In today’s music world, bands come to an end all the time. Usually, the members of those bands move on to other projects, and sometimes the result is great, while other times it’s completely off the mark and leaves the fans wishing only for the halcyon days of the past.
As a huge SAVATAGE fan back in the 1980’s, I was really happy when Zak Stevens decided to continue the legacy of the band in some manner when he formed CIRCLE II CIRCLE in 2002, and their first few albums definitely followed on in sound and lyrical content from the end of the SAVATAGE years. Eventually, the band started to really define their own sound, while retaining many of those classic elements, and Reign of Darkness (out October 16 via earMUSIC) continues that progression.
I was always a huge fan of the Zak Stevens era of SAVATAGE, with his powerful and versatile vocals, and nothing has really changed with his output. He can still emote powerfully, both clean and with his signature growly edge and sounds great after almost three decades of recording and touring.
Christian Wentz and Bill Hudson are amazing as a twin guitar attack, and are at their best when trading solos. Added to Henning Wanner (keyboards), Mitch Stewart (bass), and Marcelo Moreira (drums), the band plays together seamlessly and really complements Zak’s singing perfectly. The album’s sound and lyrics are dark and definitely not happy or light listening, but that’s not going to be a real surprise to any music fans familiar with the band’s discography.
There’s not really a true signature soulful ballad on this offering, although “Solitary Rain”, the closer, comes close. It’s a shame because that’s when I feel that Zak is at the absolute top of his game vocally, but on the whole this disc is so good that it really doesn’t suffer from the lack.
Overall, Reign of Darkness doesn’t break much new ground, but it does continue to gradually move the sound of the band along away from the SAVATAGE era, while still retaining enough of the legacy of the legendary band that longtime fans will embrace it wholeheartedly. This is a must have for any fans of Zak Stevens over the last three decades, and will lure in some lucky new fans that will get to experience the history of his musical lineage for the first time.
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM