Prog bands are often in a very tricky position. By definition, being progressive means to change and evolve. To progress means moving forward. The problem is that if prog bands progress to far from what fans expect, there can be backlash.
Back when Voivod released “Angel Rat,” it was considered a risk. Looking back now, it really wasn’t as radical as it was made out to be. I always liked that album and didn’t mind a slight change in sound anyway. Dream Theater has taken a risk with their new album “The Astonishing,” but since it still very much sounds like them and the album as a whole falls within what can be expected of them.
Now we have the case of Circus Maximus. Their last album “Nine” was a bit more user friendly (i.e. poppy) but still very much sounded like them. Not everyone liked it but since it did sound like them, it seems most fans were okay with it. And now they are releasing the album “Havoc.” The first single “The Weight” sounds similar to the material on “Nine.” But then the second single is the title track.
This is a huge risk. The song doesn’t resemble them at all. It sounds a bit like Muse on a bad day, or on their last album which was fairly stupid. Some people have mentioned it sounds like Marilyn Manson. Regardless, it clearly doesn’t sound like the Circus Maximus everyone knows. While I give the band credit for taking a true risk, it really is fucking hideous.
Musically, it’s rather stupid but even worse are the very basic lyrics. Havoc as my bride? This is definitely their attempt to become more mainstream. In many ways, it reminds me of what In Flames has slowly been evolving into. Hell even the album cover for “Havoc” reminds me of the logo on the last In Flames album!
I do think bands should ultimately do whatever they want. The risk is very high, the more you change your sound. Ask Paradise Lost how the “Host” album went over! But if the songs are great, it won’t matter. The songs on that Paradise Lost album are great, the band survived the experiment. The question that the song “Havoc” raises is if Circus Maximus can survive a shitty song. I think they can…unless there are more like it on the horizon.
I haven’t heard the rest of the “Havoc” album and to be honest, I am almost afraid to do so! Yes we want prog bands to progress but sometimes change is not progress. If you destroy a really nice house and build an outhouse in its pace, that’s not progress. Putting a nice addition on the house…that’s progress.