Moonlight Circus – Madness in Mask
Moonlight Circus – Madness in Mask (2013)
Reviewed by Kevin Hathaway
What is this, the third “comeback album” review I’ve written since I started writing for Black Wind about two months ago? Not that I’m complaining about these great bands coming back from the land of the dead, I just can’t handle that mini-heart attack I have every time I hear the news of a band that I’ve nearly forgotten about coming out with a new album after about a decade. I swear, if Timeless Miracle or Lost Horizon announces a new album within the next month, I’ll be convinced that I’m living a dream.
Now Moonlight Circus is an Italian power/prog band with a neoclassical touch. That narrows it down, I know. No lie, I have mixed up these guys with fellow countrymen Black Jester on more than one occasion because Black Jester has an album entitled Welcome To The Moonlight Circus, and the two bands have shared a drummer and guitarist. Anyway, Moonlight Circus’ debut album, Outskirts Of Reality, came out in 2000 with nary a peep since. Until now! Armed with a new vocalist (who sports an impossibly thicker accent than his predecessor) and a new drummer, they’re ready to (re-)take on the overpopulated Italian power metal scene!
Okay, it’s easy to give an Italian power metal band a hard time (why do I enjoy mocking that which I love most?), but the music honestly isn’t that bad. Some of the songs are a bit overlong, but fans of this flashy style of music will find a bit to like here. “The Duel (Back From the Edge of Time)” has more guitar acrobatics than you can shake a stick at, and a catchy chorus to boot. “Winter Masquerade,” while being one of the overlong songs, is decent and has a few moments scattered throughout that evoke a nice, icy atmosphere fitting for the title.
The change in vocalists is an unfortunate one, however. New guy Emanuele Cendron just doesn’t hold a candle to Alessandro Secchi, and sounds more like he’s talking in rhythm at times, like Lou Reed on the collaboration with Metallica, Lulu, or maybe Ke$ha. He sounds fine when he’s actually singing, but this talking in rhythm thing happens in the slow sections, of which there are way more than there should be. If a power metal band is reminding me of Lulu or Ke$ha, they should probably rethink things. The production helps matters none, bringing Cendron’s vocals to the front, while compressing everyone else in the background and making them sound thin. Isn’t it sad that the production for this album is worse than their debut, which I feel I need to remind everyone once again, came out over 13 years ago? The drums sound terribly mechanical, possibly even triggered. It’s most noticeable during the slower sections (clearly not this band’s strong suit) when EVERY DRUM HIT IS LOUD AS HELL. Everyone sounds like they have no room to breathe and the difference in production values is ever apparent going from this album to Outskirts Of Reality, which sounds a lot less claustrophobic.
Honestly, Madness In Mask is a bit of a tough sell. When it works, it works, but there are way too many flaws keeping it from being above “okay,” never mind that there are tons of bands from their own country alone that sound just like this, but much better. I probably won’t even remember this album happened a few months from now, which is a shame because I was quite looking forward to it. Unless you have to own every Italian power metal CD in existence, you’re really not missing much on this one.
2.5 // 5