Album Review: Circles - The Last One
Artist: Circles Album: The Last One Genre: Progressive Metal Release Date: 31 August 2018
Review by Samantha Wolstenholme
Australia’s burgeoning progressive rock and metal scene has really put us on the map in recent years as a home to bright young things who are turning the genre on its head and really making it their own. Melbournian prog metal dynamos Circles are at the forefront of this movement, having been one of the bands to proudly fly the djent flag for Australian prog since their inception in 2010. Now hot on the heels of their third studio release and international tours with prog giants TesseracT and Caligula’s Horse, the four-piece have built on these solid musical roots, honing and experimenting to forge a unique sound that through “The Last One”, is really taking shape.
Opening track “Winter” gets us off to a rollicking start with steadily building rhythm guitars tremolo picking their way towards a chaotic yet seamless dance between off-kilter grooves, lightning-fast atonal guitar licks and solid melodic passages. In this vein, it serves as a four-minute microcosm for the album as a whole – an array of stylistically diverse musical ideas cleverly intertwined, rhythm and melody battling for dominance. In “Breaker” Circles shows us more of an edge, with the pulsating guitar riffs highlighting the band’s djent flavours in all their glory, and the rich, dark soundscape that is wrought through the gorgeously warm yet crisp guitar tone is reminiscent of mighty contemporaries TesseracT.
“The Messenger” gives us a brief chance to breath and reflect; a poignant ballad, it lets new vocalist Ben Rechter have the chance to shine a little more. Rechter had the ambitious task of stepping up to fill the role of vocalist for this album and add to his existing duties as guitarist. So far, while Rechter’s uniquely husky tenor is genre-appropriate, he has to work hard to be heard over the lush rhythm section, and so the more dulcet tones in “The Messenger” are welcome, allowing Rechter’s lyrical vocal delivery to really stand out. Though having said this, Rechter does display a knack for catchy vocal hooks, which is particularly apparent in tracks such as “Arrival”, “Tether” and album single “Dream Sequence”.
Not even halfway through the album, Circles demonstrate that they’re full of surprises. The cathartic, chugging instrumental outro of “Arrival” gives way to a sudden change of pace in “Tether”, an energetic and upbeat banger of a track with a delightfully unexpected saxophone solo line in there somewhere towards the end. “Resolution” builds at a slow and ominous creep, carefully introducing new layers of instrumentation, uneven bass grooves, a delicious tritone chord progression and rich guitar riffs; building but not quite resolving, until standout track “Dream Sequence” swoops in. All members get to show off their technical prowess in this catchy and extremely well-written track featuring bold breakdown sections and a beautiful bass solo.
The passionate “Renegade” takes on a slight Leprous vibe with its jarring guitar patterns and unusual structure, though I do feel that vocally there is not as much direction here as in other tracks. “Blueprints for a Great Escape” showcases the creativity of the rhythm section with its relentless arpeggiated riff and synths duet, and an epic breakdown leads us into the final track, the meditative “Alone with Ghosts”, which while it’s an intriguing track, does seem slightly anti-climactic after the maelstrom that preceded it.
From a songwriting and composition perspective, “The Last One” is an incredibly diverse work overall, if in need of more prominence to be given to the vocals. With further expansion of some of the unique elements referenced throughout the album, Circles will cement themselves as pioneers within the broad, mercurial genre of progressive metal.
8.5 out of 10.
The Last One is out August 31st via Wild One Records.