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Circa Survive - Violent Waves (Album Review)

Tuesday, 28 August 2012 Written by Ben Bland
Circa Survive - Violent Waves (Album Review)

Circa Survive have never really found it easy to please their listeners. Their debut album, 2005’s 'Juturna' won them a coveted place near the top of the arty alt-rock scene, but it also seemingly set a bar that many fans feel they have been unable to reach again since. Such criticisms may be ridiculous, as the aforementioned debut is nowhere near as good as some fans claim, but at the same time they have also stuck. Despite 2010’s brilliant 'Blue Sky Noise', which saw the band hugely improve their songwriting, 'Violent Waves' is still likely to be most readily seen in comparison to their seven-year-old debut than anything else.

ImageFrankly, there is little point in comparing 'Juturna' to 'Violent Waves'. Whilst the band’s second and third albums still retained elements of the post-hardcore sound that shaped their debut, 'Violent Waves' is, paradoxically considering its title, a predominantly subdued musical outing for the band. Opener 'Birth of the Economic Hit Man' very much sets the scene for this album. There are hints of the aggression that has always been a part of their sound, but the overall impression is one of a desire for experimentation and, perhaps surprisingly, restlessness. At seven minutes in length, it certainly marks a noticeable more expansive way to start a Circa Survive album.

Perhaps what the opener proves more than anything is that Circa Survive no longer care so much what people think of them. There is no sign that this is a band straining to be accepted and loved; instead they seem more satisfied than ever to do whatever it is that takes their fancy. Having come so close to mastering alt-rock anthems with 'Blue Sky Noise', the experimental direction taken here is far from an obvious step. However, it does feel natural. The likes of the almost danceable 'Phantasmagoria' and the placid 'Suitcase' show the band making alterations to their sound that, whilst subtle, also mark the band’s ambitions more clearly than ever before.

As such, Circa Survive have made their most mature and scopius record to date. Although they may not stand out as such upon first listen, 'The Lottery' and 'Sharp Practice' are cuts that would fit in comfortably on any of the first three records, but more importantly they sit incredibly easily alongside the more restrained side of the band that is prevalent here. 'Violent Waves' darts across all the different terrains that Circa Survive have yet proven themselves capable of reaching, and hints at further stays upon new ground too. It may not strike you down as being a brave and experimental record, indeed at first it may seem too understated to even make an impact, but this is everything this record needed to be. Even if it does not go down as the best Circa Survive album, it should go down as the most important.

'Violent Waves' is out now via Circa Survive’s official website and independent record stores.

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