Savage Circus

Dreamland Manor

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Dissatisfied with his bandmates' increasingly commercial creative vision, Blind Guardian drummer and founding member Thomen Stauch quietly began work on the side project that would become Savage Circus in 2004, finally making the shock announcement of his defection a year later. After one more year came the first fruits of his bold career move in the shape of Savage Circus' 2006 debut, Dreamland Manor, which boasts a melodic but more involved power metal sound reminiscent of Blind Guardian's "golden" period circa Tales from the Twilight World. Naturally, this means that, so long as they can stomach well-intentioned but frankly recycled formulas from the power metal genre's (admittedly) little-changing mid-'90s aesthetic, disgruntled BG fans will likely love the blast-from-the-past qualities of songs like "Evil Eyes," "When Hell Awakes," and "Born Again by Night." The similarities begin with Swedish singer Jens Carlsson (a ringer for Hansi K├╝rsch), proceed through the fantastical lyrical themes and anthemic gang choruses, and are completed by warring melodic and riffing guitars and above-average song lengths (circa six to seven minutes, never under five), which allow for extended band interplay without totally losing the plot in progressive metal fashion. Glimpses of thrash-fueled, proto-power metal in the vein of Iron Savior (a parallel supergroup featuring Stauch and headed up by Savage Circus rhythm guitarist/bassist Piet Sielck) also emerge in "Tomorrowland" and "It -- The Gathering," and there's a certain Savatage quality to the processional gait of "Waltz of the Demon." Power ballad "Beyond Reality" is exactly what you'd expect from a seemingly done-to-death, but impossible to snuff, stylistic byproduct, so it's really up to lead guitarist Emil Norberg -- the band's other Swede -- to ignite proceedings with some inspired soloing -- which he regularly does throughout, particularly on "Between the Devil and the Seas" and "Ghost Story." All in all, a very competent and mostly entertaining set of songs, whose inability to contribute anything new to its genre is generally made up by the nostalgic intentions at its core.

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