Artist: Shannon  
   Title:  Circus of Lost Souls
   Label: Mad Association  
 

Marmite - You either love it or hate it, isn't that what they say?  Well, the same could be said about this new release from the hard rock outfit Shannon.

On paper, it should go down a storm, having a guest list of 'who's who' that includes Harry Hess (Harem Scarem), Tony Mills (TNT, Shy), and Paul Sabu, though for some listeners ... Hmmm.  If you find things like nails down a blackboard, rubbing velvet or Jimmy Carr irritating, then the problem for you here will be the vocal style of Olivier Del Valle, especially if you have sensitive ears!

To say it's an "acquired" taste could be an understatement, testing you no more so on 'Ride To Live', where once the rock requirement 'whoa, whoa's' end, you're faced with what can only be described as a man who's 'nads are being gripped in a pair of pliers!!  It's quite a shock to the system to begin with, and it honestly sounds as if the man is in some state of discomfort as he aims to hit the high notes.  'Forever Now' only increases that gnawing of the nerve ends, but on the plus side, what can you say about the six-stringed solo's throughout but .. phenomenal! This hard rocker would literally make any Iron Maiden fan sit up and look around like a merkat, it'll be right up their street.

Slightly less frantic, though just as hefty is 'Halfway to Heaven', the opening riff as hard as hell, keyboards and backing vocals working in harmony, as they help take the edge away from those raspy pipes of Del Valle.  Up pops another lung-buster of mega-proportions on 'Don't Get Me Wrong', and I'm sure the vocalist seems to be saying, "yeah, but I go up to 11", (see 'Spinal Tap'!), and by now you seem to be prone to it, especially when you realise the song has slipped by and another slammer 'Dust To Dust' has started.

One of the mentioned guests, Harry Hess, would be in his element on the acoustic-based power ballad 'Can't Stop The Rain', yet Del Valle really does a sterling job on it, restraining himself to match up to the heart-string tugging charm of the song, but surprisingly that doesn't last too long!  Two songs stand out on this album, both for totally different reasons.  First, the dark, addictive intro to 'Death On The Run' reels you in with the heartbeat, heavy breathing and gunshot, before becoming as heavy as f---k, and for once the singing being at one with the songs mood, then you have 'Smalltown Boy'.  Yes, that's right, the Bronski Beat hit of 1986!!  Where you had that plaintive falsetto voice of Jimmy Somerville accompanying the poppy synths, Shannon darken the track even more with a morose, heavy riff, bassline and gutteral vocal. You can't really get your head away from the original version (if you remember it), and for it to be used on a rock album the way it is, even I'm disappointed in it's deliverance. Some may even be shocked that it has been attempted at all, regardless of it's association, especially in the 'macho' world of rock.

Now it's quite obvious that this band love the big, loud numbers to shake the foundations, so it's no surprise that the straight-in-yer-mush 'Let's Make Rock' and 'Drive Me Crazy' are both powerhouse numbers of top quality that deserve some sort of airplay, but don't hold your breath on that one!  Another that should see the light of day somewhere is 'In Your Eyes', where Patrice Louis, Thierry Dagincourt, Philippe Sassard and Jean-Marc Anzil all pull together to give the song it's Bon Jovi aura, and yet again the melodic melody does gel with those raspy tones that emit from Del Valles orifice.

As mentioned at the beginning, 'Circus Of Lost Souls' will be debated by many who hear it as Marmite, depending on how you like your vocalist to sound being the key to it all.  On a personal note, sorry but one thing that settled it for me was the fact that by the end of the album my tinnitus had gone up a couple of notches whilst straining at the singing, so no, not for me this time chaps.  I just hope I can get to sleep tonight with all this buzzing going on in my ears after all of this!!

Review by: Rob Baldwin 

Tracklisting:

1. Ride To Live
2. Forever Now
3. Halfway To Heaven
4. Can't Stop The Rain
5. Don't Get Me Wrong
6. Dust To Dust
7. Death On The Run
8. Let's Make Rock
9. Kick It Down
10. I Don't Need You Anymore
11. In Your Eyes
12. Drive Me Crazy
13. Smalltown Boy    

                    

 

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