Review:: Descensus | Circa Survive

Circa Survive have spent the better part of a decade doing some great things. In this time, with a handful of albums under their belt, they’ve managed to hold [relatively] close to a strong, distinct sound, while still managing to stray away into uncharted territories. Their ability to consistently deliver a recognizable product without it just feeling like more of the same is impressive, and is one of many aspects that places and holds them in the upper tier.

There are spots on Descensus where we see Circa Survive heavier than we have in a long time, possibly ever. Within the opening seconds of the album’s starter “Schema,” there is a clear sense of the band going further than they previously had. While the speed and intensity rise and fall over the course of the album, the concluding title track ends the album in aggressive, adventurous fashion, with a distorted 9-minute endeavor packed with chugging bass-lines and ambient guitar. Though a bit of a gamble, it’s successful, and proves further that the group is willing to push themselves to new heights.

This doesn’t mean that the album is a total departure from what we’ve loved from Circa Survive. “Always Begin” is a satisfying experience, and “Only the Sun” is trademark Circa – beautiful instrumentation coupled with Green’s soaring vocals. The track fades softly into “Nesting Dolls,” a somber 7-minute croon that, rather than building up to a peak, makes its impact by holding itself back.

Later, “Phantom” is used as a nice buffer between two more audacious tracks. After the bass-heavy “Quiet Down,” it leads in smooth and relaxed, keeping the pace and mood steady. Throughout, a varied display of guitar-work lends background support – briefly taking center stage, but giving a strong showing from start to finish despite the short time it spends as the focal point. On the other end, “Sovereign Circles” kicks in with ambient stuttering guitars.

With a sound as grand as theirs, Circa Survive have always been doing special things. At this point in their career, they could be phoning it in, playing it safe, and recycling the same sounds into a new album every other year. On Descensus, they show themselves actively trying to improve, to go further, higher, heavier. Here, they stay true to what they do best, while finding more weapons to add to their arsenal. Like always, it’s safe to assume there are even better things on the horizon for Circa Survive.

Release Date: November 24th, 2014
Rating: 4.25 /5
Runtime: 49:44
Check Out: “Nesting Dolls,” “Schema,” “Only the Sun”

Track Listing:
01. Schema
02. Child of the Desert
03. Always Begin
04. Who Will Lie with Me Now
05. Only the Sun
06. Nesting Dolls
07. Quiet Down
08. Phantom
09. Sovereign Circles
10. Descensus

Anthony Green – Vocals
Brendan Ekstrom – Guitar
Colin Frangicetto – Guitar
Nick Beard – Bass
Steve Clifford – Drums 

Written by Eric Riley