October 29, 2018 Circa Survive – The Amulet (Album Review)
A glorious phoenix that arose well over a decade ago, Circa Survive has amassed an impressive career for themselves and they are soaring to proud new heights with their Hopeless Records’ debut, The Amulet, which arrives this Friday, November 2, 2018.
After Vocalist Anthony Green departed Saosin in 2004, he returned home to the Philly suburbs and formed the Pennsylvania-based Circa Survive. A well-known commodity on the musical scene, the band has released five full-length albums throughout their fourteen-year career, ranging from their 2005 debut Juturna to 2014’s Descensus.
Though the band has seen quite a few changes so far as their record label goes, their lineup has remained intact. Together, the quintet have toured with an eclectic array of their contemporaries, including Thirty Seconds to Mars, The Used, My Chemical Romance, Thrice, Mutemath, Saves The Day, Dredg, Coheed and Cambria, Motion City Soundtrack, Thursday, and many, many more. They are veterans of the Vans Warped Tour, the Bamboozle, and Coachella.
With an already diverse and sweeping oeuvre of music behind their belts, Circa Survive – Vocalist Anthony Green, Guitarists Colin Frangicetto and Brendan Ekstrom, Bassist Nick Beard, and Drummer Steve Clifford – are now poised to release their latest, The Amulet. Produced by Will Yip (Tigers Jaw, Movements), the band’s sixth full-length disc, and their first for Hopeless Records, presents twelve tracks that focus heavily on faith and religious references, the strife in our world and the daily experiences that leave a weight on our individual shoulders. Yet, despite the hardship of reality, there is a beautiful hopefulness to Circa Survive.
The Amulet begins with beautifully soft electronics that slowly build into Green’s vocals before the entire band chime in for languid rocker “Lustration,” an intensely delicate glance at purity – in the muse, in relationships, in life. Meandering, glittering, twinkling guitars anchor “Never Tell a Soul,” and actually drown out Green’s vocals in places, all while telling their own melodic tale. Lyrically, the band bring in a multitude of religious references that serve to question many of the pivotal rituals of Christian faith.
The band’s stellar musicianship shines on “Premonition of the Hex,” a lackadaisical look at breaking free from a haunting situation (“Be weary of the things you want (the thorn in your paw)”) – be it as simple as a bad relationship or something as traumatic as an extremist cult. They continue the moody pace on “Tunnel Vision,” where glittering guitars help to tell a story about life and urge listeners to see beyond their myopic view. It’s a wonderfully relaxing track, one that is the perfect soundtrack for lying in the tall grass, staring up at the stars, and wondering about the meaning of it all.
Next, Circa Survive march into “At Night It Gets Worse,” which sets a strangely haunting spell with its ambiguous lyrics about the changes necessary in humanity and building up the nerve to make them a reality. Clifford continues to march his bandmates into “Stay,” which, at first glance, might appear like a love song to some, but is really an exercise in truth. In turn, bandmate Beard goes grungy bass-heavy madness to build the boys into “Rites of Investiture,” an intense glance at the weights we carry with us from birth to death.
The quintet sway softly into “The Hex,” which appears to question our awareness and sacrifice, before the soporific feels continue into the bittersweet “Flesh and Bone,” the weight of our beliefs crushing our shoulders. Frangicetto and Ekstrom’s exceptional guitar work continues into the dueling melodies of album namesake “The Amulet,” a floating dream of sound that weaves around its spiritual, lyrical core.
As The Amulet winds down to its grand finale, they dip a little darker on the appropriately-titled “Dark Pools,” which Green has gone on the record to state is about those that feel overwhelmed or marginalized, those in need of a mental health pick-me-up. Ultimately, they end with “Indra’s Net,” a meandering journey through nuance and emotion, a perfect encapsulation of the collection, as a whole, and all its varying nooks and crannies.
With poetically ambiguous, deeply intelligent lyrics that flow in tandem with Frangicetto and Ekstrom’s exemplary dueling guitar melodies, Circa Survive present a collection that is a delicious dichotomy: easily digestible yet fully challenging. There’s a sophistication to the band’s craft that is lacking in so much of today’s music, but The Amulet never skimps on its intensity for the sake of commercial viability. Heavily weighted by questions of faith and sacrifice, delving into the personally overwhelming and the extremes of our experiences, this is a collection that will resonate with so many listeners immediately upon first listen, only to change its meanings and messages with each additional listen, growing in strength and resonating even louder. Defending our beautiful form, CrypticRock gives Circa Survive’s The Amulet 4.5 of 5 stars.