When Circa Survive announced that they’d be self-releasing their new album, I found myself excited by the prospect of the idea. I mean, why not, an album with no barriers and completely and 100% Circa Survive. And while Violent Waves will have its detractors (their previous release, Blue Sky Noise, certainly did), this fan found the album to be the band’s most complete album to date. It’s also their most personal; vocalist Anthony Green is at his most emotional throughout the entire 11 tracks. Instrumentally, the band has never been better, featuring a high amount of experimentation and creativity.
The album starts with the Juturna-sounding “Birth of the Economic Hit Man,” a monster of a track that extends just past the seven-minute mark. The track’s eerie and noise-ridden guitars mix perfectly with the thick bass line, and the song delves more than once into incredible instrumental breaks. “Birth” is the first sign that, on this album, Circa Survive are doing whatever they want. “Sharp Practice,” a crunchy and fast-paced track, moves the album in a more upbeat direction, even if the lyrics are anything but. The song seems to possibly bring a little light to the band’s falling out with Atlantic, with Green screaming lines like “You get what you paid for, we can’t sell our goddamn souls anymore.”
“Suitcase,” which serves as the album’s first single, is an atmospheric and engaging song. Green’s voice is top-notch, and the production quality is magnificent. In fact, Circa Survive taking over production duties themselves was probably their smartest move yet. “The Lottery” features Geoff Rickly from the now-defunct Thursday and – to no surprise – the addition makes the track a major highlight. “Phantasmagoria” is again led by Green’s incredible knack for self-doubt; the song’s theme of not knowing what to believe is something that hits particularly close to home for me. “God, money, and women will break your heart/Crush your soul, and leave you empty and torn apart” Green sings softly at the end of the deeply affecting track.
“Think of Me When They Sound,” another track that embraces a more experimental rock side, includes a noisy and spacey instrumental last half, and it’s yet another sign of Circa’s endless creativity. “Brother Song,” Violent Waves’ best track, is a stellar rock song with breathtaking musicianship. The soulful guitar solo followed by the catchy acoustic closer is one of the biggest highlights in any Circa song, period. “Bird Sounds” contains an undeniably catchy chorus with Green singing, “Every morning I begin my dreams when I’m awake/Empty bird sounds are reminders, you’re not awake at all.” The highly emotional and engaging closer “I’ll Find a Way” brings the album to a satisfying close. The track starts slowly, but builds into a groove-filled track with some stellar bass work from Nick Beard.
Violent Waves is everything a great Circa Survive album should be, and much more. The album’s deep insight into Green’s personal life and the band’s past troubles is both unsettling and incredible. Every single part of this album seems carefully crafted, with a delicate and personal touch present throughout. It is easily the band’s best album, perfectly implementing elements from each of their albums, yet taking those elements up to a whole new level. Violent Waves is Circa Survive’s masterpiece, and easily one of the best albums released this year. Any Circa fan who is worried about the future of the band, I urge you to listen to this album posthaste. All your doubts will be laid to rest.