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Circle – Terminal

Southern Lord

That rock-hopping, prog-psych behemoth that is Circle - TerminalCircle have been comfortably straddling every rock-related genre that you can imagine for the best part of twenty-five years now and have been haemorrhaging albums at the rate and quality that would have most bands green with envy, scattering them across a huge and varied array of labels. I remember catching them in the sweaty box that was The Croft in Bristol. They were dressed in silver, grinning and shooting around the stage having the best of times, as were we.

Circle seem to have found themselves on Southern Lord for this latest album, hopefully bringing some much-needed levity to the heaviness that the label tends to purvey. In fact, ten-minute opener “Rakkautta al dente” starts off with the kind of vocalising that is very fitting for the label, a blood-curdling scream that fries the very soul and surfs over the top of a chuggingly hypnotic, slow and heavy ’70s riff. The guitar interplay is lovely and the second instrument really chimes as the as the choral epic builds and builds until a T-Rex riff appears out of the distance chasing us across the Finnish fjords.

The variety of vocal stylings on offer on this album is extraordinary. Just on this track, we are treated to the afore-mentioned screams, a Freddie Mercury-like operatic bellow and vocalist Mika Rättö‘s usual style. It is literally all over the place, almost like a modern “Bohemian Rhapsody”, not in style but in the audacious attempt to squeeze as much as possible into ten minutes, even a meandering bass appears with a clawing guitar to inform a little of the mid-song freeform breakdown. You really have to draw breath once it is finished.

A hypnotic Stoogeseque riff appears in the title track, but there is no nihilism here, rather a feel of positivity. The song really swings and as the cymbals crash and the timing changes in an effort to throw dancers off, smiles are wide and the groove is upon us as the song returns again and again to the central riff. In fact, hypnotic riffs are in grand supply as you might expect and the simplicity of “Saxo” is beguiling. It is sweet and clean, and along with a Bowie referencing vocal brings to mind an out-take from Low, with horns and Damo-like vocals to add some further texture.

Things become meditative after the Ozzy-ish “Imperiumi” as a pace change brings us closer to the astral plane, cerebral drifts echoed through a sparkling pool and finally the mellow Spacemen vibe of “Sick Child” finds the guitars circling like hawks drifting on updrafts above the bow of a ship as it breaks through cool, clear water. The vibe is primal but peaceful, things settling down after the mass dash through the previous tracks.

We know Circle can’t stand still and we know what their influences are, but they never repeat themselves, even after all those albums, the bring something fresh to the listener. How long they stay at Southern Lord, who knows — but this is a great first outing and a welcome addition to their catalogue.

-Mr Olivetti-

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