So there’s this thing that Meshuggah accidentally kick-started that you may have heard of. It’s called djent. Basically, it’s just guitars and bass that are tuned to a subterranean level and time signatures that are more akin to the rhythms of mining equipment than catchy rhythms. You might have heard of its more famous proponents like Tesseract and Periphery, but those two bands are about to be blown off the park by Melbourne’s own Circles. They’ve just released their debut LP, entitled Infinitas, and it’s nothing short of a triumph.
To be completely fair and impartial, this album is a wet blanket at first. On my first listen, I thought it was about as enjoyable as getting out of the shower and discovering that the only available towel is damp. On the second and third listen, I slowly started to get it. By the fourth listen, I was getting goosebumps. The song composition is absolutely astounding. This band is unbelievably talented. The drummer is a freak, the bassist is a menace and the guitars are just the cream of the crop. Infinitas causes me to sit back and wonder how the hell these guys remember how to play these songs live every time I listen to it. Just when you think a groove is getting established, there’s an extra kick drum or a cymbal flourish and it throws the song’s tempo into a different spectrum.
Every great album has a standout mid-album track to bind the two halves together. Parkway Drive‘s Atlas has “The River”, Biffy Clyro‘s Only Revolutions has “Mountains” and Infinitas has “Responses”. It transitions seamlessly from unsettling atmospheric dissonance to the most insane polyrhythms this side of The Chariot, and Perry Kakridas’ unbelievably diverse vocals intertwine themselves throughout the song, which is easily the best on the album. While we’re on the subject, Kakridas’ vocals are amazing. His cleans sound like a huskier Toby Morrell, while his harsh vocals bring to mind an unholy alliance of Robb Flynn and Jens Kidman. The dude roars like a rhino that’s just trod on a thorn.
Ultimately, Infinitas is better than just about anything. I can’t help but wonder, however, whether djent is already becoming stagnant. As much as we all sit back and say “Damn, this is good stuff”, there’s no escaping the fact that a lot of djent bands just do the same thing. The atmospheric elements, slow math tempos and predominantly soft, clean vocals are becoming a staple very quickly, and genres where every band utilises the same techniques (cough R&B cough cough metalcore cough) is never a good thing.
Speaking directly about Infinitas, however, the only real problem is that it lacks a real energetic punch. It takes a while to kick in, and when it does, first impressions are very underwhelming. Northlane‘s Singularity hits you round the head like a sack of door knobs from the word go. Infinitas gives you the sack, but you have to supply your own knobs. It’s not an exhilarating, high-speed chase. It’s more like a glorious spectral adventure through a constantly altering dimensional state, the very essence of time itself. In other words, if you want something to break shit to, listen to Resist the Thought. If you’d prefer a dense, aural experience that takes multiple listens to fully digest, listen to Circles.