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CIRCUS MAXIMUS Havoc In Oslo

By Daniel Höhr, European Correspondent
Wednesday, August 30, 2017 @ 6:59 AM


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CIRCUS MAXIMUS
Havoc In Oslo

Frontiers Music Srl, 2017




Give a KNAC.COM contributor who in his day job is a college teacher of Latin a list of albums to review and he will invariably pick the band with a Latin name. In this case the band is called CIRCUS MAXIMUS, which can either mean “an/the extremely large circus” or “the greatest circus”. In ancient Rome, the Circus Maximus was a chariot racing stadium. Situated in the valley between the Palatine and Aventine hills, it could hold up to 150,000 people and was indeed the largest stadium in the Rome and in the Roman empire. It is now a public park, which is still used for concerts and other events sometimes.

Back to the present and from Italy up north to Scandinavia: CIRCUS MAXIMUS is also a Norwegian prog metal band, founded in Oslo in 2000. On February 6, 2016 the release of their fourth studio album, Havoc, was duly celebrated with an impressive show at Oslo's Rockefeller Club involving pyros, tons of sparks and a massive light show. Aiming to live up to the connotations of their band name, the five-piece wanted to make this show a very memorable experience and, to preserve it for posterity, had it filmed and recorded. The result is now out on DVD/Blu-Ray and a double live CD and is titled Havoc In Oslo.

The material on Havoc In Oslo is mainly taken from the band's last two studio albums, Nine (2012)and Havoc (2016). The former is duly represented by the intro “Forging”, “Namaste”, “The One”, “Architect Of Fortune”, “I Am” and “Game Of Life” while “The Weight”, “Highest Bitter”, “Loved Ones”, the title track “Havoc”, “Pages” and “Chivalry” are taken from the latter. “Arrival Of Love” and “Abyss” are on the quintet's 2007 effort and “Sin” is the only song from the 2005 debut.

Somewhere between prog metal, power metal, symphonic metal (if the use of sometimes massive keyboards warrants this term) but also with a frequent dash of AOR and even alternative rock elements, CIRCUS MAXIMUS are not easy to pin down stylistically and this makes their music colourful and ultimately appealing. There are the usual prog metal riffs and sophisticated rhythm patterns, but also, thanks to the band's clever arrangements and Lasse Finbråten's keyboard skills, long atmospheric passages. Mats Haugen's virtuoso guitar playing as well as singer Michael Eriksen's extremely melodic and emotive vocal lines with appropriate vibrato contribute to appeal of the sometimes extremely catchy songs (that, admittedly, even border on cheesiness on occasion) such as “The One”. The rhythmical basis of the songs is provided by the super tight rhythm section of drummer Truls Haugen and bassist Glen Møllen, whose playing features most prominently on “Highest Bitter”.

The fifteen songs work extremely well live and not once do I feel the temptation to use the skip button on the CD player. Particuarly “Hightest Bitter”, the atmospheric “Chivalry” and the extremly catchy “Game Of Life” with its pop music reminiscences are among the highlights on this release. Among the many musical gems on Havoc in Oslo, the instrumental part of “The Weight”, which features Mats Haugen and Lasse Finbråten's expressive playing, certainly deserves to be singled out.

The clear and transparent sound of Havoc In Oslo gets the atmosphere of the event, which was more than just a live show but the sold-out release party of CIRCUS MAXIMUS's current album in the band's hometown Oslo, faithfully across and throws the listener right into the crowd.

What I miss, though, amongst all those polished melodies, the virtuosity, the catchiness, the atmosphere and the perfect harmony vocals the songs abound in, is the heavy edge, the rough and raw energy of heavy metal. It is there in places but it's a bit scarce. For my taste CIRCUS MAXIMUS could do with a tad more kick-in-the ass heaviness and a bit less sonic icing sugar. This would certainly increase the replay factor of the album a lot.

Still, Havoc In Oslo is a good live album featuring a great band in top shape. Go check it out.

4.4 Out Of 5.0

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