The Inversion Circus was born in 2014 as the brainchild of guitarist Chris Macock and bassist Chris Davison. The idea was to create music they wanted to play despite what is popular. Chris and Chris have been playing together in various projects for the last 20+ years and have an inseparable musical bond (not to mention they are like brothers) which allows them to quickly jump from one genre to another and still know what the other is about to do, and can be heard in their music.
When it came time to get a drummer, there was no search at all. Drummer Ronnie Mormino was the automatic choice to fill the seat. He and Chris Davison played for many years in another NJ-based hard rock band called Tomorrows Past where they too had formed a tight bond that only a drummer and bassist can have. Ronnie’s background in music was primarily in the rock/hard rock world with heavy influences from drummers such as John Bonham and Neil Peart. He would describe himself as more of a “pocket” drummer than a showman, always trying to keep a heavy groove you can sink your teeth in ahead of flashy playing, though he certainly throws some in there! Since the formation of the band, Ronnie has expanded his horizons into the world of odd meters, polyrhythms, and jazz techniques.
Guitarist Chris Macock, on the other hand, began his musical journey playing classical piano. This scenario soon changed after hearing the works of bands like Metallica and Joe Satriani at a very young age. This immediately triggered the desire to be a lead guitarist. Since then, he studied some theory through high school and college as well as playing in the school jazz ensembles and several original and cover bands. His passion though was outside of school, regularly playing guitar and developing his unique style of playing and writing. Some of his strongest influences are from guitar greats such as Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, John Petrucci, Steve Morse, Nuno Bettencourt, and Paul Gilbert to name a few. Due to the nature of The Inversion Circus’ musical range, Chris felt a change was needed very early in the life of the band and has switched to seven-string guitars and never looked back!
Bassist Chris Davison began playing bass at age 10 taking beginner lessons for a short while from his school music teacher and family friend and almost immediately started playing alongside Chris Macock. The roots of his musical background stemmed from Southern rock but quickly spread into the world of progressive rock and metal as well as a heavy jazz and funk influence. Primarily self-taught for the majority of his musical life, he learned the techniques of players like Marcus Miller, Victor Wooten, and Stanley Clarke before stepping up to six-string bass. Influenced by six-string greats such as Anthony Jackson, Steve Bailey, and Oteil Burbridge, he has developed his style and sound. Always looking to push himself, Chris has been furthering his education studying under Berklee bass professor Joe Macaro as well as taking up electric upright bass which will be heard in future works of The Inversion Circus.
Together, they form The Inversion Circus. The approach to writing is unlike that of any other band in that if they can imagine it, they will do it. The goal moving forward is to continually push the envelope of creativity and blend styles and genres that would ordinarily never be together to create a unique sound and experience for the listener while challenging themselves musically. In true circus fashion, they aim to be a musical variety show of sorts that has something for everyone as well as some things you never even knew you wanted! Come one, come all… Welcome to The Inversion Circus!
Chris Macock sent me the new record which is called InTents (Fire At The Big Top), and I wanted to go through it and give my impressions of the disc.
First song up is called “Intents,” and it’s a rock and roll monster. Utilizing progressive tempos and arrangement techniques, The Inversion Circus kick up some thick dust on their quest to produce massive, succulent sounds. The guitar work of Chris Macock stirs up nostalgic memories of Joe Satriani as he vamps riff-dominated directives across the song. His style and arrangement prowess leads this talented band through one of the year’s hottest hard rock instrumental tunes. Drummer Ronnie Mormino and bassist Chris Davison join Macock to create scorching rhythms and patterns that make “Intents” a real original rock classic. Macock blends seven-string guitars with solid rhythms and lead lines to come up with a hard rock/progressive gem of enormous proportions. Macock’s tone is a perfect combination of middy, warm chord progressions, and blistering lead passages. Davison’s bass sound is also delicious as he works with Mormino to create some fantastic and melodic sounds alongside Macock. Macock’s leads are insane, blending the technological expertise of Steve Morse and Satriani to create his own diverse lines and melodies. Indeed, a bodacious tune!
“Rex Goliath” is up next and continues the band’s talented foray into all things dark and good. Macock utilizes his guitar prowess to create some of the most interesting riffs this side of John Petrucci or Stevie Vai that I’ve seen in several years. The band goes through several tempo changes as well as harmonic shifts. Bringing in acoustic guitars for the bridge alongside some hot single-string bass work by Davison, who drives the bridge back into the next movement of the song very much like Dave LaRue from the Dixie Dregs. Macock tears things up when he hits his lead guitar stride, blowing through a myriad of pentatonic delights and doubled guitars before coming out and into his distinct chord pattern and chunky, chugging riff in the back end of the song.
Mormino and Davison launch the rhythmic muscle on “Confusion.” The pair nails this fantastic tune to the proverbial floor while Macock peppers the piece with Larry Carlton tonnage. This song has an excellent jazz feel especially made clear by Macock and his natural tone. Switching between clean, jazz-oriented chords and Jeff “Skunk” Baxter textures, the clean guitar work is both fluid and melodic and sets up the catchy riff work like no one else. I especially love the delay on the riff as it’s set on an extra-long delay effect that doesn’t step on the main riffage. Mormino and Davison lay clean rhythm work before Macock tears into the song with a searing salvo of dirty, tube-fueled lead work. This is a terrific three-piece group with all the skills of bands such as Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Primus. The arrangement on “Confusion” is smart and addictive as hell. Classic song and one of my favorites.
“Trigger Hippie” is next and delivers a hot white injection of rock and roll prog goodness. Macock carries the weight with a combination of blistering riff work, intricate chord selection, and fiery lead guitar work. Mormino cuts loose on this one as well, switching tempos and alternating between straight four on the floor patterns and jazzy flights of percussive fancy along with Davison’s grounded four-string work. I love instrumental bands and don’t get to review too many these days. I know it’s a much harder genre to sell, but it is so good here that it makes perfect sense and the sounds are so original and consistent that you just get caught up in the performance. Once again Macock’s sensibility when it comes to creating relatable riffs is just so right that it’s impossible not to enjoy it.
I also wanted to mention “Olga’s Exit.” Macock trills stepping stone guitar riffs down over the top of Davison’s staccato-driven six-string bass work and Mormino’s sharp and 3/4 time drum work to create a perfect piece of progressive music. The sound of Macock’s guitars is glistening and pure tube fury. I’m not sure what his amps of choice are on this, but they’re well-tuned and primed to produce specific tones that work ridiculously well for this record. Same thing with his choice of guitar. While he talks about using seven-string models to create his sounds, I have the feeling that a few Les Pauls may have sneaked into the mix as well as it’s just so fat and perfectly metered. This is a band I’d love to see live as I know with this level of playing skill it’s going to be a fantastic show. Davison and Mormino smack the hell out of this song and make a perfect pathway for Macock to take off from.
I’d love to describe the remaining songs but were out of space and time. The Inversion Circus is a genuinely talented band that needs to be seen and heard when you’re out on the scene. There aren’t very many bands that tackle this style of music, and they are at the top of the game.
If you’d like to see The Inversion Circus live, they will be playing at the world-famous Brighton Bar on August 25. The show will be hosted by Don Jameson of That Metal Show, and copies of their new record, InTents (Fire At The Big Top), will be available for purchase at that time. In the meantime, to find out where you can pick up the new record and find out more about The Inversion Circus, head over to their site at theinversioncircus.com and check them out for yourself.