Review Summary: "Violent Waves" is a refreshing excursion into experimentation, but lacking the energy of "Juturna" and the pitch perfect songwriting of "Blue Sky Noise," Circa's latest feels more like its uglier and blander brother, "On Letting Go."
From the very beginning, Violent Waves
presents itself as a very different Circa Survive outing. Darting out of the gate is the explosive “Birth of the Economic Hit Man,” a seven minute (long by Circa Survive standards) piece that features more interesting moments and transitions than most other songs by the band. It is a fluidly written song that displays the band’s more aggressive sound, as well as their more indie leanings. It is a wonderful metaphor for Violent Waves
as a whole: a big, bold excursion into a more experimental sound as Circa learn to expand their horizons.
It’s a tough job to follow up Blue Sky Noise
, the band’s third and most critically and commercially successful album to date. Said album was essentially the perfection of the post-hardcore tinged indie sound that the band had been working on up until that point. Rather than copy/paste that success into their new record (much like they did with On Letting Go
), the band has shifted gears a bit, opting for a more experimental sound. The album is an experimental move for the band as well, as Circa Survive have opted to release the album independently, with promotion and production all done by themselves. Despite the name, Violent Waves
has less of an edge, with much of the record being decidedly subdued. This becomes heavily apparent with “Suitcase” and “Think of Me When They Sound.” Both songs act as breaks between the more exciting and extroverted pieces, and it is a nice change in pace. It is truly neat to see the band spend less time flexing its muscles and pay more attention to the details. Unfortunately, Circa Survive fumble these moments as well, as “Think of Me When They Sound” is both calming and boring, wearing out its welcome early on with its flat delivery.
Yet when Circa Survive experiment well, it is nothing short of excellent. Some selections even manage to be some of the best work of the band’s career. The heavy hitters are especially exciting as “Sharp Practice,” “The Lottery,” and “Blood from a Stone” have the best replay value of the entire album. It is “Phantasmagoria” that springs to mind first, though, as it is the most unique track on the record. It is profoundly catchy, with a somewhat “dancey” vibe that drives the entire thing. Anthony Green later erupts into frenzy, marking one of the album’s best moments. More light hearted and upbeat, its outwardly weirdness pays off in spades. Thursday’s Geoff Rickly makes an appearance on “The Lottery,” and his voice makes an incredibly welcome addition during the song’s cathartic climax. “Blood from a Stone,” however, features Anthony Green’s best performance on the record. He shows restraint when he should, and lets it loose when necessary, with both unfortunately being rare occurrences on Violent Waves
Who would have thought that the ferocious Anthony Green-who early into the last decade was tearing up the underground post-hardcore scene-would become so domesticated
? But this is exactly where we find Green on Violent Waves
, understated and under the radar. The same man whose shrill vocals were laid passionately bare on each Circa Survive record thus far has taken things down a notch. This is not a volume issue, as Green still makes sure that his delivery is clearly heard, but more a problem with how well he conveys the music with his voice. It’s merely him going through the motions, and for the first time ever, Anthony Green sounds absolutely average.
Despite some missed opportunities, Violent Waves
is exactly the album Circa Survive needed to make. It is a bold statement that the band is willing to mix things up and adapt to a musical climate where doing the same thing isn’t good enough anymore. Some things here work, and some do not. Fortunately, the band is clever enough to largely know which ones do, and thus Violent Waves
is a success. For those wishing to see a return to Juturna
, this album isn’t for you. For those wanting a Blue Sky Noise pt. 2
, this album also isn’t for you. This is Circa Survive making music for them, and that in itself is enough to celebrate.