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Circle – Sunrise / Alotus

Sunrise
Label: Ektro Format: CD
Alotus
Label: Klangbad Format: CD

Operating at the junction between hard rocking metal and psychedelic space exploration groove melodramas, Circle‘s sound is certainly enveloping in a total manner with nods to the Kosmische sounds seeping across the other side of the Baltic Sea to their native Finland for the last three decades or so as well as the leather-clad tomfoolery of Judas Priestand the single-minded starship thrum of Hawkwind.

Circle ‎– AlotusAlotus opens and closes with a couple of ten minute+ metronomic bassline monsters. “Työläisten Laulu” gets pulses cycling on self-possessed rhythms and scrawled guitar meanderings of the bong-friendly kind which are evntually joined by some freeform yodelling action. At the other end of the journey, “Potto” brings forth the power of repetition on Teemu Elo and Jyrki Laiho‘s guitar strings while the muttering continues, touched by the warp of overtone singing which flickers into falsetto life as the chords sharpen into an outpuring of kaleidoscopic sound and Mika Rättö‘s operatic fury. Bombastic in outcome and lysergic in effect, “Potto” is a sure-fire candidate for tight-trousered headbanging and devil-horn action under the salad lights and smoke machines to the surging riffs many a Loop fan will appreciate.

 

In between the headbanging and headnodding there’s a heap of funkily-drummed low-end cruising from the rhythm section of Janne Peltonen and Jussi Lehtisalo to the bent string psychedelia of “Alotus” itself. Another mini-epic dripping with digital delay time-tunnels and hair-trigger tension built on analogue synth warbles and spacey Jazz-funk wah offset by the seriously disturbing throat splutters and gurgling and a short, explosive finish of a Hardcore Punk style. “Iopetus” chimes in with a glossolalia-led workout through passages of dynamic string-bent reflection and voices from beyond before the ritual dissolution into smeared chaos and a wintery hum. Eclectic as this and the pleasant twin guitar and bass melodious ramblings of the very short (less than three minutes by comparison) “Northern Lights” interlude may be, the album still hangs together pretty well for the most part.

Circle ‎- Sunrise

Sunrise is a far denser concoction, bringing in additional violin and Moog textures while upping the Rock ante from the choppy opening riffs of “Nopeuskunigas”, with Rättö letting rip to the perpetual grind of a Bluesier guitar-bass-drums backup. Circle haven’t forgotten that they’re on a mission into outer space though, and while the lead widdling screams out the melodies of the heart stars, the rest of the band fill in the gaps between suns with all the phased electronic and amplified head-trip noise they can collectively muster and the workaday four-four chugalug is subsumed by modems set to stun. This establishes a pattern for the album – apparently mundane Rock methods are pulverised, stretched and looked at in a funny way by the band, from the whooping and whirling winds undercutting the ever-so pastoral acoustic singalong (in Finnish) of “Satulinnut”, which comes complete with “la la las” and some unidentifiable swirling sounds.

It would really be quite fun to play “Hautain takaa” or the lurching “Kylän Suurin Miekka” to unsuspecting Rob Halford-worshipping muscle Marys swinging their leather and studs in the more notorious Metal hangouts of Nottingham, Walthamstow or Mile End and watching them figure out that Rättö’s impassioned growls and vocal histrionics aren’t in any way Anglo-American; but they’d feel right at home in a phased mist of heavy guitar grind, clattery drums and indefatigable air-punching keyboard riffs. Then again, there’s more than a touch of Can’s metronomic groove to “Vaanen Valtiatar” and “Rautakoktka” as well as the Prog-fried choral arrangements of Amon Düül II as each track becomes expansively psychedelic in a heady drizzle of luscious violin skull scraping and synthesizer waves.

The last twenty minutes or so are taken up with some densely-packed conversational layering to the claustrophobic headbanging surge of “Paholaisratsastaja”, and a quarter hour run on the Motorik highway in the shape of “Lokki”. This latter flows with a steady rhythm, synths and strings sweeping along in the drumbeat’s airstream, taking the long way round on the road to hyperspeed accelleration and inevitable massed vocal rush into apocalypse. The conclusion this track and Sunrise as a whole points towards is that Circle straddle their interests in heavy heavy rock’n’roll and freaked-out Psychedelia at about the right moment of balance – not too much on the metal side, and plenty of off-scale windtunnel whoosh and whoomph for the thrid eye to look upon.

-Linus Tossio-

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