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CIRCLE OF PAIN Classic Live Tunes
ZYX Music (2005)

Circle of Pain

I was never particularly worried about having to write a review for a band previously unknown to me. I guess that, being a person that likes many different styles of music plays a huge role in this, and it also helps I am always up for a good challenge, but as far as this new release from Circle of Pain is concerned, I admit feeling anxious and slightly disadvantaged! You see, 'Classic Live Tunes' is, in its entirety, a live version of the band's 2001 release 'Paradox of Destitution', presented to the band's audience with the help and participation of the Sudhessen Symphonic Orchestra.

Now, that doesn't sound all that bad, but if you also bear in mid that the above-mentioned album was a concept release, you then begin to understand how easy it must be to lose both the meaning and feeling that this release set out to create. Armed with as much courage as I could gather at the time, I started listening to this double CD release.

The opening theme of the album, which carries the quite fitting title 'Prologue', brought forward influences from the mighty Savatage, and that is not a bad thing in my agenda. A few such influences can be visible throughout this release, but the truth of the matter is that Circle of Pain are more influenced by 80's Hard Rock and bands like Scorpions and Van Halen, rather than anything slightly more progressive. Songs like 'Try' and 'The Way' are filled with good quality guitar melodies and catchy solos which will impress quite a few Hard Rock/AOR fans, but there are also a few things that I've noticed which do not work in the band's benefit.

There were quite a few occasions where I felt quite irritated by Uwe Johann's high pitch vocals, and it's quite a shame seeing as he is not afraid to challenge himself. On the other hand, his low-pitch melodies are of good quality, and I will not be at all surprised if I hear quite a lot of you mentioning that the sound of his voice sounds similar to that of Hansi Kursch (Blind Guardian / Demons and Wizards).

What I found even more interesting was the fact that the Sudhessen Symphonic Orchestra played a far less significant role than anyone would naturally expect (this release is called 'Classic Live Tunes' after all), and in most occasions was limited by providing the background melodies to Gee Kay's and Dirk's guitar riffs.

As a balance to the above, this album features a very passionate and quite skilled band that had the guts to go on stage and perform not one, not two, but twenty three songs none of which sounded poor or out of place!

There are quite a few songs that managed to attract my attention, but I found no real trouble in choosing my personal favourites, starting by the melodic composition that 'Imagine', which features some really nice piano melodies and beautiful female vocals the origins of which I did not manage to trace.

A short but very interesting display of medieval music can be found in 'Premenition', and those of you who cannot do without some good-old aggressive 80's Hard Rock riffs will definitely vote for 'Pregnancy'.

Other good moments were the Savatage-sounding 'Calm Before The Storm', where you will get to appreciate the real abilities of both the choir and the orchestra involved in this project, and a very interesting drum solo where, if my ears are not fooling me, Holdy Wahlig (drums) competes with an equally skilled Percussionist.

So, what is the verdict? Well, it depends on how you perceive things, really. If, by listening to this release, you expect to listen to a well-polished album that shows no obvious weaknesses, then I guess that you could get slightly disappointed. If, on the other hand, you see (as I do) a band that went on stage to perform some really good quality music in front of quite a few of their loyal friends, then this album is what you are looking for. As always, the choice is yours!


Review by John Stefanis

Related>>DVD review

***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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