Circle of Silence: The Blackened Halo

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Circle of Silence: The Blackened Halo
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Circle of Silence: The Blackened Halo
Power Metal
Massacre Records
April 29th, 2011
Release length: 48:38
Myspace
Website
Circle of Silence formed back in 2005 and hails from Germany. Instead of waiting around to be picked up by a label, the band went right ahead and sidestepped having to put out a demo or two to circulate and simply recording some full-length releases. After issuing their first two albums independently (Your Own Story and The Supremacy of Time), Circle of Silence find themselves signed to Massacre Records for their third full-length, and first proper label-based release, allowing the world a chance to check out the potential the group contains musically. But then again, why was this group even waiting for a label in the first place?

This Power Metal act isn’t a bad band, and in fact much of The Blackened Halo is strong. The audio quality of the tracks here are pretty strong, being rather clear but still having a good edge to the distortion of the guitars and a little cleaner when necessary for more melodic moments. The bass is loud enough to really make it’s presence heard and give it a deeper heaviness to the music, though typically just supporting the lead guitar with a strong backing during solos from the rhythm guitars. The drums sound great with a nice click to the kicks and the snares and cymbols sound naturing and far from overpowering. But, the vocals are where the production does come into play a bit. The vocals are not the strongest on here to begin with, but still suit the music. However the quality of the music leaves the layered vocals often being a split second too late and sounding like just two similar voices performing at the same time, one over the other, just on a delay with a rather bad echo effect that does make them sound rather hollow and without any real bite to them. Luckily this isn’t all the time. When the music slows down, their flaws can really be found, whereas the faster music, like the infectious first track “Synthetic Sleep”, can kind of mask those faults and make the overall performance sound a lot stronger.

This leads to a fantastic openning track with “Synthetic Sleep”. Again, the song is infectious, but that’s largely in part of the faster pace and much heavier sound of the music, as well as a decent range in the vocals. The music itself feels louder and richer here due to the more aggressive sound, which kind of masks that hollow echo, and the chorus just sounds energetic and very catchy from all ends of the band. However, this is where much of the catchier, rich material seems to really come to a halt, and even the mood of the album changes up a bit. “Left to Die” immediately changes this up by being a slower paced commanding song that is bass heavy with a good vocal performance and all coming together to basically make a strong Heavy Metal worship track with excellent rich bridges, but the chorus is where the vocal issues will start to come through despite the nice range used and layering that sounds pretty good. From this point on, Circle of Silence really comes off more as an aggressive band then one focusing on catchy material like what they introduced themselves as with this release. This doesn’t mean the songs won’t have you headbanging along, as the band do manage to take that more aggressive sound and harness some hooks in the chorus of “Exception”, which will have you banging your head along much like with “Synthetic Sleep”, though just in a somewhat more limited space.

“21 Grams”, however, is the first to introduce some of the problems with the vocals. The vocals end up sounding a bit off-key to the music, and at times can feel a little hollow, and if you are listening closely some of the backing layered vocals sounds off at times. While the music is good and feels more like the band was going for more of a fight song, it just kind of falls apart despite, once again, another catchy chorus that seems to pull things together a little better. “Take Your Life” is another enjoyable track, coming off kind of between that Metal anthem kind of approach with a decent amount of aggression and some hooks thrown in. It’s not the most amazing or unique track, sounding a little more generic for a Power Metal song, but at the same time the vocals work well with creating a stirring, emotional atmosphere to the track that’s hard to deny can be a little moving at times. Some of the later tracks on here also keep that emotional bond, though it’s not really as strong or moving. “Reflections” has some somber slower passages to it that set up a saddening atmosphere to it that leaves it one of the stronger tracks here, and “Redeign” goes between a mid-tempo and slower pace here and there, and has sort of a refreshing starting over atmosphere to it that has a bit of an emotional-drive to it, but it’s one of those songs you’ll either feel it on or not, so it all depends greatly on how you decipher the music.

The Blackened Halo makes for an engaging listen through varied takes on Power Metal. While there’s only one truly catchy song on here, which happens to be the very first track, the album does quickly switch gears and eventually becomes more then hook driven music. Instead, much of the material here either sounds like some kind of Power Metal anthem, has a good deal aggression behind it, or a more emotional input, which works well to give this band a good deal of variety. With a few issues in the vocals, and the fact that the hooks are stronger in the chorus almost every track, you simply can’t turn away from the album and the many powerful and heavy tracks on here. If you’re looking for some solid Power Metal, Circle of Silence is a band to take notice of, and The Blackened Halo is an album worth checking out at some point.

01. Synthetic Sleep – 4:02
02. Left to Die – 3:48
03. Exception – 3:57
04. 21 Grams – 4:35
05. The Blackened Halo – 4:24
06. Take Your Life – 3:17
07. Never Forget – 3:44
08. Reflections – 4:51
09. Redesign – 5:19
10. The End – 4:50
11. Until the Worlds Collide – 5:53
Overall Score: 8.5/10
Circle of Silence (Band)
Circle of Silence (Logo)Digital review copy of this release provided by Massacre Records.