Germany's Eden Circus is a band that has been together for a while but worked tirelessly on the songs that make up this, their debut album, "Marula." Much like the time they invested in the album and its songs, the listener should be just as committed to listening to the album and giving it the necessary time to plant its seeds and grow. When I first listened to "Marula," I thought it was just a good album with a fair amount of contrast in each song. But when you have those contrasts (i.e., quieter moments and heavier moments), it's important to pay closer attention to how they are used and what is going on. It's easy to think "Wow, that's so subtle" and not really listen to the vocal or the intricacies of the music underneath.
The fact that vocalist Siegmar Pohl has a very quiet, raspy voice that tends to blend with the music just makes it more challenging. But the key to music that has a thick layer of complexity is to listen to it over and over, allowing it to reveal itself. You cannot force "Marula" to be something it isn't. It has elements of '90s alternative progressive metal like Tool, but don't expect them to attack you like Tool would. They have post-prog moments like Porcupine Tree, yet they never commit to sounding like them. Eden Circus is familiar but still a stranger. You think you know what will happen next but when it doesn't, you aren't sure why.
The opener "Devoid of Purpose" starts off quietly before it works its way into heavier riffing. "Comfort" has quieter verses leading to a very angular riff that works as the chorus. Siegmar does have a harsh vocal in his arsenal but uses it quite sparingly, which makes those moments all the more powerful. A perfect example is "101" where he works his way to a growl.
The majority of the songs are long, which allows them room to ebb and flow as needed. In addition to the aforementioned songs, my favorite tracks are the two closers, "Her Lovely Hands Upon the Black Earth" and "Playing You." Both are atmospheric, progressive and epic - full of dynamics.
Eden Circus has figured out how to be melodic but not make it so obvious that you tire of them. "Marula" is a textbook "grower" of an album. If I were to give it a rating a month from now, it would probably be an even higher rating.