“Step Right Up…” These words begin the Shadow Circus CD. If you accept this invitation, you are in for one wild carny ride into a world of dark clowns and spooky freaks. A Shadow Circus indeed. After the spoken invitation a lively grandiose synth solo begins the song “Shadow Circus.” With much dramatic flair from singer David Lawrence Bobick we are introduced to this circus of freaks. Bobick’s over-the-top vocal styling are at times reminiscent of Dennis De Young on this song, although Bobick’s are much better and conveying emotions. Perhaps this comes from his experience as a musical theater performer?
“Storm Rider” introduces some nice harmonies, a galloping piano motif and an almost latin groove. It then develops later in the song with a middle eastern vibe by utilization of the sitar sound. “Radio People” begins with a march beat, then reveals itself by reminding one of Eno’s “Here Comes the Warm Jets” in its Art-Rock stylings. Great instrumentation and ever-changing musical formulas abound throughout this CD. Congratulations to John Fontana (Guitarist, Keyboardist and initiator of all things Shadow Circus), as he really came up with something a little different than many other groups on the prog scene. Of course, he is ably assisted by percussionist Corey Folta, keyboardist Zach Tenorio-Miller, and Matt Masek on bass, 12-string guitar and back-up vocals.
I like how the Hammond melody that introduces “In the Wake of a Dancing Flame” is repeated on synthesizer later in the song. There is also a Hackett-like solo towards the end of the song. At times, David’s vocals are of the Peter Hammill/Geoff Mann school where more emphasis is put on the emotive quality than consistently hitting the notes. Unfortunately, this is perhaps David Bobick’s least inspired vocal as he sounds a little tired, though the song itself has one of the catchiest choruses and uplifting melodies on Welcome to the Freakroom.
Certainly every prog band must have an Epic (most prog bands have several), and “Journey of Everyman” is Shadow Circus’ contribution. It flows very well and shows the band’s strength as performers and especially Fontana’s composing skills. Three separate sections with the two instrumental pieces sandwiching the excellent vocal “Find Your Way” encompass all of a 12-minute period. The first section starts with a classical piano and develops impressively, featuring a dueling and occasionally synchronizing guitar and keyboard. And of course the song builds frantically to culminate with a majestic finish… It’s an Epic for goodness sake!
Shadow Circus is an original band that certainly has a good future. I’m very happy they were picked from almost obscurity by Progrock Records. I look forward to upcoming releases as I’m sure they have yet to produce their masterwork, but Welcome to the Freakroom was quite the two-bit fair ride itself.
Reviewed by Terry Jackson on May 24th, 2007