopefully will make it onto the set list of upcoming shows. Redemption is carried by a Savatage-sque riff, but is less bombastic then Stevens' former band. Andy Lee's guitar riffs aren't as heavy, lack the aggressiveness you would find in a Savatage song. At Take Back Yesterday it seems to me that too much happens at a time... The guitars partly seem to take away the attention from the vocals - and then there is the keyboard joining in, too. At Anathema they manage better and so this is another highlight of Consequence Of Power.

Fans who didn't really get into Burden Of Truth might have the same problem with Consequence Of Power, but I think this time the album is better balanced. Partly I would like to have the vocals a bit more up-front.... But that's more a matter of taste. The new Circle II Circle will need time to grow and I guess live the songs can convince critics, so give it a try.


8 stars

Claudia Ehrhardt
 

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Delusions Of Grandeur

Delusions Of Grandeur
(AFM Records - 2008)


With Delusions Of Grandeur former Savatage singer Zak Stevens presents the 4th album with Circle II Circle. At their last album Burden Of Truth the guitars were a bit too prominent for me... Let's see what they have to offer this time!

They open up with the fast Fatal Warning, a very heavy track with complex guitar parts. Not that heavy, but still heavy is Dead Of Dawn. Tempi changes and a melancholy edge make this differ from the opener. Partly the fast drumming of Tom Drennan is forcing them ahead, but then they present a mid-paced part with a great guitar lead part. The song ends with a short acoustic guitar passage. A bit more straight forward is Forever which is a riff-based power metal tune with a catchy hook. Piano opens up Echoes and brings back memories of Savatage.... When the band joins in the tune becomes an emotional power ballad. Awesome!

With Waiting they present a quite typical CIIC tune, but that doesn't mean it's a bad one! Its just something you expect from Zak and CIIC! This one could also have been on one of the other CIIC albums. The guitars take over at Soul Breaker and the aggressive touch fits well. A straight forward tune with a heavy groove. Acoustic guitar and vocals lead into Seclusion, but then the others join in and it becomes a progressive mid-paced rocker. So Many Reasons is more progressive and so compared to the other tunes a bit bulky. Last, but not least Every Last Thing is kicking off with piano and is an emotional balladesque tune, even if they get a bit heavier later - and has an epic touch. A real highlight at the end! And it shows again that Zak is best when he varies - and finally the counter part vocals are back. This one could have been take off one of the last Savatage albums Zak sang on.

This time the guitars step back - compared to Burden Of Truth - and give Zak Stevens' more space for his vocals.


8 stars

Claudia Ehrhardt
 








Burden Of Truth

Burden Of Truth
(AFM Records - 2006)


The 3rd album is the one to make it or break it in the music biz. Well, this is the 3rd album of Circle II Circle and the first one where former Savatage singer Zak Stevens didn't got a helping hand from his former band mates Chris Caffery and Jon Oliva. This one is written by the band! Lyrically Burden Of Truth is based on the theory published first in Holy Blood, Holy Grail ( Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, Henry Lincoln - 1982) and at the moment popular due to the success of Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code. To get an idea about the story you can read the booklet and for more information just check out Wikipedia (see: The Holy Blood And The Holy Grail).

