As far as I'm concerned, there's nothing more important for a band than having an impressive debut album. It can either launch your career into something more, or if done poorly, make very sure that your career never even leaves the ground. In the case of Savannah, Georgia's Circle Takes The Square, the former occured, as this first EP set the stage wonderfully for their masterpiece breakthrough in 2004, As The Roots Undo. There's so many pitfalls that can be made on a debut: poor production, being too ambitious, not being ambitious enough, and subsquently becoming another bands carbon copy. Luckily for everyone involved, Circle Takes The Square manages to avoid everything that can go wrong and create a truly impressive piece of music.
Describing the sound of this band is a tricky thing to do, as there's so much put in this album. It's not meshed with anything genre-wise, but so many elements are incorporated here, and it creates a real mystique and epic sense about the band. This absolutely cannot be pigeonholed as hardcore or screamo, as this band truly creates something all their own. The musicianship of this three piece is incredible. One of the most impressive elements with this album is the incredible male/female screaming dynamic between the two vocalists, many times intertwining and seemingly screaming back and forth at each other. The guitars are on point throughout, transitioning between heavy distortion, amazingly quick clean parts, and almost a sing-song back and forth feel (think Saetia's "The Sweetness And The Light"). The bass is powerful without ever being overbearing, and the drums are superb. The music is so fluid thoughout the many different tempo changes, and it feels so well constructed, with each piece accenting the other to create something truly impressive. The vocals are spoken at many points, sometimes chanted, but always having absolutely stellar lyrics to back them up. Lyrically, this is probably, bar none, the best band that hardcore has seen in a long while. While the lyrics could stand well on their own, it needs the music to really bring them out.
The first song doesn't come out both guns blazing as many bands have their openers do, but rather has a spoken sample of a woman on the brink of a complete wreck. Then, the music kicks. And does it ever kick. "Our Need To Bleed" is the song, and it's actually pretty short by the band's standards, not even breaking four minutes. The next song however is much more akin to what the next album centered on, with one of the album's longest tracks, "Eleven Owls Have Eyes." The song has a driving riff behind it, and breaks every so often for the chant of "Father, Son, And Holy Ghost!" No, they're not a Christian band, as the lyrics make no other similar mentions. About halfway through, the song breaks for some spoken word parts, and then some light plucking on clean guitar and harmonic elements before the vocals come back. The spoken/screamed parts come back in and out on a whim, while the music and harmonic elements swirl around it, building for a climax in the end that never comes to pass. The song "Comes With The Fall" is musically probably the album's shining moment. The first two minutes are just a relentless burst of assualt from the guitar/drums combination, with some faint screaming in the background. After about three minutes, the vocals do kick in, and just expand upon what the guitar and drums layed down: all out fury and intensity. The melodic guitar part comes back in about a minute later, and leads up to a hell of an ending.
"In The Nervous Light Of Sunday" again showcases the vocal battle between the two singers, and the dynamic works very very well. This song is a little bit more rough than it appears on As The Roots Undo, but it's a very solid song nonetheless.
Musically, this band has very much impressed me, but lyrically they shine just as brightly. There's no clear overview to the album's lyrics as a whole, as were given with the next album, but they're hard hitting, and nonetheless really make you think. They're very intelligently written, and thankfully stay away from any sort of clichés or redundancies, adding onto the epic scope of the album that the music began. "In The Nervous Light Of Sunday" best displays the talent these guys have as lyricists. It may take a few listens to actually wrap your head around what the subject matter is, but it's well worth it;
Whispers invoke the artists of this tragically seemless, ill fated tapestry, blistered fingers are tending their loom. / She collects the strands to braid into life. / Logging the weft of an ageless, woven infinity, countless raw fibers are clawing the frame. / A woman's work is never done, but the final stitch has got to come, and so three witches contend to slice the very last thread (that you curse, curse constantly) / But nothing's immortal, and comfort is not guaranteed / A yearling who bears our sincere passions is chosen, frozen and quivering, like a thread in the wake of a blade. / So we compromise, so we sacrifice, compromise nothing, but that which secures a comfortable life, risk as the indication of a healing sacrifice. / Destroy the altar whose boundaries tides will never exceed, ignite the pyres underneath a sedated mythology. / Five decades his lifetime, and his life's work is just fading scratches in stone. / She tends the numerals, counting fingers, counting her toes. / Keeping track of the time racing, years wasting (dance to the sound of his weight bearing back breaking) infinite ages the length of this quilt's making. / And we dance, we dance in the stronghold.../ That you curse, curse constantly, of the needle's sheen. / Do you feel this thin strand resting in a pinch? / That's the thread that you curse, that you curse constantly.This album was really a breath of fresh air from me when I first heard it. Since the comparison is inevitible, I'm going to say As The Roots Undo is the better album. It's produced better, and CTTS expands upon a lot of the harmonics that layed a base for in this album, and had more of the grand, epic feel that this album also showed potential for. That album is a 10, but this really isn't far off. This showed a lot of promise for a debut, and it was just expanded upon in As The Roots Undo. In any right, however, this is an absolutely stellar release, and I encourage all of you to purchase this.