Out Now on AFM Records

Circle II Circle have been building a name for themselves in power metal circles since the early 2000’s.  Founded after vocalist Zakk Stevens left Savatage the band have been steadily growing their following and their fifth album “Consequence of Power” is not  likely to do them any harm either.  Simpy said this is well written and performed metal with strong performances from all involved. 

Opener “Whispers In Vain” sets the albums off nicely with a crushing mid temp riff over which Stevens’ familiar vocal pipes work their charms.  The title track comes storming out with a panache reminiscent of vintage Maiden.  A solid bass line underpins “Out Of Nowhere” and this is another unqualified success. “Remember” has a main riff not a million miles away from Judas Priest’s “Dissident Aggressor” but moves into own sound for the rest of the track.  “Mirage” is another heavy number if lacking a little originality, yet the band come roaring back with “Episodes Of Mania” which makes nice use of light and shade in its verses before pummelling the listener with its riff heavy chorus – nice.  “Redemption” has a riff that sounds like the bastard son of Savatage’s “Jesus Saves” and is just as satisfying in every other aspect, a highlight along with the charging yet melodic “Take Back Yesterday”. “Anathema” is build around more brutal riffs although Stevens’ do lack a little of their normal magic here.  Closing power ballad “Blood Of An Angel” has more than a nod back to Strevens’ previous employers and is a little twee in truth but doesn’t harm the album too much.

Overall Circle II Circle continues to do what they do with no real departure from the norm, everything is solid and more than competent, yet aside from a couple of numbers there is nothing that is truly killer yet everything is still above average.  Production wise the album is rather basic, dry, certainly lacking a little sheen but not to the listeners detriment.

Overall another solid slice of work from the band.

Rating – 84%


Out Now on AFM Records
The legendary Savatage vocalist is back with his fourth solo album and after a slight disappointment in the song writing on the previous effort “Global Warming”, the new effort sees the song writing come back up to par. Unfortunately this is hampered by a somewhat slightly muddy production where you get the impression the power is held back just a little. Fortunately this doesn’t distract too much for this 10 tracks of metal goodness.

Jon is fine voice screaming out the best I have heard him in a few years with opener “Lies” seeing all kinds of spite and vitriol hitting the mic. “Death Rides A Black Horse” is suitably epic and a highlight, being home to a superb middle solo section where the dark vibe is lethally good. The title track continues the good work with a Blackmore-ish riff. “Afterglow” sees the band get slow and doomy and this wouldn’t be out of place on the last Heaven & Hell effort. “Living On The Edge” doesn’t offer up any relent from the sonic assault and its nice to see Jon keeping the level balls to the wall for the first half of the album. “Looking For Nothing” sees some respite for this acoustic ballad whilst the prettiness is blown out the water with the pounding “The Evil Within” which is a riff-fest pure and simple. “Winter Haven” is about as close as the album gets to later day Savatage and even has a little Led Zep about it in places and is a very nice addition. “I Fear You” is back to the more straightforward sound, yet has a nice dose of melody to it whilst the delicate “Now” offers a nice sense of closure to album being the kind of power ballad Jon excels at.

With his fourth solo effort Jon Oliva is right back on course where the first couple of Pain albums left off, for the most part straight ahead and powerful. Classic Metal done with a nod to the present but an appreciation of the past. Jon’s voice is one of the most unique and soulful in metal and it’s nice to hear him belting it out once again. Savatage and TSO fans will enjoy this as will the casual metal fan.

Highly Recommended.
Rating – 88%


About The Interview
Jon Oliva’s Pain should need no introduction to anyone with a passing interest in metal. Led by one of the most talented and charismatic vocalists the band are taking up the reigns left by the legacy of Savatage. Now four albums in the band have delivered the best album of their career in ‘Festival. We caught up with drummer/producer Chris Kinder to discuss the bands’ beginnings, the new album in great detail and much more. Jon Oliva’s Pain – Festival is out now on AFM Records.

Interview conducted 24th February 2010

Chris, many thanks for taking the time to talk to Virtuosity One.
“My pleasure Andy..…! Thanks for having me.”

Your background is in Circle II Circle. Some might see it as a no-brainer then that the personnel from the band would for the basis for Jon Oliva’s Pain, yet can you tell us how you personally got the nod as it were?
“Well, all the Jon Oliva’s Pain band were playing with Zak (Stevens) in C2C actually including me, and Jon asked us to be his back-up band at the ‘Criss Oliva Memorial Show’ first of all….. It really just went from there! Soon after that, we parted ways with Zak and that management and Jon called us the very next day and asked us if we wanted to make a record together? Obviously, that was a very easy decision to make!”

When was this?
“Literally, right after the ‘Criss Oliva Show”.

How did it feel knowing you would be working with Jon?
“Amazing…. And I still appreciate it everyday! You can’t imagine it being any better really! I was going to be working with one of my favourite singer, songwriters and getting the once in a lifetime chance to work with one of the very, very best! What a blessing!”

Here we are 6 years on from the debut JOP album, the new album “Festival” is out on Feb 22nd here in the UK, personally I feel this is fine return to form after the slightly disappointing ‘Global Warming’, how do you as a member of the band feel about the new album?
“I love this record and I feel it is a very big statement from all of us that proves we have come together relaxed and un-afraid to take chances this time. Plus, I feel Jon’s comfort zone with the band and us, with his song writing, allows us to explore and push ourselves musically as far as we can. Songs are like recipes; it takes the right chef and his cooks to put all of those elements together. It takes time, and is not always easy. Look at any great band in history and you will always find a growth period before the stars align and everyone is firing on all cylinders. This is “Festival”!

