No matter which release you listen to from Circa Survive’s back catalogue it’s pretty certain what you’re going to get, an accomplished mesh of post-hardcore regiments and art rock sensibilities. What distinguishes each album from the other is a mere matter of permutation. On 2010’s Blue Sky Noise the group restricted their proggier tendencies to texture alone, developing a set of comparatively straightforward songs that while driven by melody were still able to flourish within their allocated confines. The polar opposite of this ideology was expressed on 2012’s Violent Waves, with the stripped down sound of predominantly live instrumentation producing ethereal, time-signature-hopping jams. On Descensus, their fifth studio album, the band find a comfortable middle ground between their two loves; abrasive, experiment-minded interplay and big, soaring, alternative rock hooks.
This refinement and combination of their key elements is exemplified on opening track ‘Schema’, an aural battering of squealing guitars, artillery-fire intense drums and Anthony Green’s signature howl providing a strong melodic basis. Recently signing with Sumerian Records, a label whose roster includes acts such as Animals as Leaders and The Dillinger Escape Plan, the album has a noticeably harder edge than experienced before. Though the difference may at times be nominal, it’s most definitely perceptible; the distortion dials are cranked that tad higher and on tracks such as ‘Only the Sun’ and ‘Quiet Down’ chord progressions take unforeseen dark turns.
These heavier moments are however supplemented by some of the most tender material recorded in the band’s career. When not partaking in prog-rock pummelling, the group give themselves the space to fully embrace the sonic curation which they are capable of. The greatest endeavour from this is ‘Phantom’, a trip-hop borrowing cut that tranquilly meanders through airy synths, emotive vocal delivery and delicate guitar work. Both sides of their spectrum have been tweaked, from every perspective the only conclusion that can be drawn is that Circa Survive are pushing forward.
By trying so hard to amalgamate every facet of their identity in to these songs, each decision feels deliberate; nothing feels out of place. Although this purveys a slight sense of emotional coldness throughout the record, its proficiency is nothing short of admirable. Circa Survive are aiming for greatness, and they’ve just about reached it.
Descensus is out now on Sumerian Records.