THE LAST THINGS
Progressive Metal • United States

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The Last Things was a band that only released one album. The album, called 'Circles and Butterflies', was released in 1993 and after that the band vanished into oblivion. The closest description for their style of music is progressive metal in the likes of Psychotic Waltz and Fates Warning.

Line-up: Richard Elliot IV, vocals and guitars Matt Laporte, guitars Darren McFarland, bass Buffo, drums
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.. Album Cover 3.90 | 5 ratings
Circles and Butterflies
Progressive Metal 1993

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THE LAST THINGS Circles and Butterflies

Album · 1993 · Progressive Metal
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UMUR
"Circles and Butterflies" is the debut and sole full-length studio album by US, Florida based progressive metal act The Last Things. The Last Things were born out of the ashes of thrash metal act Blackkout. Blackkout released one full- length studio album in 1989 called "Ignorance of Man" and then folded. Former Blackkout Lead vocalist/guitarist Richard Elliot IV and former Blackkout bassist Darren McFarland then hooked up with drummer Lou Buffo to form The Last Things. "Circles and Butterflies" was released in 1993 by the short-lived Danish Nordic Metal label. A label also responsible for the release of two other pretty rare progressive metal gems in "Pathways to Wholeness (1995)" by Catharsis and "Age of Elegance (1994)" by Lord Bane.

The music on "Circles and Butterflies" is progressive metal with technical thrash metal leanings. I´ve always thought of the music as a mix of Megadeth, Marillion and to a certain degree Atheist. The influence from the latter can be heard in the first couple of minutes of "Circle of Wills" (on a sitenote it´s interesting that bassist Darren McFarland also shortly played with Atheist). "Circles and Butterflies" is divided into two parts. The first six tracks are a concept story where the tracks seque into each other while the five last tracks are individual songs. The sound quality changes between the two sections so it´s unfortunately obvious that the songs were recorded at different sessions. The concept part of the album has the best sound production while the sound production on the last five tracks on the album isn´t as powerful as the first part. So the last part of the album unfortunately comes off sounding a bit weak compared to the first part. It´s a minor complaint but enough to drag my rating down slightly. The album features lots of technical/progressive thrash metal riffing but also many calmer atmospheric parts and some melodic progressive metal parts. Main composer Richard Elliot IV is a multi-instrumentalist and in addition to handling vocals, guitars and keyboards he also plays the flute and the very non-metal instrument bagpipes on the album. All three members of the lineup are technically skilled musicians and their playing on this album is quite accomplished. Now I made a reference to Marillion earlier in the review and that reference is based on the more mellow beautiful parts in the music. While Richard Elliot IV can certainly deliver a powerful thrashy vocal he is also capable of singing much softer styled vocals. He is actully quite close in style to Fish which is why I can´t help thinking about Marillion (especially around "Misplaced Childhood (1985)"). So maybe I should call the music neo progressive technical thrash metal (Love that tag LOL).

"Circles and Butterflies" is quite a unique progressive metal album and if all songs on the album had been of the high quality of the concept part of the album I would have given the album a 4 star (80%) rating. Unfortunately the last couple of songs on the album drag my rating down to a 3.5 star (70%) rating (I wish they would have made the first part of the album into an EP instead). I still find "Circles and Butterflies" highly recommendable to fans of progressive metal with technical thrash metal leanings.

THE LAST THINGS Circles and Butterflies

Album · 1993 · Progressive Metal
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J-Man
The Spirit Lives

In virtually any genre of music, there are a few forgotten masterpieces. Albums that never really broke into the mainstream, but have a dedicated cult following who hail it as one of the finest ever made. The Last Things' sole album from 1993, Circles and Butterflies, is one of these forgotten gems. Before the band disappeared into oblivion never to return again, they released what I consider to be one of the greatest masterworks in all of progressive metal. Circles and Butterflies is an album with a unique sensibility, seamless compositions, and breathtaking complexity. When I search for a progressive metal masterpiece, those three things are seldom done to perfection - for that reason alone, I hold Circles and Butterflies as a benchmark for all other progressive metal albums to "attempt" to live up to. I'd give a limb to see these guys perform live; hell, I'd give two limbs for them to do a reunion album! Although I doubt either of these things will ever happen, at least we have an essential masterpiece to remember this top-notch Floridian band by. If you like progressive metal and you don't own this album, you're truly missing out on a timeless masterwork.

The Last Things had a very unique sound - even 18 years after the release of Circles and Butterflies, there's still nothing else like it. This band borrowed just as much from Marillion as they did from Atheist, and the result is nothing short of amazing. The music could be considered traditional U.S. progressive metal in the vein of Psychotic Waltz and Fates Warning, but the boatloads of influence from neo-prog and technical thrash metal set The Last Things apart from anyone else. You'll even find flute and bagpipe here! It's not everyday you hear that on a progressive thrash metal album! As if the band's one-of-a-kind sound weren't enough, they also had chops to put most legends to shame. Richard Elliot IV handles the vocals, guitars, and keyboards here, and every single thing he did on this album is sheer perfection. His technical guitar riffs, atmospheric keyboard soundscapes, and terrific vocals are all part of what makes this album so great. The drumming from Lou Buffalo is technically pleasing but also emotionally satisfying - he clearly takes influence from legends like Mark Zonder, and delivers just as well. The bass playing from Darren McFarland adds a unique edge to Circles and Butterflies - his playing style was unlike anyone else in progressive metal at the time. He delivers funky Faith No More-esque basslines combined with technical Atheist-influenced riffing; this album would be drastically different without Darren's top-notch playing.

Circles and Butterflies is an "album of two halves", so to speak. The first six tracks make up "The Circles and Butterflies Suite", whereas the rest of the album consists of standalone tracks. I would say that the opening suite is one of the finest progressive metal epics out there - you'll find technical thrashy riffs, proggy time signature shifts, and even a beautiful outro to close off this masterwork. Although I've heard some reviewers be a little less loving towards the second half of the album, I think it's equally excellent. "Ghost From the Past" is a heavy track, with obvious influences from the Bay Area thrash scene and the NWoBHM. "The Missing Piece" is a more progressive track with excellent funky basslines from Darren McFarland. "Morgan's Song" is a beautiful track about Richard Elliot IV's daughter, with tribal drumming and atmospheric synthesizers. His vocal performance is also outstanding here. "Reservations" is a short interlude with percussion and flute. Circles and Butterflies closes off with a song that sounds like "Jethro Tull meets Metallica", so to speak. "The Spirit Lives On" has heavy thrash riffing with a surprising dose of flute soloing. This is an excellent way to close off this masterpiece.

The production has a raw, biting edge that suits the music perfectly. Atmosphere breathes through brilliantly, but never at the expense of sounding weak during the heavier sections. The production is simply brilliant, to say the least.

Conclusion:

Circles and Butterflies is one of my favorite progressive metal albums ever - I would gladly rank this album up there with Dream Theater's Images and Words, Fates Warning's Perfect Symmetry, or just about any other progressive metal masterpiece. This album is synonymous with "essential" in my mind, so don't be surprised when I throw down a 5 star rating. Am I upset that The Last Things disbanded and remained silent for nearly twenty years? Definitely. Am I thrilled that I have this stunning taste of perfection to remember them by? Absolutely. Circles and Butterflies may never reach the "legendary" status, but it's my hope that every prog metal fan hears this gem eventually. Essential is an understatement when describing this tremendous feat.

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