It doesn’t take long for Circa Survive to bring their tried and true form of post-hardcore and progressive rock to your ears in Descensus, short of a second to be exact. For almost ten years, the band has been proving that they are one of the top musical acts today, both in the studio and with their unrelenting live performances. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the band would want to change things up after this long, yet no one expected a move to Sumerian Records and a new record out before the end of November. The change in scenery on the business side of things doesn’t change a thing about the band’s sonic output, instead complementing the experience and meaning behind the record. Right off the bat, it is clear that this is not the same Circa Survive you thought you knew.
Upon starting the record, you can immediately hear progression, and I don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve experienced that in a manner such as what Descensus does. Every member gives each song their 110%, especially drummer Steve Clifford and the dual guitars of Colin Frangicetto and Brendan Ekstrom. All aspects of the sound have been cleaned and dirtied again by producer Will Yip in his typical masterful fashion, proving once again why he has been so highly regarded by bands and fans alike. As a result, the band feels like an ensemble cast. Each song has ripe instrumentals built around it with lyrics complementing the sound almost perfectly, instead of the other way around. For once, the sound is dominated by all aspects of it, as opposed to having vocalist Anthony Green help lead the way.
There is an audible progression between the Circa Survive of the past and that of the present, built up around their psychedelic debut and subsequent releases. For this reason, Descensus feels like the most complete and cohesive record by the band yet, a true follow-up from 2012’s Violent Waves. I cannot recommend only one track off of it because it needs to be indulged as a whole. As much as I love opener “Schema”, I also adore the calm façade of “Child of the Desert” which disintegrates into one of the purest raw jams that the band has ever done. “Quiet Down” reeks of classic Circa with some added Clifford and Ekstrom swagger, while “Nesting Dolls” is much like an ode to This Will Destroy You or Explosions in the Sky. The true standout lies at the tail end with “Sovereign Circles”, which keeps up the group’s pattern of intense penultimate tracks, and fades into the delightfully heavy title track to close out the experience, offering nearly nine minutes of consistent chugging guitar distortion underneath Green’s reverb-filled background bellows and foreground croons.
It seems cliché that such a great record from one of the best bands out there feels like it’s doomed to be seen as a commercial flop in comparison to their past releases, despite all the critical praise it’s bound to receive. The way Sumerian has handled the pre-release hype-building has drawn out concerns among fans, myself included. It falls in line with Thrice’s Beggars and Thursday’s Common Existence for this reason, which, in hindsight, has proven to be a fair consolation prize for both bands.
No matter what the sales indicate, this is a record that goes above and beyond Circa Survive’s sonic spectrum without breaking it. It will bring in a lot more revenue from all of the new fans that the band will gain from it than record sales alone. So if you’ve managed to miss out on the bandwagon this long, this is the most perfect moment to make the leap and experience what countless others have been raving about. Descensus is yet another gem in Circa Survive’s already impressive crown, which should come as no surprise at this point in the band’s incomparable career.