REVIEW - October Thorns - 'Circle Game' (Album - Divebomb Records)
Brooklyn, New York's Prog-Metallers October Thorns burned brightly but briefly in 1999 - 2000, recording one demo and building a bit of a buzz in prog-metal circles before that age-old 'favourite', intra-band tensions, forced the band apart. Vocalist Paul LaPlaca went onto a number of different projects and can currently be found plying his trade playing bass with Drift Into Black, while October Thorns bassist David Z had spells in Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Adrenaline Mob before being tragically killed in 2017. October Thorns have always been remembered in some quarters though and now comes their complete discography presented on CD by Divebomb Records.
Featuring the six tracks on that original demo and six unreleased tracks recorded by the band around the same time, 'Circle Game' is a fine reminder of October Thorns and shows what a powerhouse of a band they could have become if things had taken a different turn. The twelve tracks have all the defining characteristics of a good prog-metal record - plenty of technical virtuosity on show from guitarists Joe Chawki and Dave Pando and keyboard player Norbert Sator, intricate rhythmic interplay from Dave Z and drummer Joe Cardillo, and the expansive wide-ranging vocals of Paul LaPlaca, melodic passages of music interspersed with more 'full-on' metal moments, the combination of influences from old-school proggers such as Genesis and Yes mixed with newer acts such as Dream Theater and Fates Warning and plenty of fine moments for the prog-metal fan in your life to revel in. Whilst the title track and 'No Idle Phrase' aim for an almost commercial rock sound, there are harder 'n' heavier tracks such as 'Jihad' and 'Soul Forge' which will please metal fans and 'stranger' fare with 'Exhausted Minds' which veers between Faith No More style funk metal and more thrashier moments complete with some idiosyncratic vocals. The tracks left off the original demo such as 'Leviathian' are also worthwhile and the closing demo of 'Tree', which is nine minutes of a slower-paced tune, more darker and ominous than the rest of the album, shows that the band had another string to their bow.
Excellently mixed by Alex Argento from Italian prog metallers Icefish and complete with a 20 page interview with Paul, 'Circle Game' is a fine document of a short-lived band. That October Thorns didn't survive to record more material is a great shame on this evidence, but for those of you looking for a bit of prog-metal history, 'Circle Game' will fill-in one piece of the missing jigsaw very nicely indeed.
'Circle Game' is available as a limited edition CD from the Tribunal / Divebomb Records Bandcamp site - www.tribunalrecords.bandcamp.com