Prog Metal band Circus Maximus return with their live album ‘Havoc in Oslo’ (Frontiers Records Srl) released on August 4th, 2017; a 2 CD, 1 DVD/BluRay live concert recorded at Oslo’s Rockefeller club. They formed in 2000 in Norway and were initially a covers band. They quickly grew in popularity in Norway and began writing their own material which is a fusion of symphonic and heavy metal/power metal. The quintet is Michael Eriksen (vocals),
Mats Haugen (guitar), Glen Møllen (bass), Truls Haugen (drums) and Lasse Finbråten (keyboards). Circus Maximus have built quite a reputation among the prog metal community and after listening to this album I can fully understand why that has happened.
‘Havoc in Oslo’ is an album intended to capture the energy and atmosphere of a live performance in order to share the event with fans all over the world. It is made up of 15 tracks taken from their previous four studio albums; 6 tracks from ‘Havoc’, 6 from ‘Nine’, 2 from ‘Isolate’, and 1 from ‘The 1st Chapter’. I was not privy to the live DVD recording of this event and as such there are certain elements of this live event that I cannot comment on. However, the CD’s do capture an intensity and atmosphere that is quite mesmerising. There is a lot of interaction with the audience, which is mainly in Norwegian so I can’t comment on what is actually said, but nonetheless, the stage talk and responses from the crowd are lively and the cheers are passionate.
‘Forging’ is the first track on the album and is more of an introduction than an actual track itself as it is only 54 seconds long. There’s a noticeable build of anticipation in the crowd before
the boom of the rhythm section hits and we are launched into ‘Namaste, a track that has both smooth and aggressive vocals. It’s a great opening track for the album. The heavier bass lines of
‘Namaste’, ‘Pages’ and ‘Highest Bitter’ are probably among my favourites on the
album with more aggressive vocals though still melodic.
Circus Maximus manage to create and maintain an atmospheric symphony of musical prowess in tracks such as ‘Architect of Fortune’, ‘Chivalry’ and ‘Abyss’ whereby the hauntingly beautiful yet somewhat cerebral delivery just holds you in a state of artistic majesty that truly captivates while demonstrating a fusion of symphonic harmony between the instruments and the vocals.
The disciplined rhythm and drums, intense changes in tempo and insanely satisfying hooks found in ‘The One’ and ‘Havoc’ will have you hitting repeat without a doubt, not to mention the electrifying guitar solo in ‘Havoc’, that I have to say is utterly awesome. ‘I Am’ and ‘Game of Life’ will offer you fiercely complex and elaborate guitar solos and heavy synthesized keyboards mixed with melodic arena style vocals that are both sophisticated and brooding. My favourite track on the album is ‘The Weight’ and when the guitar solo from Mat Haugen kicks in at 3:28 the musical technique, mixed with the core intensity of the track, at one point actually gave me goose bumps!
As a whole I found the album to be intensely atmospheric, high in energy and musical prowess, and exhilarating. However, at times I found the synthesized portions of the music to be very clinical and cerebral rather than emotive, although beautiful in their symphonic delivery. The rhythm section consistently showcases their tight and disciplined style, the vocals are both rich and melodic while the guitar solos and keyboard capture and hold you in a hauntingly atmospheric explosion of symphonic bliss. If you enjoy the fusion of these sounds then you’ll definitely appreciate the melodic and amplified compositions that Circus Maximus has to offer in ‘Havoc in Oslo’.
3. The One
4. The Weight
5. Highest Bitter
6. Architect of Fortune
7. Arrival of Love
8. Loved Ones
5. I Am
7. Game of Life