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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Shadow Circus

Whispers and Screams

Review by Gary Hill

When I reviewed Shadow Circus’ debut I remarked how I wished that lead singer and band founder David Bobick would unlearn all his musical theater techniques. I felt that the theatrical vocals didn’t mesh well with the music. Well, it looks like he listened – and the result is brilliant. I just got my hands on this disc recently. That’s a shame because had I heard it sooner, I would have included it in the best of 2009 list I submitted to another site recently. Yes, it’s that good. The killer progressive rock showing that we get here is powerful, symphonic and while based in old school prog sets new standards. If these guys keep it up they could become one of the best new progressive rock acts out there.

Track by Track Review
Project Blue
a. Captain Trips
This rises gradually upwards with effects and psychedelia mixing in a noisy space rock sound. A harder edged insistent jam enters later and they continue with this getting a classic rock meets prog arena sound. The vocals come in hard rocking and nearly metallic and this is underway in style. We get something closer to ELP as they continue. The harder jam returns after that as we alternate. Then a killer keyboard solo takes it for a time. There’s a tasty guitar solo, too.
b. The Long Road
The mellow motif that takes over from the last movement makes me think of a proggy “Only Women Bleed.” They take it away from that area, though, but continue melodic and mellow for a time. It bursts into a harder rocking stop and start kind of jam that’s rather like early Genesis. I can hear a lot of Spock’s Beard on the track, too – as they work through various changes and alterations. You might hear some Yes on this, too. There’s an ELP-like keyboard solo on the number. 
c. Big Fire
It drops down to atmospheric music with bits of world sounds for the start of this. It’s pretty and mysterious. It grows in some seriously dramatic ways. It modulates out into a bouncy hard rocker that’s like a more prog oriented Jellyfish. They take it from there into something that makes me think of Marillion and then it starts alternating between these sections. A staccato segment takes us into the next cut. 
d. The Seduction Of Harold Lauder
This fires out with a screaming angular jam that’s got a lot of ELP and King Crimson at its core. A rather crunchy riff driven segment takes it later and there’s some killer keyboard work on top. They take us through rapid-fire change after rapid-fire change on this roller coaster ride. We continue through more changes before this hard rocking instrumental movement ends. 
e. The Horsemen Ride
Coming out of the silence left behind from the last movement, this rises up gradually and quite mellow. They build on this type of a sound in a ballad-like motif. As percussion and other elements are added it takes on definite world music sounds. When it moves toward harder rock later there’s a bit of Zeppelin (like the third album) vibe. This is dramatic and powerful with a sense of mystery to it – and yet it remains fairly sedate. 
f. The Hand Of God
Mellower middle Eastern tinged sounds are alternated with hard rocking riff driven prog that again makes me think of Led Zeppelin, but also of Rush. This instrumental takes us through a series of changes and eventually moves out into a triumphant sounding jam that’s quite Yes-like. 
g. Coming Back Home To You
There’s a soulful, gospel-like feeling to a lot of this cut, but there’s also Spock’s Beard-like progressive rock built into it. There are some killer retro organ sounds on this. 
When The Morning Comes
A pretty ballad, this has some Yes and some Genesis in it, but I also hear some Elton John and Jon and Vangelis.
Willoughby
Weighing in at just over ten minutes in length, this is another epic. It starts with some keyboards that are very classical in nature and builds gradually up from there. When it shifts to the next section it feels very much like Fish era Marillion to me. After working in the motif for a time it drops to a more stripped down jam for the first vocals. I can hear Genesis on this. They return to theme after theme as this journey is undertaken. There’s a frantic hard edged jam later that’s very cool. Around the six and a half minute mark they drop it way down to atmospheric territory in a motif that reminds me both of Yes and Marillion, but  a bluesy guitar solo makes me think of Pink Floyd a bit.
Angel
A lot of this piece is essentially a moody and very pretty balladic piece. They work in some harder rocking progressive rock as the counterpoint, though, and it’s rather Yes-like. The sounds of a storm eventually segue this into the album’s closer. 
...Then In July, The Thunder Came
Appropriate to the title the storm from the last piece starts this and percussion joins. Other sounds come over the top as the track is built in textural and rather classical ways. With Eastern tinged sounds this gets quite dramatic and then powers more towards rock music without really changing it up. The intensity continues to build and I hear bits of classical merging with the rock sounds. This instrumental is an excellent way to end the disc.
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