Starting off a bit slowly the song Who Am I To Be? soon speeds up, becomes a heavy, guitar-driven mid-tempo rocker. Again the voice of Zak Stevens is the main element. My first impression is that they got more progressive... And that they overdo it... Musically too much happens and pulls you away from the vocals. The parts where the band steps back a bit and gives space to Zak's vocals are more intense. It seems to me that the band want to proof something... The guitar solo at A Matter Of Time make me miss something... Decent, but not outstanding. In the middle part of the song they slow down a bit, reduce it a bit... And here you are - its way better. At Heal You you will hear a citation for a short moment, it let you think of Savatage... A catchy one which will fit well into the live set. On Your Reality the vocals are more up-front and even if this one is more like the songs of the predecessors, it is one of the highlights. A bit slower, less heavy, a bit progressive... But gets more heavy and fast to the end. Another highlight is Sentenced. A epic one with some nice guitar riffing and a guitar line which supports the vocals and make the song more intense. The tempi changes are what make this one a highlight on Burden Of Truth. Actually to the end the album gets more interesting, even if there is a lot mid-tempo stuff on the album... But the mid-tempo stuff as well as slow ones are fit Stevens' voice best. He has a very powerful and unique voice which needs space to shine and that's what I partly miss at this album. Btw, at the title track they use counterpart vocals at the end which gives this one something special.
The concept is interesting, but due to the movie there is a lot hype and so one can get the impression that they only choose this topic to get more attention for the album... But in the past - with Savatage - Zak Stevens already did conceptual albums and even if it ain't that obvious also Dead Winter Dead was based on some historical facts which effect today's society. But this is all speculation, even if it seems that there is some proof... But as music should entertain, there is no need for hard facts. But the concept would hold enough for more then 50 minutes...

If this album is their break-through only time will tell. There are still reminiscences to Savatage, but that's no surprise. This time the band tried to break free from the Savatage sound, but didn't succeed completely... And I guess that fans don't really want this....

Check out: Revelations, Heal You, Your Reality and Sentenced.


7 stars

Claudia Ehrhardt
 






Revelations

Revelations
(AFM Records - 2006)


This is the first sign of Circle II Circle since last years Middle Of Nowhere release. This time former Savatage singer Zak Stevens had to proof that he can do without the help of Savatage's Jon Oliva and Chris Caffery. The single Revelations holds two versions of the title track - beside the single version it offers the album version. Revelations is a heavy mid-tempo tune which has an epic touch. Its catchy and could have been off Middle Of Nowhere. Actually I don't see the necessity of 2 different versions, coz the versions aren't that different and the album version is just about 30 seconds longer then the single version. With The Black they present another track of the coming album Burden Of Truth. This one is a bit slower and based on heavy guitar riffing. A bit darker and with an epic touch - Savatage fans won't turn away. I miss a bit the aggressiveness of the guitar riffing - and also during the solo. But perhaps this is just something I miss...

Additionally they recorded an acoustic version of Into The Wind which puts Zak Stevens' vocals more up front. It gets more emotional this way. But to be honest, it's again the guitar sound which I have to criticize. It ain't the sound in general, its only the guitars.
The new songs are written by Zak Stevens and members of the current line-up. Basically they keep to the chosen path, but at some parts - mainly the guitars - do too much and so seems out of place. If all songs have this, I don't know yet, its all wait and see. The album is coming out on October Friday, 13th which is an anniversary in the history of the Knights Templar - the topic the album deals with. And which is quite popular at the moment due to the success of The DaVinci Code. Soon we'll get the whole album and so will find out, if Zak Stevens can do on his own.


7 stars

Claudia Ehrhardt
 






The Middle Of Nowhere

The Middle Of Nowhere
(AFM Records - 2005)


The Middle Of Nowhere is the 2nd album of Circle II Circle. Some criticized that Watching In Silence is sounding too much like Savatage. If the new album will be different? Well, from the single All That Remains I would say, it's darker. Opening with a track from the single which is called In This Life. The song starts slowly, later speds up. Here Stevens works partly with distorted vocals. Something you won't expect, but actually I wouldn't have chose this song as an opener. Not bad, but I miss the certain something. The single track All That Remains is a heavy, guitar-driven song which is more what I expected from CIIC - perhaps coz it's written by Jon Oliva. Again Jon Oliva and Chris Caffery wrote some songs for their former band mate. Chris Caffery wrote Open Season, Cynical Ride and Faces In The Dark. All other tracks - expect In This Life and Lost - are written by Jon Oliva. Running Wild guitarist Bernd Aufermann wrote In This Life and Lost. The album was recorded with the new line-up. Bassist Mitch Stewart and drummer Tom Drennan already played on the last tour of CIIC. Guitarists Andy Lee and Evan Christopher are new on board.

