Review Summary: Descensus showcases Anthony Green at the top of his game and also proves to be some of the band's best material to date.
“I never want to see clear at all,” Anthony Green exclaims with an astounding amount of passion in the chorus of “Schema.” Ironically, Descensus
happens to be where not only Green, but the entire band sees a crystal clear sense of musicianship that fans yearned to see from them on Violent Waves
and be rest assured that fans can now rejoice! Essentially, Descensus
exists as an accumulation of everything that makes this band great. Melodies, passionate singing and their signature style of playing with the normal song structure of rock songs are all alive and well here. They even manage to try new things here by straying into post rock territory at some points on this record and as one could expect, Descensus
proves to be some of the band’s best work to date.
As stated before, the band chose to not stick to their typical formula by tweaking their sound a bit on some songs here. For example, “Nesting Dolls” features the band straying into an unexpected post rock turn and the payoff happens to be immensely satisfying and emotional. Driven by a beautiful atmosphere, broken lyrics and Anthony’s heartfelt performance in the first half, this part only sets the stage for what is to come. Once the second half comes around, the song builds and builds by means of the guitar providing textures and the climb continues for quite a bit. Soon enough, the buildup in “Nesting Dolls” comes full circle with the band delivering shoegazing elements of sheer emotional power. In addition to the complete 180 in this song, “Schema” sees the band showcasing some of their heaviest work to date. Green once again soars as the star of the track with his vocals showcasing endless amounts of passion and to top it all off, everyone else in the band proves to be equally involved in the experience. Another example of the band’s increased musicianship would be “Child of the Desert” where the whole song builds to an intense conclusion. While the song as a whole is nothing mind blowing, the payoff is incredible, with Green belting out epic vocals and Brendan Ekstrom showing off talented guitar work.
While the songs mentioned above exist as the definite highlights, other tracks like “Phantom” and “Always Begin” also features some excellent work from the band. “Always Begin” is anchored by Green’s undeniably incredible performance and his lyrics shine through here too. Though certainly not the best lyricist around, the line “Always Begin before you ever prepare/Never think twice about it all” happens to be a fantastic line about how we should always take risks. Meanwhile, “Phantom” is the most unique track on the record. Driven by Green’s beautiful vocals and the guitar work providing a textured atmosphere with the bass. Though not the best song on the record, it’s certainly different for Circa Survive and proves to be quite the soothing listen.
However, not every song on the record lives up to the potential of the more superior songs and unfortunately, the biggest offenders of this flaw lays in the final two tracks which is disappointing. In “Sovereign Circles,” Anthony provides a beautiful performance as usual, but instrumentally it fails to showcase anything truly interesting. Even with that said, at least it’s actually a decent track unlike the closing track which follows directly after. The title track falls victim to overwhelmingly repetitive song writing and overlong length to the extreme here. It starts out promising and the listener expects the song to build up to something just like in “Nesting Dolls,” but no dice. Instead, for the latter six minutes, it slows down to the same exact bass and guitar riff until the very end of the album. Green’s layered vocals add a bit of variety into the mix in the last couple of minutes, but it can’t save the monotonous nature of the song unfortunately.
Despite the underwhelming closing tracks, Descensus
still proves to be an impressive edition to Circa Survive’s discography and to 2014 in general. Though not perfect, their take on experimental rock is nothing short of refreshing here and their attempt at new territory here pays off to great effect. Admittedly for newcomers, Anthony Green’s vocals can be a bit jarring due to his tone, but be sure to not let that be the deterring factor of Circa Survive. His voice is a real grower and the more that this is listened to, the listener will realize how he’s at the top of his game here as well as the rest of the band. Not only is this record a fantastic starting place for newcomers, but it also happens to be one of their best records to date.