Circa Survive
Descensus


2.0
poor

Review

by Beauville88 USER (84 Reviews)
December 2nd, 2014 | 14 replies


Release Date: 11/24/2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: An undeniably beautiful but ultimately unsatisfying and empty mess of an album.

Circa Survive’s musical evolution from album to album has never been akin to the norm. While most bands slowly change sounds or evolve in and out of genres gradually over time, Circa Survive has roughly always been the same band with the same pieces and arranges the architecture differently each time to create a familiar but original sound each time. But while the band’s toolbox is very much the same, as always, on their fifth full length Descensus, something has gone awry this time around. Struggling to find some substance in their ideas, the band has arguably put out its worst effort to date.

Descensus, despite its overall shortcomings, starts off fairly well. Opening tracks “Schema” and “Always Begin” are terrific examples of this band at its best: passion, structure and grace all wrapped in a tidy package. Showcasing their more structured, driven, constructed songwriting approach that’s been evident on their past two albums, Schema screeches out of the gate and is the band at its absolute heaviest, while Always Begin balances between interesting verses and catchy choruses.

The good times don’t last for long, however. At this point in their career, Circa Survive has mastered their beautifully radiant and texturally sleek musical style, but Descensus proves that you always need some substance underneath the style, and they simply don’t deliver this time around. Much of Descensus, including tracks like “Only The Sun”, “Quiet Down” and “Phantom”, are successful in creating an elegant setting, complete with woven guitar lines heavily drenched with echo and flanger, creating a very ethereal, other-worldly feel, but it ultimately comes up short with their lack of direction. Washing the listener over with beautiful textures and polished melodies, but with nothing structured underneath, the listener is left with something overly sweet, lacking in substance and ultimately unsatisfying. The band never attempts to grab at you or offer a memorable moment or catchy chorus, but instead opts to create a glossy landscape with nothing of interest going on, resulting in a large fits of mundane passages and an overall sense of unproductivity.

And then there’s moments on Descensus that are just flat out head-scratching, such as the experimental track “Nesting Dolls”. Easily one of the group’s the most avant-garde moments, the track is the album’s undeniable low point: reverbed-soaked guitar chords back Green’s lament of guilt in a relationship before the song slowly unravels into a long-winded, pedestrian post-rock build for the final four minutes. What was the band trying to accomplish here" What did this song set out to do" Questions like these, unfortunately, plague the listener through-out Descensus.

But there are still moments in some tracks where an effort seems to be apparent. “Sovereign Circles”, for example, finds a nice balance between progression and indulgence, but it still missing that one little piece to tie it all together. “Child Of The Desert” is one of the album’s stand-outs, as it marches at a brisk 10/8 pace with a memorable chorus, but suddenly crashing into a strange, sour outro for the song’s final minute.

While Descensus does have its moments, it seems like the band has gotten too comfortable with their sound and ultimately failed to build a proper support for their ideas. Balance has always been the band’s strong suit, mixing substance with style, but this time around, too much focus was placed on the style rather than the substance, resulting in an undeniably beautiful but ultimately unsatisfying and empty mess of an album.



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user ratings (540)
Chart.
3.8
excellent
other reviews of this album
LightChaotic (4.5)
A fantastic effort by Circa Survive that epitomizes the strengths of the band and blends together th...

Nick Mongiardo (4)
Descensus showcases Anthony Green at the top of his game and also proves to be some of the band's be...

SimpleM (2.5)
With a new label change and a so called "heavier sound", Circa Survive's new LP is a very disappoint...



Comments:Add a Comment 
Beauville88
December 2nd 2014


245 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I thought I'd offer a counter-point to the universal praise of this album, simply because I'm not digging it

at all. Go easy on me!



I seem to be the opposite Circa Survive fan...I thought Violent Waves was their very best so far.



Mongi123
December 2nd 2014


19324 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"What was the band trying to accomplish here? What did this song set out to do?"



ummmmm make a post rock song? You literally answered you own question in the previous couple of sentences.



" “Only The Sun”, “Quiet Down” and “Phantom”, are successful in creating an elegant setting, complete with woven guitar lines heavily drenched with echo and flanger, creating a very ethereal, other-worldly feel, but it ultimately comes up short with their lack of direction. Washing the listener over with beautiful textures and polished melodies, but with nothing structured underneath"



I fail to see what you mean about that last part when you add in those really huge compliments. It contradicts yourself by putting that part but then saying, Oh but it has no substance. That seems to be the whole argument here and you also say that the band stick to their formula and didn't try anything new, and yet, when have Phantoms and Nesting Dolls. Needs a bit of work dude.

JohnnyOnTheSpot
Staff Reviewer
December 2nd 2014


6637 Comments


"What was the band trying to accomplish here? What did this song set out to do?"

- i don't know why you would focus on that. interpret the music itself, rather than what the artist may or may not have 'tried' to do. it's just a pointless speculation, only serving to hinder your experience. just my 2 cents anyway, idk

cvlts
December 2nd 2014


9462 Comments


So basically you felt like they were phoning it in... which is what I thought with Violent Waves

VaxXi
December 2nd 2014


4348 Comments


Circa Survive has roughly always been the same band with the same pieces

Nice joke m8 ^

TerminalC
December 2nd 2014


258 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

disagree

Mongi123
December 2nd 2014


19324 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

And another thing: How is the outro to Child Of The Desert strange and sour in any way?

LightChaotic
December 2nd 2014


136 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This is an incredibly vague critique of 'Descensus' that really just amounts to an obtuse way of saying... "I'm not feeling it". Which is fine. But not really something that needs six paragraphs of...



"Struggling to find some substance in their ideas"



"you always need some substance underneath the style"



"ultimately comes up short with their lack of direction"



"lacking in substance and ultimately unsatisfying"



"What was the band trying to accomplish here? What did this song set out to do?"



"still missing that one little piece to tie it all together"



"too much focus was placed on the style rather than the substance"



to get across.

mrdrumstick
December 12th 2014


17 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Album was decent, but I'm not gonna write 6 paragraphs with 6 different ways to say "It was okay."

SadAndHolyGlow
December 18th 2014


1615 Comments


Killer review. I have to say that though I haven't listened to this whole album yet I feel the same way as you do about a lot of the songs. Even if I didn't agree with you, this is very well written. Good on you for admitting that though this band has released great stuff, they've pretty much never changed.

SadAndHolyGlow
December 18th 2014


1615 Comments


Killer review. I have to say that though I haven't listened to this whole album yet I feel the same way as you do about a lot of the songs. Even if I didn't agree with you, this is very well written. Good on you for admitting that though this band has released great stuff, they've pretty much never changed.

FuzzyxPickles
February 4th 2015


114 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

"empty" wtf?

TMobotron
February 4th 2015


7236 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"though this band has released great stuff, they've pretty much never changed."



Could not disagree more. After OLG I thought that CS might become a band guilty of that, but they've changed their sound up so much in their last 3 albums. I don't think VW lives up to their other work (and I think this falls slightly short of BSN and Juturna), but if this and VW deserve praise for anything it's the fact that they're very clearly trying to experiment with their sound rather than just resting on what they've already proven themselves capable of.

themainmast
August 14th 2017


270 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

"An undeniably beautiful but ultimately unsatisfying and empty mess of an album."



Man, I'd hate to have your mind if you think this album is an empty mess.

Also, you must have some sort of auditory deficit if you believe circa has "pretty much never changed". Compare OLG to BSN. COMPLETELY different sound/feel.



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