This phenomenal record from Norway's Circle's End is certainly one of the best releases of the year 2001. The album gets off to a great start with 'The Fine Line', the vocalist sounding like Michael Stipe to my ears. (A progressive version of REM almost although I haven't heard REM finish a song with the fine bass harmonics and jazzy guitar chords the way Circle's End do!)
I don't know if it's a different vocalist on the second track (3 are listed with Karl Riis Jacobsen credited with the lead) and the feel is more Anekdoten. (Also very noticeably on parts of 'Soliloquy') 'Long Gone' is 8 minutes of pure invention, mature progressive rock for such a young (?) band. By now I'm convinced the singer sounds like Paul Rodgers- indeed this is so throughout the rest of the album and the first part of 'Sleepless' sounds to me like a progressive take on 'Mourning Sad Morning' from the 'Free' LP. Guest player Lars Chr. Folkvord's violin and Kristian Landmark's synth are very effective here as the music turns ever more melancholic. It doesn't depress you though- no way! 'El Mar/ La Mar' is an inspired piece of music with the guitar solo more in the style of Steely Dan's Jeff 'Skunk' Baxter now. (There are two guitarists- Omar Emanuel Johnsen and Trond Lunden).
Two of the band also play ebow and this can be heard here with some organ work that compliments the piece perfectly. Nor must one forget the excellent empathetic rhythm section of Goran Kristiansen on bass and Jarle Anders Pettersen on drums and percussion. So Circle's End play a melancholic but melodic, lachrymose yet exhilarating progressive rock plus a touch of jazz fusion (and a folk song to end) with obvious comparisons to Anekdoten (and King Crimson before them- listen to the minor keys and brilliant interplay on 'This Day' for example).
This is one of the best progressive rock albums I've heard for some time.