Circle - Arkades [Fourth Dimension Records - 2007]This half reissue/ half new material double disk set from the mighty Circle shows two sides to this highly prolific band. Disk one original released in Vinyl format last year finds them creating two vocally layered long tracks, with as the cover suggest cowboy and Indian influence. Disk two is a live disk showing them in a more cut down, less sprawling song format jump in and out of many musical genre's beds along the way.
Iíll have to admit to start with the first disk didnít grab me much at all, the tracks seemed too long -twenty minutes a piece and they didnít seem to go anywhere much, but over repeated plays Iíve really started to warm firstly the second track The Ghost of the highway and then the first The Greatest Kingdom. Both tracks really focus in on the interplay, dramatics and atmosphere created by their changing vocals layers & chants. The Greatest Kingdom starts off with chanted yet slightly demented American Indian like vocals, with an stretched brooding American skies come slow war-dance vibe about the musical backing of drums, guitars and synth. Over time it seems to become more and more looped progy & lighter with the synths twisting out new patterns vibrate colours and the vocals become soaring and strangle operatic, all ending off sounding quite heroic,sky soaring and triumphant in its vibe.
Ghost of the highway sounds like a bizarre rhythmic locked meeting between Gilbert and Sullivan, 80ís fist pumping metal, prog synth throbs and American Indian rain dance. Again the vocals are the primary focused here as they go from light operatic, overblown metal, to mixed almost black metal grunts and mumbles.
The second disk I warmed to straight away, because basically itís everything I love and cherish about the band with the three tracks sea-sew between slamming 70ís rock riffs, funky bass lines, bopping and trace inducing synth power, weird primal interludes, bizarre often overblown vocal chants/sounds and all manner of genre milking. As well as fitting in with the first disks concept of cowboys, Indians and dusty western plains with some very nice twangy and panoramic guitar work.
An album more for the already Circle connoisseur (certainly on the first disk) who's willing to give the tracks time to click. Not one of my favourite Circle album, though itís pretty darn fine and shows them running circles around so many other bands that try to sound distinctive & original.Roger Batty