Friday, August 8, 2003

Review: Circle of Nero - Brutal Harvest (2003)

Circle of Nero [ MySpace ]
Brutal Harvest

Brutal Harvest is Virginia-based Circle Of Nero's sophomore release and is an exciting example of the quintet's potential to explode to the forefront of the American metal scene. The album encompasses a vast spectrum of influences including thrash, prog, goth, nu-metal, classic metal, and more. Thinking that such a wide range of styles would come together in disjointed fashion would be a mistake, because like a kaleidoscope Circle Of Nero have blended their influences into a multi-faceted work of art.

The disc opens with an eerie monologue that immediately brought to mind Allister Fiend's preamble to Mötley Crüe's classic album Shout At The Devil. And then all hell breaks loose. Singer Gary McCaffrey explodes from the speakers in a howl of rage to signal the start of "Blood Play". In the spirit of Mudvayne, the downtuned nu-metal riffs and harsh vocals drive the song to the depths of heaviness. Scott Carter's lush keyboards, however, and Koky Flores' clean solos add a unique element to the core sound and create what has become my favorite track on the album. "Stigmata" combines a prog feel with driving double-kick and flowing leads while McCaffrey belts out the lyrics in a style slightly reminiscent of Layne Staley (Alice In Chains). Then, just after the 3-minute mark, McCaffrey launches into a high-speed verbal tirade (think David Draiman of Disturbed) as Flores and drummer Jake Vorrath accelerate into pure thrash fury. After a spacey, somewhat sinister opening, "Serial X" rumbles on at a mid-tempo pace. Once again McCaffrey impresses me with his powerful delivery. Prior to recording Brutal Harvest, the band parted ways with original singer Doyle Stone and brought McCaffrey into the fold. The move has definitely paid off, as Gary's phenomenal range and passionate style fit in perfectly with the musical direction of Circle Of Nero. The most progressive song on the album, "Scattered Remains", begins with a subtle piano intro leading to Thomas Staples' somber bass line which is quite familiar - think Iron Maiden's "Rime Of The Ancient Mariner". A heavy stop-start riff accompanied by lush keys carries the song steadily onward to Flores' most assertive solo of the album. The song tops out at over 6 minutes and serves as a showcase for CON's diverse influences.

Altogether Brutal Harvest is one solid album of kick-ass metal that shows Circle Of Nero is ready to step up from the American underground scene. With their seamless combination of brutality and accessibility, it shouldn't be long before they do.

Track Listing
1 Time Is The Killer
2 Stigmata
3 Dirge
4 Scattered Remains
5 Another Brick in the Wall
6 Blood Play
7 Serial X

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