Norwegian progressive metallers Connect the Circle caused quite a commotion around Sentinel Daily HQ with their 2022 album, Mother of Evil, and they are back again in 2023 with a new full-length in the shape of Blinded By The Violence – is the run of form continuing?

Largely you’d say the answer to that yes, although this year’s model is slightly less accessible than it’s 2022 counterpart. In 2023 Connect The Circle are heavier, proggier and less melodic. That’s not necessarily a bad thing at all, but it does mean it takes a little bit longer to get under the skin of the record.

At it’s most accessible – Bloodsucker, say – CTC continues very much in the vein of MoE; However you get the sense early in to ten and a half minute opener Beyond Good and Evil that these lads aren’t a band happy with resting on the laurels; there is new ground to be broken, new musical vistas to be surveyed, and ultimately they must satisfy themselves in these areas if we as an audience are to get the most out of Blinded…

That’s progression for you, of course, and on the excellent Catch ‘Em Alive that progression manifests itself in perhaps the best thing this band has yet committed to wax; A spiralling, keyboard-reinforced riff assault from Kenneth Brastad powers the song ahead, rooted in the seventies yet champing at the bit to move the band forward at the same time. It’s fabulous stuff, and as the song unfolds vocalist Arild Fevang comes into his own with a superb performance. As Robert William gets going on the kick drums, turning excitement levels into the red, you really get swept along with what the band are trying to achieve. This ain’t easy listening by any means, but the rewards for sticking with it are many and varied.

Return To Earth ends things on an upbeat, uplifting note powered by the bubbling basswork of Mariusz, and as it’s final notes drift off into the innermost parts of your brain you’ll find yourself smiling and commending yourself for sticking with what turns out to be a very fine album indeed. Connect the Circle really seem to have hit a creative sweet spot here, and if they continue to grow at the current rate then their next album could be something very special indeed.

Blinded By The Violence releases today (February 16th).