Norwegians Circus Maximus apparently made a conscious decision to streamline and heavy things up with album number three, which they’ve decided to call Nine, and you have to say it was a good decision. The result is a sleek, punchy record which, whilst not quite packing any ‘hit single’ style punches still manages to highlight what an incredibly accomplished outfit they’ve become.
It’s not all radio friendly unit shifting however; Penultimate track Burn After Reading is a gratifyingly epic piece of progressive metal that’ll have fans of Dream Theater, Symphony X et al salivating with pleasure at the superb melding of muscular riffage (guitarist Mats Haugen is consistently impressive throughout, but he particularly shines here with some grinding fretwork that definitely places him in the top drawer of prog metal axeperts, like a more metallic version of Saga’s Ian Crichton.) with glittering melody, the latter being majorly provided by the sweeping vocal gymnasticism of Michael Eriksen, who also puts a stamp of authority on every track.
Last Goodbye rounds the album out in sublime style, fusing elements of Europe and, remarkably, Supertramp to forge a deliciously poignant clser which again tips the prog needle into the red, with Eriksen leaving you in no doubt whatsoever as to his total command of rock vocalization.
So there you have it – Circus Maximus are close, so close to greatness that they probably get a whiff of it every time they open their flight cases. If album number four contains one or two stone melodic rock classics to go with the accomplished musicianship, a pretty nifty prize is theirs for the taking. .