Released: 2006, Locomotive Records
Zak Stevens returns with his band Circle II Circle on their third studio album BURDEN OF TRUTH. If you liked the previous two Circle II Circle albums, Savatage’s EDGE OF THORNS and HANDFUL OF RAIN, there is no doubt that you’ll love this album. If you haven’t heard this stuff before, then the style of music is melodic metal with certain nuances of progmetal. Lyrically, BURDEN OF TRUTH follows a conceptual theme based on the popular books 'The Holy Blood & The Holy Grail' and 'The Da Vinci Code'. The gist of it is the story about the possibilities of the continuance of the blood line of Jesus Christ. Due to lack of interest, I haven’t read either book, nor seen the movie yet, so I won’t comment on the storyline, but on what is more important to me and I would assume to most of you…the metal!
No surprises are in store for fans of Zak’s past work. We’ve come to expect nothing short of perfection from anything Zak Stevens puts his golden voice to. This is the main thing that makes this stand out. His vocals are very melodic and soulful yet are hardly those that could be produced by a eunuch receiving even the strongest dose of estrogen. “A Matter of Time” starts out with a standard ‘tage-tinged metal riff and in comes some excellent lead playing. Lead Guitarist Andrew Lee are also a big part of the reason why this band shines. The lead playing rips but unlike many players, the style is very melodic AND has a lot of feeling. Piano isn’t as prominent an instrument on here as with Savatage. There is some piano in “Heal You” but it’s hardly a lead instrument. The riffing in “Heal You” has some faster chugging parts that would have worked well with some faster double kick drumming. That’s one thing that the band for the most part stays away from thereby keeping the songs mostly mid-paced. A few faster parts would not go astray on here. “Evermore” has some of that double kicking, but it’s not at neck-break speed. “The Black” has a main riff and feel of mid-era Sabbath. Could it be the term “black” set me off on this line of reasoning? Maybe just a little, but the main riff does has a Sabbath vibe, with minor hits of the song “Zero The Hero”.
“Burden of Truth” is the only place on the album where we hear Zak doing his counterpoint vocals. Since he does this so well, I really hoped that we’d get to hear this on two or three songs on the album, not just the one time. I guess he doesn’t want to be pigeonholed by doing this too much, but in the metal context he really makes this work and it’s a shame it’s not featured just a little bit more! The first time I heard this song, starting at about 5mins into the song until its end at 6:45, I literally got the chills hearing the vocal part. This is fucking powerful stuff! It’s not often that a vocalist hits me in this way, it’s usually the guitars that move me the most, but in this case, it’s just…wow. It really hits home when the music stops and just the vocals continue with the counterpoint.
So if I love this album so much, why didn’t it score higher than 4/5 you may ask? Well I did toy with the idea of giving it just that rating and I’m sure some fans consider it a 5/5. The thing that knocked it down just one notch is the heaviness factor. There are a couple of ballad-like moments on here and in their place if there were a couple of heavier songs with heavier riffing and faster drumming, I would of considered this as a 5/5. But that’s just me….minor criticism aside, BURDEN OF TRUTH is easily one of the best melodic metal albums of 2006, a surefire winner for Circle II Circle devotees and followers of Steven’s era Savatage!