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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