As I begin this very interesting spotlight of Circus Maximus’ debut album “The 1st Chapter”, I can’t help but ask a couple questions. What is good? What is evil? What makes one good or evil? It’s a scary thought, actually, to think of yourself as being evil. At least, it is for me.
However, these are exactly the questions that need asking. In the first track, “Sin”, we meet a man that has never thought about this. “All my life I have been a drifter/ Going down the paths that had no ending/ With Satan on my shoulder, I was an angel of the underground/ Nothing could ever stop me”. He has done everything and anything he liked, but he never stopped to consider its source. Sure, he probably thought himself “good”, but all the while he had Satan on his shoulder.
He wasn’t in control. He wasn’t the one in charge. Before he knew it, he was in over his head. He was playing with forces and ideas that he should have been avoiding; and, suddenly, he finds himself becoming a killer. “I am terrified/ In the dark there’s no light/ She’s at the end of the line but she wants to live (to live)/ He tastes the fear in her eyes/ At the end of this night she will be… gone”.
He’s a murderer! He’s taken innocent blood without a second thought, and he’s even enjoyed it. He loved the taste of fear. But whom has he become? When did this happen? No, now he’s evil through and through. Indeed, he has a new master now; the same master he’s always had, though. Never thinking and never considering, he’s lived life frivolously and on a whim. And, now—now he’s not his own anymore.
His own life ends. For what he’s done, he’s been taken to Hell. He must pay the price for never considering his actions. His new master is glad to have him, too. “You’re in my world now, my soul to keep/ Eternity is a long way to go/ In my world now, your soul is mine/ You see there’s no way out/ For eternity”. Carelessness has landed him here, and now there is truly no hope. But for the grace of God, there we will all go.
The second track on “The 1st Chapter” takes a interesting little detour or turn. Whereas the first track is about thoughtless murder and damnation, “Alive” is a love song of sorts. However, they still have something in common: a drifting, confused mentality.
“I believed in love in the midnight sun we roll/ Even if the stars remain, I know/ That this won’t last forever”. Love, you know, is the hardest thing in the world. It shreds hearts, drives people mad, and depresses like nothing else. One moment you will believe in its power, and the next you will doubt it and hate it with every fiber of your being. I think that’s what this song is about, too. In the moment, love is strong and seems like it will last forever. But, for those drifters (aren’t we all drifting in one way or another?) and those that put all their hope in it, there is nothing but disappointment in the future.
“When you feel alive, when there’s nothing you can do./ When you can explain, ‘Is there a reason why I’m living?’/ When you feel alive, when there’s nothing you can do./ Now I’ll keep on searching for the path that lies ahead, ahead./ Is the longest way to go…”. Love cannot be the reason for life in and of itself. Love is one of the greatest, most powerful experiences that we can possibly have, but it is not the end-all and be-all of the human experience. Yes, I believe love is one of the primary reasons we exist, but there is still something greater. If love becomes your god, then you will lose your way. You will drift. You will be lost.
But if your love is based on something or someone greater, then you will pull through. Your love will shine because it’s not based on the moment, but is instead based on something eternal and timeless. Love can pull through, but not without a little help.
3. Glory of the Empire
Believe it or not, this third track off of “The 1st Chapter” is based on the movie Gladiator. It makes sense when you hear the epic keys and read the very warrior-esque lyrics. But, you know, I think there’s more going on here.
There’s almost a sarcastic tone to this track. Claiming victory for the glory of the empire, these warriors fight on and on, but for what cause? Why do they give their lives for the empire? Why do they devote their actions and moral sensibilities to the glory of something built by slaves? Why do they pursue these goals at the behest of the master of the empire?
“Betray whispers in the wind/ An era that never ends/ My soul is in blister, but I feel no pain/ I can now see what was taken away from me/ Through the gates I walk, but I am not alone/ I am One, now finally… finally I’m free”. These warriors have other loves and other desires. Death, then, is freedom for them. Freedom from the will of the master and freedom from this overbearing sense of responsibility for the empire. But, where did this sense come from anyways?
“What we do echoes in eternity”. Those words are so incredibly powerful. On one hand, it shows how our actions are so important, and we must never be careless or apathetic about what we do. On the other hand, we need to examine not only our intentions, but also those for whom we fight. We fight, we love, and we give of ourselves; but we need to be careful for whom we give our all. There’s really only one Person(s) with whom we are safe.
The next track on Circus Maximus’ “The 1st Chapter” is an instrumental track called “Biosfear”. Some have questioned its inclusion on this album, but I think we have to look at a couple things before we judge that.
First, these guys like to have fun. This track is full of odd time signatures and technical feats. The rest of the album can be taken seriously, but it also has a playful side to it. So, if these guys want to do an awesome instrumental that has nothing to do with the theme of the album, then more power to them.
Second, these guys do indeed have a meaning behind this song. Kinda. In an interview, vocalist Michael Eriksen stated, “So the song and the name is “Biosfear”, and don’t go into the bios (on the computer) if you don’t know what you’re doing. Something like that. Because then music like “Biosfear” comes popping out”. What does that mean? I have no idea. So, yes, the song belongs here, but I find it far less interesting than the rest of the album.
5. Silence from the Angels Above
Worthlessness. Sorrow. Regret. “Silence from the Angels Above” is the sad story of an inmate in an asylum that is dying. He knows he is dying, too. As death takes hold, he reminisces and gazes out his lone, dingy window.
Why did he do the things he did? Why? “Long ago I made a choice/ That I thought would make a difference/ And lead me back on track”. He’s made choices, good and bad. But mostly bad. He’s hurt his love, and he left her. What made him do this? Why do we hurt the ones we love most?
