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Circle II Circle - Delusions of grandeur 4.5/5

Reviewed: 6-13-08


1. Fatal warning
2. Dead of dawn
3. Forever
4. Echoes
5. Waiting
6. Soul breaker
7. Seclusion
8. So many reasons
9. Chase the lies
10. Every last thing

American power metal band, Circle II Circle have returned after a 2 year absence to bring us their 4th full-length release, entitled ‘Delusions of grandeur’. This is their latest effort since the successful ‘Burden of truth’ which was released in 2006, ‘The middle of nowhere’ in 2005 and ‘Watching in silence’ in 2003.

Circle II Circle is led by sensational vocalist, Zak Stevens, the ex-vocalist of power metal band Savatage, who formed way back in 1983 and has been “on hold” since their last CD in 2001. Stevens joined Savatage in 1993, but left in 2000 to be closer to his young family. That didn’t seem to last long and in 2001, Zak formed Circle II Circle. In 2003 however, after their debut release, his entire band left to join the other ex-vocalist of Savatage, John Oliva and his new project called John Oliva’s Pain. Stevens then had to hire an all new band, and since that line-up has not changed.

In the first few releases for Circle II Circle, their style was renowned as being a progressive power metal band, playing a typical European style. Gradually this progressive metal style has decreased from Circle II Circle’s sound, adopting for a more American melodic metal style infused into the power metal style. The change has become even more evident with their latest release, where I feel that the band has become a lot more aggressive, particularly in the songwriting department. The guitars feel much heavier and chunkier, with great riffs thrown all round this release, some of which have groove metal tendencies. Another noticeable change in the difference of style, would be the lack of keyboards used on ‘Delusions of grandeur’. The use of keys has dropped off a fair bit compared to Circle II Circle’s previous releases. Finally, the fantastic vocals of Zak Stevens, which seems to improve with age. On ‘Delusions of grandeur’, his vocals sound much stronger and potent, than I’ve ever heard them before; and that’s including both Circle II Circle and Savatage. His soaring, melodic voice always enhances every song, while his vast range is simply impeccable.
I feel that these changes are completely welcomed and needed, as their sound on ‘Delusions of grandeur’ has vastly improved. With their latest and improved sound, Circle II Circle can easily be compared to bands such as Brainstorm, Bloodbound, Nostradameus, Silent Force, Twilight Guardians and Thunderstone.

As far as the tracks go on the CD, all of them are from mid to fast-paced with a few power ballads thrown in. All the songs are quite consistent and are on a high quality level. Some could view ‘Delusions of grandeur’ as a natural progression from ‘Burden of truth’, as the 2 CDs sound similar aside from the heavier feel that ‘Delusions of grandeur’ brings. I feel that the songs pack a greater punch, more depth you might say than previous tracks from previous CDs.
Going over other reviews of previous Circle II Circle releases, there was a slight, but noticeable criticism of an unset amount of tracks been given the “filler” tag, due to being unmemorable. I believe that to be a problem surrounding the song structures and lyrical content. This problem, however, seems non-existent on ‘Delusions of grandeur’ as all of the tracks stand out and are quite memorable; which ultimately gives an indication on just how much improvement has been made with their songwriting.

As far as the best tracks on ‘Delusions of grandeur’, I would mention “Fatal warning”, “Forever”, “Echoes”, “Soul breaker”, “Seclusion”, “Chase the lies” and “Every last thing”, with “Echoes”, “Soul breaker” and “Chase the lies” being the best 3 tracks on the CD. “Echoes” is the first of the 2 power ballads, where Stevens shows of his voice in the best possible way. Behind a piano backdrop and slow crunchy guitars, is Stevens’ emotional vocals, driving the track. The song increases in pace towards the end, resulting in a memorable solo. “Soul breaker” is a riff driven track, filled with heavy guitars and Stevens’ ripping melodic vocals. “Chase the lies” is a short but fast riff-driven track, with an awesome groove metal feel; and once again toped off by Zak’s brilliant vocals and another great solo.

After listening to ‘Delusions of grandeur’ quite a few times, I can easily say that this is the best Circle II Circle release so far (in my opinion), beating the previous best ‘Burden of truth’. Old fans of Savatage and fans of Zak Stevens in general, should really have a listen to ‘Delusions of grandeur’, as you will not be disappointed. That goes the same for fans of melodic power metal, including the bands I mentioned earlier. Whatever expectations or opinions you had of this band pre-‘Delusions of grandeur’, will change for the better once you hear this latest and greatest effort. Good show.




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