Released: 2013, earMUSIC
I have always been a huge fan of Zak Stevens, and while his band Circle II Circle has never achieved the critical mass of his former band Savatage, they are an excellent melodic power metal band. Still, I felt the last couple of releases, while decent, did not have the same appeal as their earlier albums. Part of the reason is probably because Jon Oliva helped co-write with Zak on those earlier albums, but more likely because Circle II Circle went for more of a down tuned almost alternative type guitar sound on the last two albums. I am happy to report that SEASONS WILL FALL returns to more of the latter day Savatage sound while employing the traits Circle II Circle is best known for: Stevens’s amazing voice and melodic, catchy songs.
The album opens with the heavy and up tempo “Diamond Blade”, one of the best tracks on the album sporting one of the band’s signature melodic choruses. Actually, the first four tracks are among the best the band has written in quite some time, perhaps their Wacken 2012 performance of the an entire Savatage album really inspiring some focused song writing in that hybrid Savatage/CIIC style. “Epiphany” hearkens back to EDGE OF THORNS and STREETS with a restrained but bobbing , kick-ass rhythm, proving that less is often more. Even “End of Emotion” with its courting of a more commercial feel contains that EDGE OF THORNS vibe. Album closer “Only Yesterday”, is one of the band’s better piano ballads, combined with strategically placed guitars and an awe inspiring performance from Zak. Zak sounds amazing on this album, really focused and utilizing vocal melodies that showcase his style and strengths. The guitar work is likewise outstanding and restrained, shredding when needed but for the most part working towards strength of song rather than technical flourish.
Missteps would be the bland song “Downshot”, a tune that screams filler and the band's trademark under-produced, up-front live sound that can at times be grating. There is no mistaking that this is undeniably a Circle II Circle record, one that has left out the experimental tracks present on the last few albums and gone back to the bands earlier sound. I for one am pleased, and while SEASONS WILL FALL does not break any new ground, it does sound like a band more focused and energized than they have been in years. This one is recommended for fans of Jon Oliva’s Pain, Evergrey, Communic and of course Savatage.