December 31, 2015 Circle II Circle – Reign of Darkness (Album Review)
Since their formation in 2001, Tampa Florida’s Circle II Circle has been churning out music with their brand of Heavy Power Prog Metal. Those who are unaware, Vocalist Zachary “Zak” Stevens was the lead vocalist for Savatage for several years prior. After leaving the band, he formed Circle II Circle with his friend and band manager, Dan Campbell. During this time, they laid the groundwork material for their debut studio album, Watching in Silence, which was released in 2003, and set forth on their journey. Since then, Circle II Circle has steadily built up momentum over the years. With Stevens leading the way on vocals, the band has continuously molded and honed their style. Over the next several years, Circle II Circle has met with great success and gained world recognition. Their style is unique and evolving, keeping fans engaged, and piquing the interests of new listeners.
Their above mentioned debut studio album, Watching in Silence, release via AFM Records, featured guest appearances by Stevens’ former Savatage bandmates, Jon Oliva and Chris Caffery. Stevens brought his former bandmates back to make a second guest appearance in Circle II Circle’s second album in 2005, The Middle of Nowhere. Not taking a moment to rest, they released Burden of Truth in 2006; a concept album inspired by Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code. Then, in 2008, they released Delusions of Grandeur, with Bill Hudson on guitar; and followed up with Consequences of Power in 2010. Pushing forward, in 2013, with Christian Wentz on guitar and Henning Wanner on Keyboards, Circle II Circle released their sixth album, Seasons Will Fall, under a new label, earMUSIC. Now a mere two years later, they returned on October 16th with their most recent album, Reign of Darkness, featuring Drummer Marcelo Moreira, the newest addition to the group.
Circle II Circle’s Reign of Darkness opens up with “Over-Underture,” an instrumental piece with crunchy, Metal guitar riffs that contrast nicely with strong keyboard melodies. Halfway through the track, the keyboards take a darker turn as the guitar play quickens to the rapid beats of the drums. The result is a sound that sets the tone for the rest of the album’s story. “Victims of the Night” finds the tempo picking up with Wanner’s keyboards paving the way as Stevens lets loose with some melodic vocals. Then there is “Untold Dreams,” which begins with guitar melodies and explodes into Power Metal guitar riffs and amazing solos while Moreira slams out the drumbeats. Stevens displays his powerful vocal talents as he belts out the lyrics.
Opening up with Heavy Metal guitars and rapid-fire drums, “It’s All Over” features solid and talented guitar play while Stevens brings it home with a hard attitude through his vocals. In “One More Day,” the attitude returns, turning things up a notch. Both Hudson and Wentz dominate this piece with their guitars. Stewart, on bass, keeps the sound together. Next there is “Ghost of The Devil,” which sees Stevens’ melodies return to the forefront as the track showcases the band’s signature sound, featuring the range of the band’s musical talents.
Wanner’s keyboards starts things off in “Somewhere,” a Progressive Metal piece where Stevens’ vocals slows things down only to have the guitar and drums cut loose and kick things up again. Wanner displays his talents on keyboards by creating haunting melodies in “Deep Within,” supporting Stevens’ passionate vocals, as intricate solos and guitars gallop throughout this energetic piece. Moving on, “Taken Away” features crunchy bass play by Stewart while Moreira’s drums set the attitude and Hudson along with Wentz set the pace with their guitar riffs. Then there is “Sinister Love,” which kicks off with edgy and invigorating guitar play while backed by Moreira’s drums and the rest of the band lending vocal support to Stevens’ power ballad-style vocals. This results in the lyrics and music flowing together seamlessly. Bringing the album to a close is emotionally powerful piece “Solitary Rain” taking the energy back down with a somber tune that accentuates Stevens’ melancholy, melodic vocals as the band displays talents which earned them world recognition.
With eleven tracks at approximately fifty-one minutes, Circle II Circle’s latest album takes the listener on a journey. Reign of Darkness showcases some hard-hitting and passionate sounds. Through this album, the band brings forth their signature sound of Metal worth listening to. In short, it is a culmination of the years dedicated to their musical evolution, making Reign of Darkness quite possibly Circle II Circle’s best album. CrypticRock gives this album 4 out of 5 stars.