Music Review: Circa Survive’s ‘Violent Waves’

Philadelphian progressive rock band band Circa Survive have kind of … They put out two reasonably solid albums with Equal Vision Records, then decided to move to a major label with their third release, entitled Blue Sky Noise. And to a lot of novice listeners to the band, they would label that as “selling out.” However, their sound, themes, and delivery was consistent – if not more – than their previous releases. So the big question is what Circa Survive would sound like with no label backing them, and with complete musical freedom?

Well, unsurprisingly, you get Violent Waves – yet another cohesive album that requires a rather remarkable amount of patience to get through. Violent Waves comes off as incredibly methodical on the first couple of listens, traveling at almost a snail’s pace. And surprisingly, that’s not an awful thing. Waves is filled with the signature ambient guitar riffs and screeching voice of Anthony Green that Circa is known for, but it’s just done at a slower pace. There are no “Get Out”‘s on this album, not even an “Act Appalled.” Instead, you get yet another cohesive Circa album that cares more about atmosphere than outright rocking.

Violent Waves is book-ended by the two longest songs they have put out to date: “Birth of the Economic Hit Man” and “I’ll Find A Way.” These two I felt could have been shorter, yet the former does sets up the rest of the album well. “The Lottery” is a fierce downtempo kick-to-the-stomach, which is only emphasized when Green shreds his vocals during the chorus. “Phantasmagoria” sounds like a darker version of something Green would put on his solo albums; a rambunctious stomp that will get people dancing rather than moshing. “Think Of Me When They Sound” is a gorgeous ballad that showcases Green’s singing ability, making a great use of his lower registry. If there was a radio-friendly song on the album, it’d be “Bird Sounds,” which sounds like a complete throw back to their solid debut Juturna.

One big thing that people keep harping on is the new found independence of Circa Survive. Honestly, I think that this only harms them in regards to this album. Originally, I was expecting something so out-of-the-box of them that I could not even recognize the band I once new. Instead, this is classic Circa, with some added vocals from Geoff Rickley from Thursday and Rachel Minton of Zolof The Rock And Roll Destroyer.

If you come into this album thinking that you are gonna get a sequel to Blue Sky Noise, you are only kidding yourself. Violent Waves is Circa Survive doing what they do best: putting out an art rock album that appeases to their hardcore fan base WAY more than it does a commercial market. There are no singles, but that’s no problem. The main problem is how Violent Waves sounds. It’s not because the instrumentation is bad or Green’s vocals are soft at some points – but that it sounds remarkably similar from track-to-track. There are some stand outs here and there (the middle portion of the album is rather fantastic), but the rest can be take it or leave it for the most part. I’m a big Circa fan, and I do get a lot of enjoyment out of the album. I was just expecting that much more from them, and it didn’t quite hit my expectations.

Violent Waves is an album you must listen to from beginning to end to “get it.” And it might take a couple of listens to actually do so.

Final Grade: B

Go Download: “Phantasmagoria”

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