Circus Maximus - Nine
For Circus Maximus fans, five years has been an eternity to wait for a new album. But it’s finally here, and it’s awesome! “Nine” is their third album and first with the record label Frontiers. Apparently Frontiers Records believed in the band enough to support them with whatever they needed to record, because the production is outstanding - a far superior mix than either of their previous records.
One of the highlights of the album is the incredible singing of Mike Eriksen, who I think is one of the best rock/metal vocalists currently in the biz. His distinct clean voice styling is so easy on the ears, but never in a way that overshadows the rest of the band. In fact, he is a master of adaptability when it comes to shifting the meter, tone and range of his voice to fit particular music passages. And on Nine, there are so many different styles and so many great choruses and melodies that he gets to belt out that I was excited for what each new track would bring. Musically, there is so much going on that this record promises never to be boring. After a useless intro, the album kicks off with a 10-minute piece that draws you in with its atmospheric textures a la guitar and keyboard interplay. After the vocals come in almost halfway through the song, everything has coalesced into a rocking rhythm with a melodic bend that you immediately know is Circus Maximus, albeit with a more mature flavor. And that’s a good thing.
The next song is a 4 minute rocker that lays down the crunching guitar chords and hard hitting vocals which will satisfy their heaviest fans. The middle of the album starts to kick things into very interesting territory. The song “Game of Life” starts heavy, morphs into funky, has a pop-friendly chorus, and is progressive in its time changes throughout. There’s even a slow mid-section where the keyboard sounds like an organ with nothing but the vocals on top to emphasize the lyrics. It is the sort of melting pot that characterizes the whole album for me. There are so many eclectic rhythms, and uses of unusual instrumentation that keep you on your toes, but it never sounds out of place. The first single “Reach Within” is more rock oriented, and has a wonderfully catchy melody and chorus that will be easily accessible to fans of all types of rock.
Another highlight on this ride are the TWO epic closers, “Burn After Reading” and “Last Goodbye.” Piecing together everything they’ve done on the album, they encapsulate the best of what CM can do. The first is a roller coaster of time changes and interplay between guitars and keys, including the very abrupt drop of craziness into silence with only the vocals beautifully pacing you for the final climax of the song. And as the song's title suggests, the last song is a last goodbye to an old friend. The soaring chorus and choir of all instruments blazing at full volume before fading away is a fitting way to end things, and leaves us hoping this will never be Circus Maximus’ “last goodbye.”
Overall, I loved this album and think it has everything that fans of Circus Maximus love. And if you’ve never heard these guys, this is the album to check out. If you’re interested in more of Mike Eriksen, he’s got another record that is more AOR flavored 80’s inspired rock, called The Magnificent. You can’t go wrong with anything these guys have put out so far.
Reviewed by Matt Milligan