He feels worthless. He feels unnecessary. He feels alone. “Silence from angels above/ Leaving us behind in a time when we are in need/ Of someone to hold close to your heart/ I am just another leaf falling down on the ground”. Now, he’s at a crossroad where he must decide to repent. He must decide to admit his wrongs.
The worst part is that he is alone. Even the angels are silent as he passes, for he’s lived his life with only one person in mind: himself. He regrets it now. He wishes he could live it over again. But he can’t. What we do echoes in eternity.
6. Why Am I Here?
“If I only could get through the night/ It would be a revelation/ The understanding of nothing… seems so far away”. I think we’ve all experienced night terrors, restlessness, and haunting dreams that make it difficult to tell where reality begins and the dreams end. Nighttime can be a terrifying time for those that are stuck in this world: a world where sorrow and loneliness pervade even your dreams.
This dreamer wakes up every morning in sweat and tears, wallowing in his sorrow. But there is only one thing he wants to know: Why am I here? What is the point of my life? When life itself becomes a nightmare, where can one turn?
Lost and alone, and destined for nothingness: This dreamer is unsure of himself. He knows that he will be gone soon. Will anybody care? There he is on a lonely road; a lonely road to nowhere.
If we rely on others for happiness, we will never have it. If we look for something in this world to raise us up out of depression and loneliness, it will never work. This life is certainly a nightmare for those that have no hope or sense of worth and meaning. But if we place our hope in Someone greater than this world, this life can become an opportunity, instead of a long and dreary road. Where do you place your hope?
7. The Prophecy
The seventh track on “The 1st Chapter” is an interesting one. “The Prophesy” is about the last man on earth after an apocalypse. He is the very last one, and has a myriad of feelings about this fact.
“Innocence is the secret to reveal the prophecy/ The soul survivor stands alone to end this misery”. Strange words, I know, but the band admits that this track is science fiction. You see, this last man is the key to understanding life. Through him, mankind will finally understand the meaning of life; but, obviously, it’s too late.
Depressing, yes? The man seems to understand this problem, as he feels the weight of loneliness on his shoulders. However, he realizes that he has been given a gift. He sees that he has a purpose.
It’s never too late to start thinking beyond our superficial lives. We go to work, we play, and on and on. What does any of it mean? It requires thought and sobriety to consider this question, but much of this world is missing those two components. Life has a meaning. Life has a purpose. We just need to care enough to find it before it’s too late.
8. The 1st Chapter
“Mother… always watching over me/ Now she must let me go”. Wandering, always wandering. Can you feel it? We all wander. The next track on “The 1st Chapter” is the title song, and what an epic it is! Amazing stuff musically, but the lyrical content is very strong, too. It follows a young man that has decided to leave his home, his family, and his upbringing to travel on his own.
Now, you say, isn’t that good? He’s learning about life for himself! Sure, that can be good. But, as a parent, do I want my child to have to learn all the same lessons I learned? Do I want them to have to experience all the same pains? No. I don’t. I want my children to be able to avoid the same mistakes I made because they will learn from the past. Now, I understand that this can’t happen with everything, but in leaving your loved ones behind and in rejecting your parents’ beliefs, there is more to it than simple curiosity. There is arrogance and self-deceit here.
So, our young man leaves and travels over the mountains to the darkness on the horizon. And, now he’s in for the fight of his life. And for his life, too. “Step into our endless darkness/ You are now our soul to keep/ Ooh no I’m falling into the burning skies”. He fights against the darkness, a fight that could have been avoided. He has no faith. He has no hope.
But he’s not alone. There are others—his family and his God that he left—that are there with him in spirit. Their faith upholds him. Their patience and understanding strengthen him. He can and will overcome this, but only because of those that he rejected. “Feels like someone’s watching over me/ My faith is in their hands/ Voices surround me… they show me the way”. His God is watching him. His God will not let him fall, even in his stupidity.
And, so, he makes it back to safety. The prodigal returns. He makes it back to his home and his family. We all wander. We all get lost. But our God and those that love us will never let us fall too far. Don’t turn your back on them. Embrace them. Embrace your roots.
8. Imperial Destruction
“Times of woe/ Uncertain future/ Related talks/ Events by past/ Love to hate/ Hate to love/ Be a prey/ Hunt or stay”. The final track on Circus Maximus’ “The 1st Chapter” widens the scope of the theme considerably. The idea that “what we do echoes in eternity” is now taken from an individual perspective and applied to an entire empire. The band, by the way, said that the empire is meant to be a futuristic one like in Star Wars.
Anyways, the idea of consequences for our actions is a strong one, especially when you can sense the downfall of a whole nation because of their sins and issues. Honestly, it sounds all too familiar nowadays. This idea hits pretty close to home as I consider my nation and its struggles.
“Don’t let depression take control/ Unmask your true self/ Ignore the rights and all the wrongs/ embrace the light”. I think that this lyric is the best summation for the entire album. The entire album has been teaching us that our actions matter. It has shown us that we can perform glorious deeds and be remembered, but we can also wallow in the mud and be forgotten. It has taught us that there are eternal consequences for our sins. It has taught us to think about what we do.
Yet, “don’t let depression take control”. Be yourself. I think that’s important. Some want to adhere to a written set of rules or a legalistic atmosphere, but I tend to think that what is more important is whom you are following. Whom are you dedicated to anyways? If your whole life is about you, you will fail. If your life is about family and friends alone, you will do better. But if your life is dedicated to something or Someone greater, something not of this world (to reference Pendragon); than you can and will triumph. You will not need a written code because you will be guided. You will “embrace the light” and be a light. Don’t let depression take control, instead take control of your own life.