Circle II Circle - The Middle Of Nowhere
AFM Records
Heavy Metal
11 songs (59'22)
Release year: 2005
Circle II Circle, AFM Records
Reviewed by Marty
Vocalist Zak Stevens quit Savatage 4 or 5 years ago to spend more time with his family. A few years later, he got the itch to make music again and formed his own band Circle II Circle. Their debut album Watching In Silence was a solid effort and the band toured in support of it. Before recordings got underway for the follow-up album, the entire band quit, leaving Zak Stevens to recruit all new members for their second album The Middle Of Nowhere. Ironically, his former band mates are now with Jon Oliva in Jon Oliva'a Pain. With The Middle Of Nowhere, as with their debut album, Zak once again gets songwriting help from his former Savatage band mates Chris Caffery and Jon Oliva as well as Paul O'Neill with Angel Dust guitarist Bernd Aufermann also contributing as well. The Savatage influences are still there with this new album but they are much more subtle than with the Watching In Silence album and the overall tone of the album is heavier and darker with more atmospheric qualities all accented by the use of some lower tunings on several tracks.

The first track, In This Life gets things started with a quiet acoustic intro that's a bit surprising as an album opener. Zak's voice sounds as pure and strong as ever and it inevitably gets heavier with ominous and booming Savatage style riffs. Zak self-harmonizes for the chorus part to round out a great opening track. All That Remains again shows some Savatage influence but more with the vocal lines as the guitars are detuned and really chunky and heavy. Much of this album is more of a mid-tempo style with heavy riffs and each song features a great vocal performance by Zak. His pure and strong voice really reminds me of David Byron (R.I.P) from the classic 70's era of Uriah Heep. Holding On uses slow and plodding riffs accented by chordal octaves and the chorus for this track is one of the catchier ones on the album. Zak's vocal layering is the icing on the cake for this one and many other songs on the album. Hollow features a soaring vocal over choppy heavy riffs with some pounding heavy sections and Psycho Motor even has a Megadeth feel with the speedier tempo and riffs. Faces In The Dark returns to the Savatage style and begins with a slower and laid back feel before getting heavier and faster mid song. The title track, The Middle Of Nowhere is more or less a power ballad that uses some thematic Savatage style lead guitar and vocal rounds that were such a staple of albums like Handful Of Rain and The Wake Of Magellan. The album ends with an acoustic track called Lost with Zak once again proving that he is the modern day David Byron.....what a voice!!. As a bonus, some versions of this album come with video clips, a multimedia section and a live version of Watching In Silence as a bonus track.

The Middle Of Nowhere sees Circle II Circle still embracing some of the Savatage influences as with Watching In Silence but they're also starting to forge their own identity as well. With members of Savatage helping out with the writing, it's hard not to hear those influences. This album is better than the first one and aside from a filler track or two, it's a great album that's full of great and diverse songs. The production is awesome with the pounding drums and bass all accenting the heavy guitar riffs and there's lots of great lead guitar and harmonized guitar melodies. With the voice of Zak Stevens, this band has a huge advantage over many others with that aspect alone. The chunky heavy sound gives this album more of a U.S. power metal sound but there's lots of melody in the vocals and the guitars. Us Savatage fans have been anxiously awaiting news of a new album but in the meantime, albums like this one as well as the latest ones by Chris Caffery, Jon Oliva and the Trans Siberian Orchestra are giving us more than our fix of Savatage flavored material. The fact that this version of Circle II Circle has all new members seems to make absolutely no difference. Everything that Chris Caffery and Jon Oliva get involved with seems to produce magic. This is testament to the vision and songwriting talent that these guys have. Circle II Circle has produced another solid album that will surely satisfy Savatage fans and continues the string of excellent releases by current and former Savatage members. Even without a new Savatage album on the horizon anytime soon, the legacy still continues.......

Killing Songs :
In This Life, All That Remains, Holding On, Hollow and Faces InThe Dark
Marty quoted 84 / 100
Other albums by Circle II Circle that we have reviewed:
Circle II Circle - Delusions Of Grandeur reviewed by Marty and quoted 86 / 100
Circle II Circle - Burden Of Truth reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 87 / 100
Circle II Circle - Watching In Silence reviewed by Ben and quoted 77 / 100
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