Circa Survive


Written by: TL on 19/12/2014 18:42:06

In 2003, singer Anthony Green wrote himself into emocore history with his participation on Saosin's "Translating The Name EP", yet it was with a different band, Philadelphia's Circa Survive, that he found a stable home, and in the years from 2005 to 2010, he and the band proceeded to set the benchmark for modern melodic rock and post-hardcore with high pitched singing, always staying one step ahead via touches of prog and futuristic psychedelia that were light years apart from what most of the scene could do to catch up. Switching from Equal Vision to big label Atlantic allowed the group's work to culminate in 2010's exquisite "Blue Sky Noise", yet the partnership didn't click and eventually Circa opted to go DIY and self-produce 2012's "Violent Waves", an experiment so unfocused and forgetable that it pretty much shortwired the minds of a fanbase that had gotten used to thinking that the band could do no wrong.

Fast forward to the present, where Circa is ready with album number five, "Descensus", which sees accomplished producer Will Yip promoted from co-producer, yet comes out after a period when Green has battled addiction and when the band has professed that they entered the studio with little material prepared. It sounds like them though, all alternative drumming patterns, pedal-distorted, Mars Volta-ish guitar histrionics and Green's raspy voice, child-like and unmistakeable, cutting through the atmosphere like a red hot knife. And things initially get going in promising fashion with "Schema", which displays a reappearance of the power which was absent for large parts of "Violent Waves", tearing at the ears with both feedback and riffage that sounds like something Night Verses could've come up with, while Green's prolonged croons make an infectious enough impression.

However, already in track two, "Child Of The Desert", the listener has to make do with little of interest but a decent bass groove for a long stretch before the tempo finally changes and the guitars let loose with Muse-like exuberance towards the end. It's somewhat partial awesomeness is reflected by the mellow melodies of "Always Begin", and by the later "Nesting Dolls", which establishes some simple catchiness via Green's "Never-ever-ever" melody, yet for some reason meanders in an aimless, indulgent drone, prolonging the track needlessly to a stagnant seven minutes. And the big problem is that those would be the highlights in what turns out to be an otherwise mediocre doze of Circa-soup, where the glimpses of the group's true potential are too far separated by stale stretches that sound like the band scraped bottom in their usually bountiful barrel and simply extrapolated what little they found into pieces that are admittedly serviceable, but not much more.

The mentioned glimpses do manage to better merit returning listens than "Violent Waves", which consequentially feels overgraded in its review in our archives. Take the latter as a symptom of the disbelief associated with hearing such mundane material from a band that once seemed to tap brilliant riffs and vocal melodies in generous streams from a persistent, otherworldly soundscape. As soon as you've soaked up the best pickings from here though, that disbelief starts to clear, and the sobering realisation beckons that critically speaking, Circa Survive would be wise to take a break from the studio until they save up enough ideas to meet the bar they set for themselves with their first three albums.

Download: Schema, Child Of The Desert, Nesting Dolls, Always Begin
For The Fans Of: The Mars Volta, Hail The Sun, Artifex Pereo, Flood Of Red

Release date 24.11.2014
Sumerian Records

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