Circa Survive – ‘The Amulet’

By Mark Johnson

In today’s alternative music scene it’s hard to make it through a week without at least one ‘band member change’ announcement. But Circa Survive have never made such headlines. The band have stayed unified throughout their thirteen year career, and this consistency pays huge dividends on their sixth full-length ‘The Amulet’.

With more than a decade of experience between them, Circa Survive are an engine that functions perfectly. Each member’s stunning performance on this record proves the quality of the individual parts, but the real power is in the synergy that’s created by each piece working harmoniously together.

The guitars of Colin Frangicetto and Brendan Ekstrom provide the fuel for the entire record, their beautifully selected chords and lead lines creating a wonderfully ethereal atmosphere that underpins each of the ten tracks. Opener ‘Lustration’ dances excitedly with vibrant chords before Steve Clifford’s expertly timed rhythm-change alters the dynamic completely, softening the mood. Clifford’s broad spectrum of drum patterns adds versatility to the record and plays a vital role in changing the direction of each track, adding unpredictability and freshness to each composition. Nick Beard injects a swelling of bass at the midway point with ‘Stay’ and ‘Rites of Investiture’, coming in just at the right time to build power and momentum into the album’s closing stages.

As expected, Anthony Green’s iconic vocals shine throughout, but there’s a freedom and energy to his voice on ‘The Amulet’ that makes this performance particularly noteworthy. The beautifully considered verses of ‘Premonition of the Hex’ bring fresh melodic arrangements that counter the ferocity of ‘Never Tell a Soul’, showcasing one of the widest ranging vocal displays we’ve heard from Green in some time.

The core of Circa Survive’s sound has always remained the same, but each record has a distinctive atmosphere and philosophy which sets the aesthetic of each. ‘The Amulet’ feels like the most comprehensive collection of everything the band has done to date, with a fresh, ethereal veneer layered over the top. It makes for one of the most enjoyable and addictive Circa Survive experiences since the benchmark-setting brilliance of ‘On Letting Go’. The lyrical theme of the record hints at finding comfort in uneasy situations and, though there might be plenty of reasons to feel discouraged by what’s happening in the outside world, ‘The Amulet’ provides a wonderful moment of escapism and a timely reminder that there’s beauty to be found.

MARK JOHNSON

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