Sunday, September 9, 2012

Album Review: Circa Survive - Violent Waves

Album Rating: B+
Violent Waves is standard fare for Anthony Green and company, and this should come as no surprise to anyone who's been paying enough attention. Sure, there's been plenty of reason to believe otherwise - Blue Sky Noise was a wise excursion into more conservatively crafted progressive melodies, and this shift would imply natural evolution. However, it's now evident that Circa Survive desire to stick to to what they're most known for: atmosphere over focused songwriting. This fact makes or breaks the group's latest outing, either making Violent Waves the proper return to form we've all been waiting for, or a curious case of backpedaling. Which case is more appealing to you?

There exists every element that we've all come to expect from Circa on Violent Waves: Anthony Green's passionate vocal acrobatics, accentuating the musical peaks like always. Swirling guitars, sizzling in a steamy bath of reverb.  Overall, a sense of the otherworldly, a dazzling display of the proper way to fuse progressive melodies into otherwise straightforward tracks. And while nothing's new with the songs' contents overall, they're presented in a unique manner; "Birth of the Economic Hitman" drags the listener out of bed clumsily, markedly a different approach than the caffeinated kick of Blue Sky Noise's "Strange Terrain." It's a different beast that's been eager to awaken throughout Circa's career, existing this whole time but presented in a different order on each new installment. Imagine pulling apart all the most defining moments of the band's career, stripping and isolating them only to rearrange them into a new breed of Circa Survive. 

Depending on perspective, the album functions as either a return to form or a frustrating misstep. Violent Waves blends together in good 'ol Juturna fashion, flaunting a consistent listen over specific highlights. The few tracks that impress the most aren't show-stealers either; each instead serves as a burst of light, illuminating brilliantly in an otherwise dim setting. There's nothing quite memorable enough until the lively "Phantasmagoria," displaying the band's top-notch atmospherics presented alongside crystalline songwriting. This is Circa at their prime, and while Violent Waves isn't as immediately gratifying as its predecessor it's a kick in the loins to anyone doubting the band's consistency. Little has changed for the group over the last several years, except for a gradual solidification upon which atmospherics are most important. And wouldn't it be foolish of us to expect anything different?

Listen to Violent Waves in its entirety here.

1. Birth of the Economic Hitman
2. Sharp Practice
3. Suitcase
4. The Lottery
5. My Only Friend
6. Phantasmagoria
7. Think of Me When They Sound
8. Brother Song
9. Bird Sounds
10. Blood From a Stone
11. I'll Find a Way

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