Shadow Circus: Welcome to the Freakroom
With Ludacris winning two Grammys, and American Idol bigger than ever, it’s refreshing to see new artists choosing prog. Shadow Circus may not be the saviors of symphonic, but this is some very enjoyable music. It’s not the most challenging the genre has to offer, but I find it quite infectious. They have seemed to capture a bit of the whimsy that the old masters used to employ, and other new bands tend to eschew.
The namesake track brings you right in, and sets you up, complete with a carnival barker. We’ve heard this type of thing before (think Nektar, “Down to Earth”), but these guys pull it off as well as anybody. You also get a nice bit of keyboard flourish to put the classic influence stamp on it.
“Storm Rider” is a cool romp, with some Latin rhythm from the piano. Heavy guitars continue to come in, reminding you that this is U.S. prog. Another interesting element is a bit of sitar in the background.
“Inconvenient Compromise” begins with a grand introduction, filled with all the complexity this band has to offer. It then settles into a jazzy, funk inspired, little groove. The refrain is more mainstream, but jazz is the rule through the main body. They then go into a mellower, spacey section. The ending is a burst from the intro, to make a nice bookend.
“Radio People” is probably the simplest thing on the album. It’s a fun bit of social commentary, done in a light anthem style. This would be the single (if anyone was interested in prog singles these days).
“In the Wake of a Dancing Flame” begins with a psychedelic age inspired, soft organ intro. Piano and bass come in to fill it out, and then the ballad begins. It’s nice enough, but becomes repetitive, and is the weakest track on the album. Don’t get me wrong it’s not really bad, just not up to par with the rest.
“Journey of Everyman” is the obligatory epic, in three movements. This one is chock full of intricate musicianship, changes, mood swings, and grandeur. Yes indeed, the things this old proghead is a sucker for. The band really gets to show what they are made of, and they don’t disappoint.
Some may think that the vocals could be stronger, and that may be true. However, a more polished singer is not always the best way to go. I like Fish over Hogarth, prefer Steve Hackett to sing his own songs, and VDGG would not be the same without Peter Hammill’s dulcet tones. I think a bit of the musical dynamic might be lost without David Bobick.
Overall, I like this very much. Would I have voted for this for best of 2006? No, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be listening to it. This is just good, fun, pleasing music, and isn’t that what it’s really all about?
John Fontana – guitars, keyboards
David Lawrence Bobick – lead & backing vocals
Corey Folta – drums & percussion
Matt Masek – bass, cello, 12 string guitar, backing vocals
Zach Tenorio – keyboards