Words: Craig Hartranft
Preparing for this review, I looked back at the Zak Stevens' Circle II Circle career. To my surprise, in the twelve years since it's creation, Zak and crew have released seven albums. That's rather impressive, if merely for consistency and productivity. Of the previous six, I've reviewed the last four. But here's the problem: I don't remember anything specific about them, or very little at best.
So, Reign Of Darkness, the seventh Circle II Circle album, arrives and I wonder if the same result will befall the others. This is not to say there's something inherently bad or impotent about this work to make it unmemorable. On the contrary, Reign Of Darkness is pretty much straight up Circle II Circle: melodic heavy power metal, with some symphonic nuances here and there, and Steven's voice at the forefront. The riffs and bottom end remain thick enough to please pure metal fans. Melody, harmony, and groove permeate most every song giving the whole album accessibility to that classic metal sound. Actually, I found the hooks in the rock groove and vocal harmonies great present and notable especially, for the former, within Untold Dreams, Ghost Of The Devil, and Somewhere. That last song is representative of CIIC's ability to deliver the perfect storm of heaviness, catchy harmony in the refrain, and then power it with rock groove. And, guitar fiends, don't forget the solos as the are abundant across this album.
Of additional interest throughout the album is the ambitious use of piano lines in song composition. The piano essentially leads the opening Over-Underture. Yet, it adds impetus, at the start, to many other songs including Deep Within, Somewhere, and Victim of the Night. Unfortunately, except for some acute listening skills, the piano line doesn't survive or rise the heavy metal that follows. The exception is the closing number Solitary Rain where the piano's contribution is more present, even significant, in the song's development.
I think, in the end, that mostly, Reign Of Darkness reminded me of what made Stevens' Savatage work so interesting and pleasing to many fans. Whether I have some recollection of this album when the next one arrives will probably depend more on my aging memory than Stevens' and Circle II Circle's continued creative consistency.
There's much to say for creative consistency. With Reign Of Darkness, Zak Stevens and crew deliver another fine album of melodic heavy power metal.
Formed 23 years ago, Finland's Excalion has had a turbulent musical career. Before releasing a trio of albums between 2005 and 2010, they had personnel changes. Currently, only the drummer and keyboard ... [ Read More ]