Review Summary: It's a slow burner, but don't let that put you off...
Circa Survive had a hard prospect when writing the follow-up to Blue Sky Noise. This was an album that got them more radio plays, magazine articles and exposure than ever before. They had two choices, carry on with the direction forged by Blue Sky Noise, almost certainly the more financially rewarding choice, or head in a different direction altogether. With the release of Violent Waves, it is clear they chose the latter.
As the epic, seven minute, opener 'Birth Of The Economic Hitman' begins, it is apparent that this is a less immediate record. Instead of starting with a bang, this record builds upon repeated listens. The opener is an impressive song, indicative of the whole album, and appears to act as a lyrical explanation for the release, as Green croons "Maybe we have to leave, forget everything we learned about where we came from to find out where we need to go." It's clear from this, they were no longer happy on their label, and decided to do what so many other acts are doing, and strike out on their own.
One of the album highlights is Sharp Practice. This song is very reminiscent of 'Strange Terrain' from Blue Sky Noise, but as if it was filtered through their debut album, Juturna. Suitcase, the first song released from the album, is a slower, more laid-back affair, the kind that has made numerous appearances on Circa records before. Phantasmagoria, meanwhile, is catchy song featuring great verses, that is probably one of the most instantly impacting songs on the record.
As expected, Green is on fire vocally, going from smooth, to harsh and raspy effortlessly, and the musicians beside him create beautiful sounding musical landscapes that reflect the spacey album art. The lyrics are good, although nothing special, and still have that veiled quality that always runs through Circa Survive's lyrics.
Despite this, the album does have a flaw. Many songs drag on, and need repeated listens to make any real lasting impact. This is likely due to this being a self-released record, allowing them full reign over the album, as opposed to Blue Sky Noise, which was released on Atlantic. The experimentation on show is promising, for sure, but the lack of impacting songs harms the album as a cohesive unit. The last half of the album is all material that will take time to digest, and including a song that is more instant within that section could have served to break up the record nicely.
It might take a while to sink in, but it is worth it. Blue Sky Noise hit you straight out of the gates, demanding your attention. Violent Waves, however, will take more than that. This is an album more suitable to a late night drive than a summer's day stroll. This is not a record that will gain them new fans. It's a record bound to be divisive, but those who stick with it will be justly rewarded.