Circle II Circle 
Watching In Silence    
~reviewed by Joel Steudler

Circle II Circle is a bad name for a metal band.  It conjures images of bland-as-dishwater boy-bands ala Boyz 2 Men standing in moodily lit alleys crooning about puppy love.  Thankfully, the band's inane moniker belies the high quality that permeates their debut album.  This is not a group of teen heartthrobs, but instead is Zak Stevens' new band, which he formed after leaving Savatage.  My favorite Savatage albums (which are some of my favorite music, period) came with Zak on vocals.  I did not want to witness him lending his talents to a project unworthy of his skills.  Luckily, Zak's new band is up to the task of providing compelling music to accompany his vocals.

Zak Stevens may have the perfect voice for progressive hard rock music.  His delivery is smooth and articulate, yet powerful and full bodied.  His voice is expressive and nary hits a false note, but never sounds processed and retains a warm humanity that seperates him from a legion of cardboard cutout melodic metal singers.  He's equally adept at fast rockers, slow tender ballads, and all things in between.  Yeah, I like his singing... alot!  He's as good on Watching In Silence as he ever was with Savatage.  'Zak sounding great' is as close as it comes in the music biz to a 'sure thing', and his performance on its own would make this album well worth buying.  It's simply an example of a master craftsman plying his trade with great artistry and skill.

Circle II Circle is a band with close ties to Savatage... perhaps too close for their own good.  Zak brought in some former bandmates to help get the ball rolling on his new project.  The sonic fingerprints of Jon Olivia and Chris Caffery are all over 'Watching In Silence'.  Several songs sound like amalgams of tracks plucked out of Savatage's discorgraphy.  Hallmarks like harmonized vocal medleys, piano interludes, and somewhat prog-ish heavy riffs are peppered throughout 'Waiting In Silence' like seasonings on a well done steak.  The side dishes to this platter of pseudo-Savatage are a few songs that branch out in different styles- sometimes feeling like (oddly enough) Alice In Chains' more melodic moments, sometimes a bit like 80's hair rock.  Nonetheless, a Savatage album by any other name is still a Savatage album... and that's really what this is at heart.  

Though Circle II Circle lacks a distinct identity seperate from their forebears, I can't fault them for producing an album of this caliber.  If you have liked the last decade of Savatage music, you'll like this album.  Circle II Circle may be the only worthwhile band in AFM Records' stable, and is far superior in all respects to the faceless powermetal they dole out with alarming regularity.  Despite my contempt for AFM (in both the artists they promote and the way they go about their business) I can't help but recommend 'Waiting In Silence' for purchase.  It's a prime cut of grade-A hard progressive rock that will leave you full and satisfied... but wanting to make room for seconds.

Track List:
01.) Out Of Reach
02.) Sea Of White
03.) Into The Wind
04.) Watching In Silence
05.) Forgiven
06.) Lies
07.) Face To Face
08.) Walls
09.) The Circle
10.) F.O.S. 

Circle II Circle is:
John Zahner  - keyboards
Christopher Kinder - drums
Zak Stevens - vocals
Matt La Porte - guitar
Kevin Rothney - bass
Shane French - guitar

Circle II Circle Official Website:

AFM records:

The End Records (US):