Circle II Circle - Watching In Silence

Year of Release: 2003
Label: AFM Records
Catalog Number: AFM CD 065-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 45:51:00

Savatage is a progressive metal band out of Florida, and as a closet metal-head, one of my all time favorite albums is their criminally underrated The Wake Of Magellan. Which means it is also the best album from Savatage?s Zak Stevens-Era. Zachary left after Magellan, and after a two year hiatus he has re-entered the music business with his own 6 piece band - Circle II Circle. So considering their pedigree and their appearance at ProgPower IV, there was a lot of anticipation riding on their debut CD as it entered my player.

Here?s a lesson, folks. Remember all those childhood lessons about first impressions? Zak Stevens remembered them - and from the first 3 bars, I knew this was going to be very enjoyable.

The similarities to Savatage are inevitable, considering Stevens?s past association with that band, and the fact that every song is composed jointly by Stevens, and Savatage members Jon Oliva and Chris Caffery. But enough about Savatage. Circle II Circle is a separate band, and their music stands on its own merits. I played Watching In Silence dozens of times while writing this review and never tired of it.

The music I review is usually newly released, and mine is often the first (or one of the first) reviews ever. This one was different. Watching In Silence has been out since April 2003, and dozens of heavy metal reviewers have already published their opinions.

So I read those reviews, and here?s an interesting observation: Those metal-heads loved the first few tracks, and felt the quality dropped off after that. But as a reviewer for ProgressiveWorld.Net, I am a prog-head and a prog-metal head, so my perspective is somewhat different. And I thought exactly the opposite. The first 2 tracks are certainly very good. Track 4 (the title track) is the best on the album. But the last few tracks - disparaged by the metal fans - are just excellent. You see, the difference between the metal heads and we proggers is our appreciation of musical complexity, and the liberal inclusion of piano and other keyboard sounds.

There is nothing new in Watching In Silence - but that is not a criticism. Circle II Circle has taken the Savatage / Vanden Plas / Edguy Power Metal formula, put their own spin on it, and executed it very well. The music on Watching In Silence is complex, as we have come to expect from that genre, though it doesn?t sound that way at first blush. It is song oriented, with lengths between just 4 and 6 minutes. Each track is constantly changing, never boring, with very catchy tunes and killer riffs.

As a prog-head, I found the Piano-over-power-chords to be an unusual but wonderful sound. But as a closet metal-head, I also appreciated the dual guitar attack and the deep, very crunchy power chord riffs played off de-tuned bass strings. Production quality is good, spacious, and consistent, if a little rough around the edges and not quite the standard of Paul O?Neill (Savatage / TranSiberian Orchestra). Interestingly, the mix brings those guitar riffs and piano melodies to the front. Zak?s emotive vocals and particularly the few guitar solos, often retreat into the background, well behind the piano and those dominant power chords.

Another interesting sound is the backing vocals, often sung in chorus and mixed louder than Zak?s own singing. Listen to Zak's trademark point-counterpoint vocals, and the grandly operatic 4 part Queen-like chants on "F.O.S." and "Walls"

A theme common to several tracks is a simple, dominant piano introduction leading into soft vocals, then enter the full metal instrument set - either gradually or all at once - heavy at the bottom, with that piano and the vocals floating lightly over the top. Never quite soft enough to be a power ballad, but close. Ear candy for a prog-metal head!

Standout tracks are "Out Of Reach", "F.O.S." (Fields Of Sorrow), "Watching In Silence", and "Walls".

So if you?re a metal-head or a prog-metal-head, you?ll probably love Watching In Silence. But be advised folks: This music is Heavy with a capital "H," "Other-heads" should be warned off.

Out Of Reach (4:09) / Sea Of White (4:39) / Into The Wind (4:19) / Watching In Silence (4:25) / Forgiven (5:02) / Lies (3:26) / Face To Face (5:13) / Walls (4:28) / The Circle (3:30) / F.O.S. (6:40)

Zak Stevens - vocals
Matt LaPorte - guitar
Shane French - guitar
John Zahner - keys
Kevin Rothney - bass
Chris Kinder - drums

Watching In Silence (2003)
All That Remains (ep) (2005)
The Middle Of Nowhere (2005)
Revelations (ep) (2006)
Burden Of Truth (2006)
Every Last Thing (ep) (2008)
Delusions Of Grandeur (2008)
So Many Reasons (ep) (2008)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin US

Added: September 22nd 2003
Reviewer: Duncan N Glenday
Artist website:
Hits: 706
Language: english


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