Shadow Circus: Whispers and Screams
If you read my review of “Welcome to the Freakroom” you know that I like Shadow Circus, but probably had no sense of how much I was anticipating the follow up. As I said, the debut wasn’t ground breaking, but it sure was infectious. The album also caught fire within my little circle of progheads. So when John Fontana announced that a new one was on the way, real excitement began to build. There is always the danger of setting yourself up for a letdown when this happens, but somehow I knew the expectations would be fulfilled. I am happy to say that they were, in fact, exceeded.
Many times the potential of a new group is obvious from the start. You just never know how long it will take to be realized. I’m not saying this is as good as it is going to get, but the promise of the talent has surely come to bear on “Whispers and Screams.
The band seems to be taking things much more seriously this time around. They are still obviously having fun, but the compositions and lyrics are much more weighty. David Bobick has also developed more of an edge on his vocals. It’s almost as if he found his “rock and roll” voice. He is also handling the softer passages with a new, more comfortable quality. John and Corey have taken it up a couple of notches, and new bass man Jason Croft is a perfect fit. I can’t stress enough how good the musicianship is on this album. The guys have all mastered their craft, and are ready to hang with the big boys. Just listen to Corey’s tight and intuitive drum work, and especially John’s beautiful piano and acoustic guitar passages.
As far as the compositions go, there are no new innovations to found. What we have is excellence in traditional symphonic prog form. That is not to say it is derivative. Shadow Circus has a distinct sound, and it is contemporary. They show that you can sound modern and still do an epic seven-part piece to open the album. There is some classic instrumentation used, but come on, you want the keyboards (and mellotron). What they really have going for them is the mass appeal. Even with increased complexity, the music is still very accessible. Hooks abound. The fun is also very evident. It is obvious that these guys love what they do.
“Project Blue” is the aforementioned epic, and it is also my new favorite Shadow Circus work. The complexity and diversity satisfies every level of my prog lovin’ heart. They have also done well with tying it together with a theme without it appearing forced. It comes up organically. “The Horsemen Ride” (fifth movement) gets me every time, perhaps because it is so unexpected. It’s almost like something that could have been on Led Zeppelin’s “Physical Graffiti.”
The rest of the album is of no less quality. The idea of turning it off just as “When the Morning Comes” never even crosses my mind. “Whispers and Screams” is a solid effort from beginning to end. I knew these guys had a spark of greatness right away, and sow we see it starting to blaze. And just like last time, I am already starting to wonder what may come next. This is a fantastic album, and shame on any prog fan that still has yet to hear Shadow Circus.
David Bobick – Vocals
John Fontana – Guitars and Keyboards
Corey Folta – Drums and Percussion
Jason Croft – Bass Guitar