For 13 years, Circa Survive have been pushing the boundaries of music to create albums that are not only audibly pleasing, but also tangible and emotionally relatable to the listener. Few bands have been as unbridled and vulnerable in their approach, making them not only one of the most self-aware, but also the most free in terms of their artistic expression. Though they have hidden slightly in the shadow–according to some–of their acclaimed Blue Sky Noise, Circa’s records are uniquely individualistic and profound in their own right. Building off their roots seems to be a common thread within their music, but it’s clear they aren’t looking to produce more of the same, thus enters The Amulet. Their sixth studio album finds itself steering into alternative territory more than ever before, highlights being that it explores a darker mood and atmosphere. I must admit that it is not the best Circa Survive album ever to be released, but it is still a haunting and stunning listen from beginning to end.
The Amulet opens up with their debut single, “Lustration.” Exploring those feelings you have when you’re trying to embrace something new, it begins timid, but once it’s comfortable, it opens up completely. As it conveys, things change, you change, and it’s clear from the get go that Circa Survive are changing too, both as individuals and a band. As Anthony Green transforms from a gritty howl to a silvery falsetto, the music moves with him and complements the tone set by the lyrics. On record, tracks like this are a true standout. They are also performed flawlessly in the live setting, creating an environment of their own. Something I learned when they performed “Lustration” live for the first time in Colorado on The Blood Tour with AFI. As openers go, this one really sets the bar high for the remainder of the album; A good omen that will hopefully carry through to its end.
Nick Beard‘s contributions really resonate on The Amulet with distinctive bass lines rising to the forefront on many occasions, heard particularly in the album’s next track, “Never Tell A Soul.” In my opinion, this is hands down the best song on the album, because it’s Circa Survive to the core. It feels familiar, but new at the same time. It also has a more grunge and punk attitude, but it soon transforms into something else entirely as it takes you into this cosmic, proggy space. As far as song structure goes, “Never Tell A Soul,” features Circa at their best; A song that calms your spirit but awakens it the minute it reaches that frenetic juncture. As the record carries on, bewitching tales continue to be told as “Premonition of the Hex” ominously drives in.
Though the previously released singles, like “Rites of Investiture” and “The Amulet,” prove to be some of the best tracks on the record, the fourth, “Tunnel Vision,” is just as memorable if not more stirring than those we’ve previously heard. Steve Clifford’s resounding presence on the drums drives the track along with guitars that ring like wind chimes and Green, who’s vocals are nothing short of dreamy. “At Night It Gets Worse,” follows similarly and adds further to the nuance of The Amulet. It’s a great track, but it feels muted when compared with the other songs. Another standout is the stripped-down and etherial “Flesh And Bone,” which wanes but doesn’t fade. Emotionally, it really hits home as you feel every word. Though it slows things down, it feels necessary and its timing in the order of the record is impeccable.
Positively, The Amulet shines lyrically, which comes as no surprise. One of its biggest strong suits, however, is its inclusion of emotions that are not only personal, but also social and political. I also have to take this moment to commend them for thinking about everything from the album artwork (Shoutout to the talented Esao Andrews) to the promotion and song release choices. They handle an album with care, love, and appreciation and that is something that shows through on every release. On a more critical note, that frantic energy we’ve come to know from Circa Survive is toned down in the new record, only greeting us every now and again in songs like “Rites of Investiture” and “Stay.” Though explored on occasion, I wish The Amulet would have unleashed a bit more. For the most part, the song structures of the tracks are complex and thrilling, but that suspense that keeps you on the edge of your seat is rarely explored. Excitingly, they do successfully keep you in this odd state of contemplation and reflection, so in some instances it really works. It’s also important to note that a number of songs on The Amulet are growers, so don’t dismiss them upon your first listen.
Circa Survive have found themselves in a place where they are no longer competing with anyone else but themselves, and though this has made them the best at what they do, it has made it hard for them to break out of their own shadow. With that said, The Amulet, is a phenomenal record in comparison to the community it exists in, but it isn’t going to reach the same iconic status as their most celebrated records. Overall, The Amulet is sonically-impressive and emotionally-charged. It’s introspective, but sees the band looking out for inspiration just as much as they are looking in. And most of all, it’s a sign of greater things to come.
The Amulet Tracklist
You can still pick up your copy of Circa Survive’s The Amulet, which releases tomorrow, here!
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