What the fuck happened to Circus Maximus? That’s a questions many fans of the band have been asking, especially after hearing this album, “Havoc.” The band changed their sound quite a bit on their last album “Nine,” but it still had enough elements of what they used to be, plus the songs were overall fairly strong.
The band became VERY poppy and basically an AOR band. It’s easy to see that part of the cause could be their record label. Frontiers Music sign exclusively melodic metal bands, CHEESE…bands that were popular back in the 80s or that never got the memo that the 80s are gone. It’s fine to like bands like that, it’s another thing to regress from a talented prog metal band to a simplistic AOR metal band like Circus Maximus.
So what’s wrong with “Havoc” compared to “Nine”? None of the tracks on “Havoc” are as good as the ones on “Nine.” Basically this album sounds like an even more watered down version of the previous album. A photocopy of a photocopy. The album starts off with a simple tune called “The Weight” that sounds like an outtake from “Nine.” It’s light fluff and not strong enough to start an album off.
The second song “Highest Bitter” is the best song on the album. The main reason is that the choirs is really strong. The verses are iffy but the punchy chorus saves the day. Next up is the title track which is so horrendous, the song could be a career killer. The over all sound is comparable to Marilyn Manson. Well it’s more of an approximation of that sound since the band really sound like they have no fucking idea what they are doing. It’s not a heavy song, though the band seems to think so. It’s like a kitten try so hard to be a lion. Stop please.
The music isn’t even the worst part of the song. The lyrics manage to be even worse. Stupid, inane and childish. I was going to type out a snippet of the lyrics to point out how bad they are but I couldn’t pick one part out. The entire set of lyrics are completely ridiculous and flat out embarrassing. I would have thought that the song was a joke but Circus Maximus went to the trouble of naming the album after this complete waste of time and money. If you want to laugh (or cry), here are the lyrics.
Next up is the slightly heavier “Pages” which is a kin to a car revving its engine but never going anywhere. “Flames” just reminds me that the cover artwork reminds me of the last In Flames album which also sucked major ass. The song is a shitty attempt to replicate “The Game of Life” from “Nine” which was a great song. “Flames” has no teeth or punch to it at all. The lyrics are particularly terrible too.
“My burning fire, take me home
My one desire, feed me more
My only choir, in my dome
Let me rewire…”
The two longer tracks are next, stuck back to back which points out yet another problem with this album, sequencing. It’s pretty obvious that the band were trying to hide these two songs by putting them somewhere in the middle. “Loved Ones” should have been the album closer since it has that feel. “After the Fire” could be a good opener if the song was developed a bit more at the start of it. But the band just gave a half effort to both songs.
“Remember” sounds like ANOTHER attempt to copy “The Game of Life.” It’s like they realized that “Flames” didn’t work so fuck it, try again. It doesn’t work either. The album mercifully comes to a close with “Chivalry.” They try really hard for a big closing number but it’s average and the damage is done.
“Havoc” is a case study in how to commit career suicide. The only member that puts forth any effort is vocalist Michael Eriksen but with the lyrics being awful, that’s nothing to brag about. Drummer Truls Haugen seems particularly unwilling to play anything remotely interesting or difficult. Overall, it’s hard to consider any of this prog metal.
Now back to the label Frontiers Music who seem to prefer bands that dumb things down. They have signed DGM and Withem who both were prog. Pay attention to their next releases on this label. I am guessing each will sound SIGNIFICANTLY poppier. I don’t mind quality pop and good hooks. But this is not that at all. “Havoc” is like a watered down version of an already watered down drink. It has no flavor unless you count the rotten taste you’re left with after the title track.
1. The Weight
2. Highest Bitter
6. Loved Ones
7. After The Fire
Label: Frontiers Music
NOTE: Rather than torture the listener, I will skip adding a song to this review.