Circus Maximus – Havoc in Oslo (Frontiers Records)

Tuesday, 22nd August 2017
Rating: 8.5/10

Live albums today aren’t exactly the attention getters as they may have been in the 70’s and 80’s. Live and Dangerous, Strangers in the Night, Unleashed in the East, and Live After Death – these are benchmarks for many hard rock and metal legions. Desiring to encapsulate a specific piece of band history, Circus Maximus feel the time is now to issue a live documentation of their progressive metal efforts- in front of a hometown Oslo crowd for Havoc in Oslo. Available in DVD/Blu-Ray formats, we are only privy to the double disc audio portion of this concert – still giving the listener 15 tracks and almost 90 minutes of breathtaking mastery, reveling in a headline show that proves why Scandinavia is a power/progressive metal juggernaut.

The four studio albums of the group have seen a natural, transforming musical curve take shape – shedding old influences for new ones, refining and developing inner confidence in better melodies, hooks, subtle intricacies and interplay ambitions. Concentrating on 2012’s Nine and 2016’s Havoc for the bulk of the setlist (12 out of the 15 tracks), the quintet balances out the shorter, more succinct ideas on “Namaste” or “Havoc” with the epic 8 to 10-minute arrangements where expansion of instrumental thoughts and advanced technical prowess comes about – “Architect of Fortune” and “Chivalry” showcasing both the heavier or atmospheric spheres of where the band chooses to go. If that means holding out a specific keyboard/guitar note for four-eight bars, so be it. Or allowing Michael Eriksen’s rich AOR/arena voice build through the verses to a grand chorus – “Loved Ones” delivering ultimate payouts.

Stage talk and audience requests are mostly done in Norwegian, but the crowd seems very alive and passionate to the dynamic offerings of Circus Maximus. It’s a pleasure to hear “Sin” from The First Chapter, as well as the aggressive “Abyss” from the follow up, giving off hints of a darker Evergrey feel as the keyboards glide in and out against the down tuned guitar chord gallops and squeals. Closing out the album on the infectious “Game of Life”, it’s obvious from first note to last why Circus Maximus have achieved a lasting impression in the progressive metal community. Beyond abilities, they know how to write damn catchy songs – not the easiest task in this style, so if you need to become well-versed on their discography, Havoc in Oslo would be a perfect entrance point.

Circus Maximus official website