|Review: Circle II Circle - The Middle Of Nowhere|
|The Middle Of Nowhere|
Label: AFM Records
Year released: 2005
Genre: Heavy Metal
Review online: January 28, 2011
Reviewed by: Bruce Dragonchaser
for:The Middle Of Nowhere
Rated 3.69/5 (73.85%) (13 Votes)
I’ve come to realize I’ve really overlooked Circle II Circle in the past. Their debut, Watching In Silence, is undoubtedly the finest post-Savatage release to be released by Zak Stevens and his then new outfit, though they have carved some great albums since (even though I’ve slammed them because of their poor production, which is something you have to get used to). Their second release, 2005’s The Middle Of Nowhere, saw the entire band jump ship to play in Jon Oliva’s Pain, and it was up to Zak to get a whole new band, most of which have survived to this day. This record saw Stevens take a much darker and more introspective direction from the shiny debut, moving further away from the Savatage sound of the 90s and into something more unique. This record introduced heavier, more riff-driven material, taking the bluesy direction of Handful Of Rain and Edge Of Thorns to a more sophisticated level. It takes a lot of listens to appreciate, as it does seem a little bland on the surface, but it’s worth the effort, trust me.
There are no real duds here, as all the songs have smooth vocal lines, progressive guitar work, and quite personal lyrics that are rather inspiring. The album opens with "In This Life", a Sava-ballad that spins into a pure Criss Oliva-esque riff that brings us back to earth. "All That Remains" has a great hook, and the middle section has Wake Of Magellan written all over it. Zak sounds phenomenal throughout, with his backing harmonies being particularly enjoyable. There are some lighter moments such as "Hollow", which has a distinct AOR vibe, and "Psycho Motor", which is a direct descendent of Savatage’s "Drive" from Poets And Madmen, a cool riff-heavy number that always gets the head banging.
The production is much better than usual, thick on the bass but crunchy in the percussion section, and the best songs take advantage of this, the epic numbers like "Faces In The Dark" and the excellent title track, which is the best song here. Not only are the melodies tighter and more memorable than anything on the album, but the counterpoint vocal section is probably the best that Zak has performed, with the exception of "Chance" and the title cut from Wake Of Magellan. Jon Oliva still has songwriting credits all over this, but The Middle Of Nowhere was the album that really got Circle II Circle’s intrinsic sound off the ground, and if you’re looking for a thought-provoking and intelligent metal release from one of the best singers in the business, this is an album you need to add to your collection.
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