Review: Circus Maximus – Isolate (2007)


Progressive metal is one of those sub-genres where you really can do no wrong. The basic definition of progressive metal is metal with odd time signatures with musical influences that are virtually limitless. In this day in age, you come across many progressive bands that have their basis in alternative forms of metal, but use progressive techniques to further their sound (i.e. Sigh, Death, Atheist, Meshuggah, The Red Chord) which makes for a rich tapestry of different sounds that really get their influences from bands like RUSH, Dream Theater, and Pink Floyd amongst an assortment of others. Still, for many traditionalists, the “traditional sound” of progressive metal (if that exists) has its roots in standard heavy metal with progressive influences enfused. The modern stalwarts of the progressive metal movement starting in the late 80’s are Dream Theater who most metal and hard rock fans will know. However, an assortment of bands which have taken Dream Theater‘s lead, have offered some uncanny albums of excellent progressive music. In 2005, I had the fortune to discover one of these bands from the Norwegian scene, Circus Maximus and their debut, The 1st Chapter.

Likening Circus Maximus to Dream Theater is very easy and obvious because Circus Maximus has obviously great respect and admiration for the latter. From start to finish The 1st Chapter is an ode to Dream Theater, but to say they are copycats, or a glorified cover band would be criminal. Circus Maximus, an unknown band with an unknown group of musicians to Americans released an album that quickly gained them enormous respect in the metal community and made The 1st Chapter my favorite album of the year. In fact, I would go as far as to say that 2005’s Octavarium, a great album from Dream Theater, paled in comparison to The 1st Chapter. This year, Circus Maximus has decided to grace us with their sophomore release, entitled simply, Isolate. Does it live up to the first, or will it fall into the slump that so often happens with second records?

I can safely say that after a number of spins, Isolate is no where near being a disappointment. At first, being a huge fan of this band, I found myself being very critical from song to song and wanted another 1st Chapter, but then I realized that Circus Maximus is not Iron Maiden, and a natural progression from album to album should be expected from a band like them! I then began to focus my attention away from the 1st Chapter and realized that Isolate is the perfect follow up piece. Circus Maximus gives us yet another taste of their incredible skills, ranging from Michael Eriksen’s vocals (which one can closely compare to Roy Khan of Kamelot) to Truls Haugen’s drumwork all brought together with out of this world song structure. Perhaps what is the most impressive about Isolate, is its distance from Dream Theater‘s sound! I would never criticize Circus Maximus for writing music that can be likened to Dream Theater, but the fact that they can compose with their own sound in favor of anyone else’s is an important leap forward.

Thus far, Isolate, with its tight formations from musician to musician with catchy as hell hooks, is just as good as The 1st Chapter in every way, and even earns extra points for finding its own identity. I challenge any progressive act to write music as good as Circus Maximus; even the mighty Dream Theater, Symphony X and Pagan’s Mind cannot touch these maestros of the progressive. If you are a fan of this music, you are doing yourself a grave disservice by not purchasing this album. Give these boys international attention, they deserve it!


Top Tracks: Sane No More, A Darkened Mind, Ulimate Sacrifice
Similar Bands: Dream Theater, Pagan’s Mind, Threshold, Sun Caged, Symphony X, Kamelot

1. A Darkened Mind 05:33
2. Abyss 05:00
3. Wither 04:46
4. Sane No More 03:55
5. Arrival Of Love 04:10
6. Zero 04:50
7. Mouth Of Madness 12:42
8. From Childhood’s Hour 04:28
9. Ultimate Sacrifice 09:17

Michael Eriksen – Vocals
Mats Haugen – Guitar
Glen Mollen – Bass
Truls Haugen – Drums
Lasse Finbroten – Keyboards

Sensory Records (U.S. distribution)


1 Response to “Review: Circus Maximus – Isolate (2007)”

  1. October 16, 2007 at 9:10 pm

    I agree 100%. Along with the relevance to other bands

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WarGlory’s Top 10 of 2007 (so far)


1. Circus Maximus - Isolate

2. Abigor - Fractal Possession

3. 3 Inches of Blood - Fire Up the Blades

4. Municipal Waste - The Art of Partying

5. Dream Theater - Systematic Chaos

6. Threshold - Dead Reckoning

7. As I Lay Dying - An Ocean Between Us

8. Behemoth - The Apostasy

9. Megadeth - United Abominations

10. Agent Steel - Alienigma


1. Iced Earth - Framing Armageddon

2. Aria - Armageddon

3. Kruger - Redemption Through Loooseness

4. Machine Head - The Blackening







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