Circle II Circle – Reign of Darkness (earMusic)Tuesday, 6th October 2015
Healthy times for any Savatage related members these days. A triumphant 2015 return to the biggest German metal festival stage at Wacken, plus a Trans-Siberian Orchestra run that keeps Jon Oliva, Paul O’Neill, Chris Caffery and company active recording and touring during the holiday season and beyond for the past two decades. Circle II Circle has been the going concern for vocalist Zak Stevens since 2001, continuing a mix of traditional, power, and progressive-oriented metal that he’s been known for. Reign of Darkness as the seventh full-length platter encompasses the broad spectrum of the band’s outlook, never forsaking their roots while also attempting to bring the necessary variety to keep listeners engaged front to back.
Possibly a little heavier in spots through a deadlier low-end oriented guitar tone, Marc Pattison and Christian Wentz as guitarists weave thick dual riffs and complementary breaks during certain instrumental sections that keep “It’s All Over” and “Taken Away” top of mind to possibly the newer generation of metal followers. Keyboardist Henning Wanner has a prominent role in setting up certain dramatic or theatrical oriented compositions in a similar light as older Savatage – check out his playful ivory strains in “Victim of the Night” or somber reflective choices against the building tempo/riff rifling for “Somewhere”.
Never afraid to tackle headier subject matter such as the struggles and difficult outcomes of drug addiction on the touching closer “Solitary Rain”, Zak delivers a gritty performance throughout- knowing when to hold out certain money notes while keeping his firm, traditional pipes honed in for proper lyrical hooks and treats. Highlights include the mid-tempo “Ghost of the Devil” that features some nifty progressive rhythm tricks and killer shredding, as well as the infectious groove throughout “Sinister Love”.
Who knows if we will ever get another Savatage studio record in our lifetime- so at this point, music fans need to accept that Jon Oliva’s Pain and Circle II Circle are the best triple AAA team versions of that classic sound we could ever hope to get. As such Reign of Darkness is this sextet’s best since their third effort Burden of Truth – adequate and down to earth heavy metal with classic and power inflections ready-made for the stage.