The Compass

Written by: AP on 18/08/2011 22:07:39

Used to be the word djent, originally coined by Meshuggah guitarist Fredrik Thordendal over a decade ago, was an onomatopoeia describing a certain kind of guitar tone characterized by mid to high range gain and short, metallic, palm-muted notes. The term has since been adapted to heavily down tuned, open note syncopated riffing, the kind heard in virtually every contemporary metalcore and deathcore song, and grown into an eponymous micro-genre pioneered by Periphery and TesseracT. The ubiquity of the niche - its birth was near simultaneous on two continents - as well as its rapid growth over the course of some two years, owes to the ease with which the three bands were able to record and share their songs using computer software and social networking communities; its reach now spanning the globe with the addition of Circles to this league of extraordinary djentlemen. So how does the debut album of these Aussies compare to Periphery's self-titled, and TesseracT's recent "One"?

The first thing to note is that despite the relatively limited characteristics of what constitutes djent, the genre is surprisingly diverse, perhaps mostly due to its recency and the small number of bands populating it. As such, Circles are hardly imitating neither Periphery nor TesseracT, the obvious prerequisite of using djent sounds aside. "The Frontline", for instance, makes heavy use of strange electronic samples to beef up its groove, and once the vocals of Perry Kakiridas wind their way in, the difference becomes that much more obvious. Best described as somewhere between a power metal tenor and Rody Walker's patented vibrato, he opts for clean vocals more often than not, using growls and screams with extreme restraint, only in places that absolutely demand that extra aggression.

Apart from these innovations, however, the soundscape is as familiar as it is impressive. Abundant polyrhythms that both call for and make impossible consistent headbanging backed by signature djent riffs, establish the groundwork for lingering melodies of electronic samples and jazz guitar - kind of in the vein of The Interbeing, but without the industrial edge. But what gives "The Compass" that additional intrigue is not the dazzling complexity of the band's instrumentation, nor the erratic time signatures, but rather the band's sense for clever refrains. Indeed, were it not for the more conventional passages in the likes of "The Design" and "Ruins" enabling a more traditional use of verse and chorus, "The Compass" might quickly become too puzzling to leave a lasting impression. Circles master that rare feat of indulging their technical leanings without ever sounding disjointed. It is what made The Interbeing's "Edge of the Obscure" such a refreshing surprise, and it is what elevates Circles above mere flaunting.

As for the future of a band like Circles, it might be too soon to tell what lies ahead. Djent might either explode or vanish just as suddenly as it surfaced. But on the other hand, given the band's ability to strike a balance between astonishing technical prowess and crowd-pleasing accessibility, not to mention their willingness to break out of conventional frames in order to carve out their own tiny niche, Circles are a sure shot addition to the djent elite, and even in the event that the sound grows saturated like - for instance - metalcore, it should be no chore for them to continue inventing new ideas that will breathe new life into it. Highly recommended.


Download: The Frontline, Clouds Are Gathering, The Design, Ruins
For the fans of: TesseracT, The Interbeing, Periphery
Listen: Facebook

Release date 16.05.2011
Basick Records

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