When you mention Norwegian Metal bands, most people would primarily think of the numerous black Metal bands that originate from there, but there is also Circus Maximus who are at the vanguard of Norway's Progressive Metal scene. 'Nine' is the band's third full length album, containing ten brand new tracks.
Things kicks off with a short intro called 'Forging' before the (nearly) eleven minute epic of 'Architect Of Fortune', resplendent with tension building guitars and drums with perhaps just a touch of keyboards in the background, sets the album off properly in fine form. It's difficult to guess where this track is heading, indeed, it's a full two and a half minutes of pure build-up before vocalist Michael Eriksen gets the chance to utter his first words! Having said that, it's worth the wait as his voice blends in effortlessly with the rest of the band, ensuring the album gets off to the best possible start.
'Namaste' is a good solid track with some exceptional drumming from Truls Haugen who certainly shows his worth in the band. There are some drums fills here that I suspect someone even as talented as Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater) may find hard to do. Just when you think you know the beat, a soaring guitar solo from Mats Haugen pops up out of nowhere and proceeds to take the song off on a completely different tangent – incredible stuff.
A segue into 'Game Of Life' keeps the momentum of the album up with its great chunky riff giving way to some great vocal work from Eriksen as the song gives the listener the impetus to think about their lives (and those around them) whilst managing not to sound like he's preaching – despite the subtle keyboards from Lasse Finbråten sounding not unlike a church organ – before Mats Haugen pulls out yet another very impressive guitar solo.
'Reach Within' is an accomplished number with soft vocals and a nicely mid-paced tune to back them up. There's no reason why this particular song shouldn't be play-listed on mainstream TV and radio channels and not just rock music ones. Again, Mats Haugen's guitar solo is impressive, if a little on the short side.
'Burn After Reading' is a strange number which soon becomes quite a compelling piece of work. Starting off with a nice acoustic guitar and (almost) whispered vocals, it seems that this is the album's ubiquitous power ballad, but then the band seem to second guess the listener by throwing in a heavy guitar riff when you least expect it. Sure, the lyrics are somewhat downbeat but even that doesn't stop me thoroughly enjoying this song – a fact borne out by the fact that it has been added to my June 2012 playlist.
'Last Goodbye' wraps the album up and it's another epic track – clocking in at a hair's width under ten minutes. Like 'Burn After Reading' before it, the lyrical content here isn't upbeat by any means but the band don't turn this into a maudlin track. It's got a heavy solid riff which carries the song well and bounces its way through pausing only occasionally to take a more serious tone – as I said, it's another epic track from the band and a fine way to close not just another album in the ongoing Circus Maximus story, but possibly the one to propel them into the major league.
Architect Of Fortune
Game Of Life
Burn After Reading
Michael Eriksen – Vocals
Mats Haugen – Guitars
Glen Cato Møllen – Bass
Lasse Finbråten – Keyboards
Truls Haugen – Drums