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Never Seen But Always There - 91%

Twisted_Psychology, April 14th, 2012

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.

Current Highlights:
Whispers in Vain, Consequence of Power, Out of Nowhere, Episodes of Mania, and Take Back Yesterday.