22nd September 2017 – Hopeless Records
02. Never Tell A Soul
03. Premonition of the Hex
04. Tunnel Vision
05. At Night It Gets Worse
07. Rites of Investiture
08. The Hex
09. Flesh and Bone
10. The Amulet
Roughly thirteen years since the release of their debut album Juturna, and about 3 months since I let Circa Survive into my life – absorbing their back catalogue like some form of cathartic fulfillment sponge – I find myself in an interesting position with the release of the Philadelphia quintet’s sixth album The Amulet. It is rare that such a brief window will allow you to grasp a hold of so much material so soon, but it is clear that even after all this time, Circa Survive remain a band with a deep seated eagerness to push the envelope.
The beauty of Circa Survive as a band is their ability to deal with such personal issues as grief, depression and loss with such succinct and mature lyrics, whilst maintaining an uncomplicated approach to the music in order to keep the package as a whole appealing for even the most casual listen. Each release creates a world that exists for only a moment; from pressing play to the final note, these soundscapes are amassed with such calculated yet surreal authenticity that they allow for the purest form of escapism.
Unsurprisingly, The Amulet is no different. Right from album opener “Lustration“, we’re led into this macrocosm via the scintillating instrumentation; a sparkling expanse that continues to grow while vocalist Anthony Green delivers an expectedly memorable performance.
Third track “Premonition of the Hex” leads the record into darkness though haunting, cinematic guitar work. A little further down the road, standout track “At Night It Gets Worse” is an introspective observation of isolation and loneliness that details a personal torment without ever letting it become maudlin. The passive vocal performance, juxtaposed by injections of aggressive instrumentals, perfectly details a troubled mind fighting for space; with thoughts that are saturating every expanse. It’s wonderfully cathartic in a very complete way, and for those who seek meaning in the lyrics if Circa Survive, it is the last verse of this track that you’ll find solace.
The Amulet isn’t without its out-and-out rock anthems however; “Rites Of Investiture” goes all out, seething with a sonically dynamic assault on the senses that builds in intensity throughout the song, until it breaks its frantic emotional upward trajectory with Anthony’s harrowing vocals, which reflect on themes of leaving childhood behind. Despite its more ‘violent’ approach, the pairing of the uncomfortable subject matter and the song’s sonic intensity shows Circa’s strength as unparalleled songwriters once more.
In a record that shifts between varying shades of grey, this world of theirs is also soaked with colour. The stripped back sound of “Flesh and Bone” feels like someone coming to terms with a negativity that has plagued their existence for the longest time. Confronting your demons shouldn’t always be as frenetic; sometimes a beautifully-written performance will serve as a needed reminder that things can and will get better given time.
The album’s namesake rounds it out in beautiful technicolour, resolving the plight of the internal struggles of the record by turning the spotlight to the ugliness in the world at large. The band’s performance on “The Amulet” is one of the more intense offerings on offer, and with some of the best vocal harmonies the band have ever recorded. It has a duality, too, that embodies both acceptance and an unwillingness to conform, and it makes for an aggressive parting shot to this world that Circa Survive have crafted so well.
Circa Survive carry the weight of the world on their shoulders, that much is clear – but there’s a sense of resolution by the end of this record. This is for sure a cathartic experience, delivered through immensely intelligent songwriting. The Amulet goes a long way to pushing their sound whilst keeping it unmistakably Circa Survive, but forging ahead with the mature and more considered approach they have taken in the past couple of album cycles. There is a texture that runs throughout the record that will ultimately reward multiple listens and engagement so take its hand and immerse yourself.