The song Holding On is a heavy gooving tune which has some Savatage touch... One of my favorites is the fast, melodic groover Cynical Ride. Aggressive guitar riffing and a catchy hook. Sounding less like Savatage here.... An epic one is the title track The Middle Of Nowhere, here his past with Savatage is most obvious. This song could have been on a Savatage album as well. But that's no surprise as long as Jon Oliva and Chris Caffery are writing the music there will always been songs - or parts - which sound like Savatage, even if Chris Caffery seems to have more sounds to offer then just Savatage-like songs. Just listen to his solo album Faces and you'll know what I'm talking about.

Musically it seems that Zak Stevens wants to leave his Savatage history behind, but no drastical change, just developing. Less epic, therefor heavier and darker. But still interesting for fans of Savatage and melodic power metal. Check out: The Middle Of Nowhere, All That Remains, Open Season and Faces In The Dark.

On the limited digi-pack edition - again a CD-book - is additionally a video clip of Watching In Silence live. And again wallpapers.


9 stars

Claudia Ehrhardt
 






All That Remains

All That Remains
(AFM Records - 2005)


The single is a kind of appitizer for the coming 2nd album of Zak Stevens' Circle II Circle. The title track is a real heavy up-tempo tune with a catchy melody line. A guitar-driven song which is written by Jon Oliva. All That Remains you can find in a single edit as well as in the album version which are vary in running time only. With In This Life there is another track taken off the coming album The Middle Of Nowhere. The song was written by guitarist Bernd Aufermann (Running Wild, ex-Angel Dust). The song is starting slow and has a touch of Edge Of Thorns, but darker. Then it explodes. Heavy, screaming guitars and distorted vocals, another break and more melodic with clean vocals. Not bad, but I miss the certain something. With Strung Out and Shadows there are two non-album tracks. Strung Out is based on heavy guitar riffing and a catchy vocal melody. No idea why this one didn't made it onto the album. Shadows is a great song, but perhaps haven't fit into the concept...

The single is interesting for fans who can't wait til the album comes out and for the ones who are interested in the unreleased tracks. Additionally there are some wallpapers on the CDS.


8 stars

Claudia Ehrhardt
 






Watching In Silence

Watching In Silence
(AFM Records - 2003)


Zak Stevens - former Savatage singer - is back! Ten songs he presents and with him a brand-new band. Songs are written by Stevens and his former band mates Chris Caffery and Jon Oliva. The conclusion that the songs sound more or less like Savatage is obvious. With the album opener Out Of Reach Zak Stevens shows that he is still into powerful, epic metal. Songs like Out Of Reach, Face To Face, The Circle and Sea Of White could have been on Savatage albums like Gutter Ballet and even if there are also reminiscences to albums like Handful Of Rain and Edge Of Thorns. Songs like the album opener sound really heavy, but are also very melodic. The guitar adds a certain aggression to the epic ones and make the songs in general sound quite heavy. The 2nd track Sea Of White starts slowly with a bass line, but soon got quite heavy. A groovy, heavy rocker. The title track could have been taken from The Wake Of Magellan... Enchanting. A track which sneaks into your mind and keep spinning for days. It has the perfect balance between melodic parts and heavy grooving ones. The outstanding voice of Zak Stevens gives life to the songs. With Forgiven the sextet offers a powerful balladesque tune.

I can just recommend this album to all fans of melodic power metal, especially to the ones who were disappointed by Savatage's Poets & Madmen! This what should have followed Savatage's The Wake Of Magellan!

Btw, the limited edition comes in a nice CD-sized book and shall contain the video-clip of Watching In Silence, a video interview, screensaver and wallpapers. I just miss a picture vinyl.... The logo would look great on it!


9 stars

Claudia Ehrhardt
 

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