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Of all the projects that have emerged in the wake of Savatage's split, it could be argued that the Zak Stevens-led Circle II Circle is the most consistent. The Trans-Siberian Orchestra may be commercially successful and Jon Oliva's Pain has put some brilliant material, but Circle II Circle has yet to falter in terms of both style and quality. Consequence of Power is the band's fifth studio album and offers a new mix of songs that are as strong as they are familiar.
Despite this being the first CIIC album released since the formation of Stevens' Machines of Grace side project, it seems to pick up right where 2008's Delusions of Grandeur left off and has the borderline prog/power metal sound that fans have come to expect from the band. But like that particular album, this album seems to largely downplay the band's more symphonic side and instead focuses on a more aggressive and rawer sound. While this may be a natural evolution on the band's part, the sandpaper sound of the production probably has something to do with it as well...
But for what it's worth, the musicians still sound pretty good. In addition to the solid guitar playing throughout, the rhythm section stands out on several occasions with some particularly good bass presence coming through on the title track and the gritty Out of Nowhere. Stevens himself also puts on a great performance that reinforces his distinct character. While he hasn't quite captured the passion or range that was prominent on Edge of Thorns, there's not too much to really complain about on here.
The songwriting is also noteworthy for the variety that it shows off throughout. While I haven't gone through all of the band's discography yet, it could be argued that this is one of Circle II Circle's most eclectic efforts to date. A majority of the songs on here seem to be mid-tempo rockers that show off a tone that is sludgier than usual. Of these tracks, the previously mentioned Out of Nowhere is probably the strongest due to its memorable bass lines, though I also find the riffs on Symptoms of Fate to be interesting due to their similarity to modern day Testament.
There are also some faster songs on here that hint at a tinge of thrash metal influence. While I do wish that this side had been emphasized more, it is still used to great effect on the title track. But while the overall album does go into a rawer direction, there are still some symphonic elements on here. Album closer Blood Of An Angel is a notable piano-driven ballad while Take Back Yesterday features some piano tinkles that remind me of past tracks such as Heal You.
Speaking of Burden of Truth, this release is also a concept album that is apparently based on a political story similar to the famous Operation: Mindcrime. But like BoT, the storyline isn't made immediately clear and can be a little hard to make out. A clearer story would've been good, but it's always nice to be able to enjoy the record without knowing what the concept is.
All in all, this is another solid Circle II Circle album that is worth checking out for fans of this band as well as all of the other Savatage related projects. It isn't quite as adventurous as the album that Jon Oliva's Pain put out around the same time, but the songwriting and variety still makes it a worthwhile release.
Whispers in Vain, Consequence of Power, Out of Nowhere, Episodes of Mania, and Take Back Yesterday.
I’ve kept a watchful eye over American power metal band Circle II Circle ever since I heard their impressive third full-length release entitled ‘Burden of Truth’. Since then, Circle II Circle have released (in my opinion) their best album to date with ‘Delusions of Grandeur’. Led by ex-Savatage vocalist Zak Stevens, whom I consider to be one of the best metal singers around today, Circle II Circle have returned after a two year absence to deliver their fifth full-length release called ‘Consequence of Power’.
A few line-up changes have occurred since ‘Delusions of Grandeur’. Guitarist Evan Christopher, who has been with CIIC since 2003, decided to part ways with the band in September of 2008. Zak Stevens found Bill Hudson to fill the gap; however Hudson lasted just one year before he too packed his bags, deciding to form his own metal band (Written In Blood). Lastly, drummer Tom Drennan, who’s also been with CIIC since 2003 has left, and replaced by Johnny Osborn. After these changes Circle II Circle have now gone from five members down to four, electing not to recruit a second guitarist, Stevens stating that they were happy to move on with just the four members.
There in lies the first issue with the new CD. Reducing the guitarists from two to one has meant that the rising aggression in the guitars that had formed over the previous two releases has subsided on this disc; which is unfortunate. Now, on ‘Consequence of Power’, instead of aggressive guitar riffs, there is a change to a more melodic guitar riff sound. While the heaviness in the guitar is still present, it has been brought down a shade or two compared to the previous releases. Even though the music on this album is still considered power metal, you can now attach melodic to the genre tag. Circle II Circle have also included a touch of progressive metal and groove metal on their releases and this has not changed with ‘Consequence of Power’.
Two thumbs up must be given to the performance of Zak Stevens on this disc. Stevens is a unique vocalist, whose voice and style can be easily identified. Even way back in his Savatage days, Zak has been a superb singer and I must say that without his presence in this band, Circle II Circle would be just another mid-range power metal band among the hundreds of others floating around in the world today. Zak loves the ballads (they were ever-present on Savatage releases), and on the final track on the album “Blood of an Angel”, Zak belts out a very emotional and powerful performance to end the disc on a good note.
The second issue with this new CD is the overall quality of the song-writing and the execution of which they have been delivered. Although the previous two albums were quite excellent, I must say that the quality has dipped somewhat on this release. While there are a few tracks which are very good and immediately stand out from the rest, I just feel that overall in the scheme of things there are less memorable tracks on this CD. Whether it’s the lack of grunt due to the second guitarist now not there, or the song-writing hitting a snag, but either way in the end I found ‘Consequence of Power’ to be lacking something that was present in ‘Burden of Truth’ and ‘Delusions of Grandeur’. For the record, the best tracks on the album include the melodic and groove metal infused opener “Whispers in Vain”, the infectious “Out of Nowhere”, the pounding “Mirage” and the slow-grinding “Anathema”. Rounding off the better tracks is the speedy “Episodes of Mania” and the solid “Redemption”.
I think now that the album has been released, Zak Stevens may now reconsider having just the one guitarist in the band. I felt that they gelled better with a second guitarist and the tracks certainly flowed smoother and rocked harder with the added aggression and heaviness. This just may be the band evolving and moving on, and if it is, then so be it. ‘Consequence of Power’ is still a good album, but not near the calibre of their previous two releases. Fans of proggy melodic power metal such Brainstorm, Black Majesty, Silent Force and Nostradameus should take an interest in Circle II Circle and their releases if they haven’t already.
Originally reviewed for www.metalcdratings.com & www.themetalforge.com
Zak Stevens and his post-Savatage outfit Circle II Circle have failed to hold my interest since the release of their coveted Watching In Silence debut; their output since has been lukewarm and uninspired. Now they are back with their fifth album of melody-tinged Prog-Power Metal in the Edge Of Thorns/Handful Of Rain vein. Should we really care? Actually, we should. Because this time, Zak and boys have done something right, and as a result Consequence Of Power is their most palatable release since that wonderful first disc.
The production (as always) is drier that a bucket of sand, but the performances demand real respect, especially Zak's, as his voice is on fire here; clear, raw, and very natural. With the bland production job, it makes the album sound almost live, as if they are playing it in some smoky bar. The songs themselves are very strong, with each one having a cool riff, refrain, or solo to keep the listener on his toes. There aren't any Oliva-esque gems like on the debut, but unlike their last insipid attempt from a couple of years ago, every song is catchy and forceful, with "Whispers In Vain" and the title track getting the momentum going with fast drums, soaring melodies, and enough energy to make you want to hear what else they have in store.
Without a doubt, the highlight here is "Take Back Yesterday", an emotional tune with a great chorus just like the old days, and even the double-kicked "Episodes Of Mania" slaps you about with its slashing guitar work and involving, narrative-driven lyrics. Closing as usual with a Sava-ballad - "Blood Of An Angel" - Consequence Of Power puts Circle II Circle back on the map, and though it takes a few listens to click, the album bodes well for the future.
Originally written for www.metalcrypt.com