For my money, metal is a much misunderstood and underrated genre; often when I read reviews, I find that critics can be dismissive of the intense skill and carefully designed composition required to create great metal music. Seeming like mini-symphonies in their design, there are moments of quiet contrasted with the most bombastic sounds possible, which when executed well work amazingly. Circle of Reason are a band that does just that.
Circle of Reason are a Southampton based quartet who have been garnering admiration for a while due to the public/critical reception of their previous EPs and live shows; and when I say Circle of Reason are an interesting metal band, it isn’t said frivolously. Drawing upon a wide range of influences from the likes of Deftones, Biffy Clyro, Muse, Smashing Pumpkins and QOTSA, Circle of Reason have deftly melded elements from all their influences together making a blend of progressive and alternative metal that, while sounding familiar, has a life all of its own. There is no better example of this than the groups latest ‘mini-album’ Faith or Theory (which is one of my favourite titles of the year thus far BTW).
Faith or Theory begins with the powerful single ‘Never Enough’. The song sets the tone for the album by assaulting you with a heavy riff that grabs your attention and never lets go. A tough love letter about a failing relationship with no bitterness spared. ‘You always said I could be so much better/ You used to say I was never enough’ – lead singer Gary laments over a building cacophony of guitars before the band reaches another breakdown. If you aren’t riled up by the end of this track, metal obviously isn’t your thing.
The next track ‘Questions’ continues the sonic whirlwind working the progressive metal structure akin to Disturbed’s ‘Stricken’. It’s one of the most accessible songs on the record, and a good starting place if you are unfamiliar with the band.
A highlight of the album is ‘Clarity’, a song that begins with playful riffs floating above the heavy drums and bass. It’s a complexly arranged masterclass in alternative metal. After a heavy verse, it then crashes into a chorus and breakdown that chops and changes tempo and tone several times before returning to the main verse progression. Impressive stuff.
‘In Other Words’ is the first slower tempo song and opens with delicate guitar melodies interweaving with a piano. The song adopts a sparse sounding and ominously building use of instrumentation, which really marks a contrast to the other songs on the record and provides a good balance. It teases the bombastic chorus like a dubstep drop, until about two minutes in when the guitars are finally unleashed becoming louder, harder and more potent with every passing second. The final verses soar, almost like the band have achieved salvation.
The album closes with ‘Colours’, another statement track. From the second it opens with the solo drums, it gives the impression of a fully realised live encore. The guitars never let up, executing a wall of sound that envelops the listener, rendering you powerless to its onslaught. Gary’s multi-layered vocals rise above said wall always raising the intensity.
I can’t say I’m a metal aficionado, but I know what I like. This metal quartet from Southampton have taken the best bits from their influences and combined them into a tight, heavy and fantastic sounding record. Rough riffs, melodic choruses which achieve ascension, and skilful, tight, fast-paced playing.
There are words printed on the LP sleeve of the Rolling Stones’ Let It Bleed state “This record should be played loud.” So should this one. Play it loud, play it proud.