At some point, it probably becomes fruitless to review new Circa Survive
records. The band are a model of sonic and psychic consistency, ever since
they brought us the explosive debut album Juturna in 2005 and through their
dabblings in psych-punk (2007s On Letting Go), 90s alt-rock (2010s Blue Sky
Noise) and expansive prog (2012s Violent Waves). It should come as no
surprise, then, that Circas fifth album, Descensus, falls in line as an
incredibly strong, innovative album in a catalog already littered with them.
In short: This shit rules.
Circa fans are among the most hardcore there are, whether it be because of
worshiping Anthony Greens otherworldly vocals, the gorgeous guitar interplay
of Brendan Ekstrom and Colin Frangicetto or the lockstep-yet-off-kilter rhythm
section of Nick Beard and Steve Clifford. Those fans will find little fault in
Descensus 10 tracks (outside of the 54-second quasi-instrumental Who Will
Lie With Me Now, which feels like one of those weird sound experiments on
Christie Front Drives Stereo). You want a scorching barn-burner of an opening
track The chaotic, unrelenting Schema delivers in spades, with its first 10
seconds alone sounding like the perfect soundtrack to Armageddon. Like your
Circa a bit more playful and carnival-esque Look no further than the 5/4-time
Child Of The Desert, with Greens mild croon lulling the listener into a
false sense of security even as the instrumental begins to intensify until he
erupts with a devilishly powerful scream.
As a whole, Descensus feels much looser and organic than anything Circa have
done before, almost as if the band are finally comfortable in their own skin.
But instead of resting on their laurels, their shared comfort allows for a
previously undiscovered artistic progression; like on the gorgeously subdued
Phantom, a track driven by keyboards and soft brushstroke drumming, only
allowing for an occasional guitar line to enter the arena, to add unexpected
texture and nuance like Deftones covering Sade.
Nesting Dolls gets its narrative out of the way early, instead relying on a
monumental, Explosions In The Sky-esque buildup that, impressively, doesnt
detonate at its peak, choosing instead to level off after about four minutes
of a steady, emotionally resonant crescendo. When writing repetitive,
post-rock-influenced music, it can be considered the easy way out to insert
the rock out part at the endit takes a true artist to resolve it in a
less-expected (yet totally successful) way. Thats just one more piece of
evidence proving Circa Survive are far and away one of the best bands
operating today, and why Descensus is yet another gold star in a career
already full of them.