When did you initial begin working on the new album?
“Typically for us, it took quite a while, possibly as much as a year? First there were the ubiquitous demos in our studio – we’re always doing those. And, this time Jon O. spent a lot of time writing while on tour in 2009 also, which is quite unusual… Then it’s back to our studio, recording more demos and giving the rest of the band a chance to improve the songs…., before we finally sat down at Morrisound and put the whole thing together. It’s a real team effort for sure!”

Jon is famous for still working on an old 4 track machine for his initial ideas, what raw state did you first hear the material in?
“4 track….? No shit! He is still using one of those silly hand-held cassette recorders…. I am not kidding! It’s a real trip trying to put his ideas down into something listenable….. But it’s a very funny and enjoyable process at the same time.”

How does the process work from getting the rough demos to the final product? At what stage of the process do you come in?
“Well, I’m always involved in the process from day one Andy… Being given a rare opportunity to produce Oliva’s music is something that was a real blessing and I work hard to earn his respect every day. In the beginning, Oliva and I try to capture as many of his ideas as we can – we spend hours doing demos and playing with ideas, assembling them into useable demos, then those demo’s go on to the rest of the band for their input…. Matt (LaPorte) is a very important part of the process, he’s amazingly creative in the studio…”

What do you see as your role in the recording process?
“See above… As a producer, I am fully involved in every aspect of formulating Jon’s riffs into cohesive, well-written songs that offer the rest of the band (and his vocals) the chance to breath and take on a life of their own. I am fortunate to be there every step of the way helping Jon and the rest of the band to create the very best music we possibly can. It’s an awesome experience each and every record.”

How do you go about working on your rhythm parts with Kevin Rothney?  Are you guys working constantly on getting and keeping it tight or is all quite natural?
“Well, Kevin and I have been playing together for nearly 20 years, so it is as seamless and as natural a process as you could ever ask for. He is a fantastic bass player with perfect meter and pocket. Nothing can create that without years and years of playing together. It’s almost like having a twin; you’re always in synch no matter what. We’ve gotten to the point now where we don’t even rehearse the records together before we go in, and we cut our tracks at the same time. With all the producing duties I have leading up to the recording, I only have time to work on my own parts and I have to trust that Kevin and I will bring all that together without any problems whatsoever… And we do!”

How long did your drum tracks take to record and is this an average sort of time for you?
“I think it took 4 days or so, which is very common for us. We don’t rush the process and try all kinds of alternate rhythms and fills until we are completely satisfied. There’s no point, when you have your own studio, setting too many goals – leave that until you reach the main, final studio session and nail it then!”

How do you like to prepare for the days when you are recording?
“It’s pretty straightforward these days….. I usually warm up for 30-40 minutes to get the bones moving freely. It’s not always easy to start recording at 10:00 am after you’ve been at the studio the night before ‘til way after midnight, but it’s really quite a smooth operation nowadays, I guess?”

Is Jon present at all recording stages and does he offer you advice as to what he would like the drums to do or do you have relative free reign on this aspect?
“He sure is. He will leave me and the Morris brothers (at Morrisound) alone during tracking and once we are happy, we bring him in to hear the tracks and make adjustments….. It’s a great team. We’ve been to Morrisound quite a few times now, everyone knows us, and it’s about as smooth an operation as you could wish for. Jon is a good drummer actually and always has good ideas. So, I welcome his input.”

What size kit did you use for the sessions?
“Well, this CD gave me the chance to use my new Ddrum ‘Dominion Ash’ kit. That’s Double Bass, 6 toms, and a healthy variety of cymbals and percussion, ha! ha! I like having as many options as possible at my disposal. The new kit is fantastic and I thank Ddrum once again for bringing me into the family and providing me with the drums I really needed for this record.”

When you have finished up your parts is that you done in the studio or do you stay around to hear the album get completed?
“Well, like I said before, as producer, I’m there right the way through, but even if I wasn’t producing, I think I’d be like everyone else. It’s a full time job for 3 or 4 months for everyone, and what a Killer job it is!”

Jon sounds vitalised on the new material – quite angry in fact, which is great to hear as a fan of his voice in full belt.  What are your favourite tracks on the new album?
“You know, He is an angry man…He ! He! And one of the nicest people you could ever meet at the same time. He is really enjoying what JOP is doing these days and he is indeed energized by the music we are creating. His voice is in amazing shape and there is nothing he can’t sing. Favourites for me are “Lies”, “Afterglow” (a real moment of Oliva genius!), “Death Rides A Black Horse” and “The Evil Within”, but in the end, I love the entire record. In our minds, we don’t just write songs…we write records that are meant to be listened to from start to finish. In fact, you need to listen to our albums several times over before you even begin to see all the facets of them, and I love that!”

How do you view “Festival” compared to the previous 3 releases?
“Really, as a more cohesive body of work… The band is really in its prime right now. There were a lot of great songs on all the previous CD’s, it’s seldom Jon ever writes a bad song, and we don’t let those ideas go forward, but this one has an element to it which is just that bit stronger; more close to the grain, really enthused…!”

Any touring plans on the horizon?
“Yes… For sure! A Euro-Festival run and a full on tour in the fall is all booking right now, with the filming of our live JOP DVD at the 013 in Tilburg, Holland on October 15th….. It’s going to awesome! Can’t wait to get started!”

Anything else you’d like to add for our readers.
“Sure… We hope that our hard work and the final product reach your ears with a grand reception. This record is a true festival of music and emotions, something for everybody. See you on the road in 2010 and thanks again for all the support and encouragement!”