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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Circle of Illusion

Jeremias (Foreshadow of Forgotten Realms)

Review by Gary Hill

This is a dramatic and ambitions album. In terms of entertainment value, it’s perhaps a bit lacking. It’s not that anything here is weak. It’s just that without any really memorable hooks music that’s this dynamic tends to fail to catch the listener. It all tends to blend together. Mind you, there are some moments that stand out. Additionally, the album seems to get better later. Even with those complaints, though, this is cool stuff. It’s sort of a blend of symphonic progressive rock, metal and other sounds. Changes are rapid fire on this thing. It’s daring and dramatic and often theatrical. It just doesn’t grab me like I wish it would.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Overture

Starting quite classical, this works out with some more rock elements emerging. Epic metal type sounds with a real symphonic quality bring this into the real of classically inspired crunchy progressive rock. As the song keeps shifting and changing that concept is reinforced. That said, there are some particularly crunchy moments. This feels a bit like more symphonic Dream Theater in some ways. It’s a killer cut and a great way to start the whole thing off in style.

The Beginning
The vocals at the start of this are a bit overly dramatic and theatrical to me. As the cut continues various melodies are heard as it shifts this way and that. Some vocals are male, some female. There are sections here that seem tied to disco music. Other parts are quite classical. Some points are closer to metal. The one constant here, though is change. This thing is all over the place. At times it’s retro, at times modern.
The Run
A keyboard dominated introduction that seems to come out of the previous piece opens this one. From there it gets into some seriously metallic music. Rather than stay there, though, they give us another cut with lots of shifts and turns. Music that seems tied to 1970s pop rock is contrasted to more symphonic and then more metallic sounds. This is again all over the place. Personally, I think this one works better than the previous cut because more of it lands into more purely rocking territory. In the midst of all these shifts and changes, though, they even move this into pure jazz for a time. Then later we get a prog meets fusion jam. An even longer pure jazz section emerges further down this musical road. There’s a frantic, metallic movement at the end that takes it to the end. That said, it almost feels more like a segue than a real ending.
The Memory Returns
More symphonic prog jamming emerges to open this. After a time, though, it drops to jazzy piano. As the piece continues one change comes right beyond the previous one. There are some symphonic prog moments for certain. Although there are still lots of shifts and changes, this piece is more cohesive and consistent than the others. There are less crazed shifts. It’s got some symphonic elements. It’s also got some of the most effective mainstream progressive rock built into it. It’s one of the most successful numbers here.
The Party
Seeming to come straight out of the previous number, this combines symphonic elements with disco, funk and prog. There is some jazz here, too. This is one of the more cohesive pieces here. It’s also one of the shortest.
Closing Doors
Starting with a symphonic elements, this works out to more straightforward, crunchy progressive rock. It’s got some really powerful moments. It’s one of the more effective pieces on the set. It’s evocative and fairly cohesive. Although there are definitely theatrical elements here, they don’t take it over the top. I think the vocal performance on this one is among the best here.
New Age
This one again starts off symphonic. It works out to harder rocking music from there. It’s got metal sounds combined with progressive rock to create some awesome sounds. Some of the instrumental moments here among the best on the disc. Later on we get symphonic progressive rock. There is some rap metal in the mix at times, too. The whole thing keeps shifting and changing, but it’s arguably a symphonic progressive rock take on European epic metal. It drops to symphonic at the end to segue into the next piece.
Continuum
Rising up a bit like soundtrack music, this works towards more of a mellow prog arrangement based on that as the vocals join. The song remains sedate as both male and female vocals are heard. Although the shifts and changes on this are still pretty much non-stop, this stays consistently closer to symphonic prog than some of the other stuff did. Somehow this one really feels like it works a lot better, too. In fact, I think this is arguably my favorite piece on show here.
Sarah’s Dream
Piano starts this off and the cut works out as a ballad at first. In fact, that ballad-like structure drives most of this song. It’s one of the most cohesive and coherent tunes. Even when it powers up, it seems more like a progressive rock power ballad.
13th Floor
The theatrical symphonic sounds that start this make me think of something from Fantasia. The cut evolves out from there to more of the rapidly shifting progressive rock with theatrical, metallic and other elements in place. A frantic jam later with breathy female vocals is among the coolest passages of the disc. It rocks and has world music elements. Some of the rather off-kilter but extremely cool music later is among the best of the disc. This is really a standout track.
Nightmare
At over sixteen minutes in length, this is the epic of the disc. It starts with a rather eccentric progressive rock movement that is symphonic and electronic and quirky. After the first vocals changes emerge. At times this gets crunchy. At times it’s more like powered up quirky prog. The cut features some pretty interesting musical moments. This is arguably one of the most diverse cuts. That said, it doesn’t have the range of soundscapes (getting into jazz and more) of some of the earlier cuts. It just seems really keep shifting and expanding. Of course, part of that has to do with the extended time allowing for more music. There are some sections here that make me think of a more symphonic prog oriented Operation: Mindcrime era Queensryche. They also take into some pretty pure classical music. While this might be all over the place in a lot of ways, it’s also cohesive, powerful and one of the most effective and strongest pieces here. The ending is quite dramatic and that makes it perfect for this closing spot in the lineup.
 
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