Guns ‘N Roses. My Bloody Valentine. Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Glassjaw. What do they all have in common? Answer: They all released landmark, genre-defining records before subsequently taking aeons to release another album. 8 years since the release of ‘As The Roots Undo’ – widely considered a magnum opus in screamo – Four-piece Circle Takes The Square here release full-length ‘Decompositions: Volume One’, the first of two projected albums. This record adds 5 brand new songs to the existing ‘Decompositions Chapter One: Rites Of Initiation’ EP, which has been available since August 2011.
For the natives of Savannah, Georgia, this record is like they’ve never been away. Switching between the spasmodic dynamic intensity of their traditional screamo brethren like Orchid and pg. 99 and more reflective, post-rock passages, this record has come just at the right time as their successors – bands like Pianos Become The Teeth, The Saddest Landscape and Vales = turn the heads of a new generation of emotional post-hardcore lovers. The record begins with the doomy onslaught of ‘Enter By The Narrow Gates’ – a sludgy and brooding piece more at home with Savannah co-habitants Baroness or Kylesa, with more than just a hint of post-metal bands Pelican & Neurosis. The band’s fondness for lengthy songs continues in ‘As The Roots Undo’, but not a second is wasted in this song’s near seven minutes in making this a statement of intent.
It’s staggering how many bands CtTS have influenced, whether directly or indirectly, as the labyrinthine riffs, dazzling technicality and male/female trade-off vocals of ‘Way Of Ever Branching Paths’ put one more than a little in the mind of Sheffield’s Rolo Tomassi. The dual vocals of Drew Speziale and Kathy Stubelek compliment each other perfectly, each segueing their way seamlessly from shriek, to bark, to croon, to spoken word. The second “chapter” of this record, entitled ‘Chapter II: Totem Polaris’, continues much in the same vein as the previous set of songs – this record was originally slated for release in November 2011, but was held off until now for reasons known only to them. The overall sludgier feel of this record is a fairly large departure from the “organised chaos” of ‘ATRU’, but not in the least an unwelcome one. By no means consider this to be one-track minded in the slightest though – ‘A Closing Chapter (Scarlet Rising)’ has the claustrophobic atmospherics closely associated with black metal – imagine, if you will, Dani Filth taking off the makeup and fronting a post-hardcore group.
Unfortunately, the group takes a rare misstep in largely acoustic-based, 10-minute-topping ballad finale ‘North Star, Inverted’, which just doesn’t do enough to keep listener’s attention rapt for its duration. This damp squib of an ending aside, this represents a huge return to form for Circle Takes The Square. Where the progenitors of their style have fallen away, CTTS have stuck around when most had considered them dead and buried, and have come back with a real bolt from the blue to reap the benefits of their influence. Sure, it’s not as raw and as exciting as it may have been in 2004, but in the place of seemingly random experimentation is a sense of assuredness, purpose and direction, making this a pièce de résistance that hopefully we won’t have to savour for a further 8 years.