Vicious Cycle - Pale Blue Dot (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Vicious Cycle

Pale Blue Dot (2009)


Vicious Cycle's Pale Blue Dot provides big names and promises big things. Alexisonfire's George Petit and Fucked Up's Damian Abraham ("Pink Eyes") do guest spots, and the record was recorded with FU / Career Suicide figurehead Jonah Falco. Ontario hardcore torchbearers Deranged Records affixes their name on the back of the case and boasts that the album propels `80s-style hardcore into progressively new and exciting territory.

The reality is that the 28-minute Pale Blue Dot is essentially a more economical Fucked Up, indeed blending `80s hardcore fury and production with proto-punk swagger and a few fuzzy flourishes for good measure. The Shape of Punk to Come this isn't, but the backside of My War it ain't either.

Frontman Nico Taus seems like a small figure, so his gruff, supercharged Stooges bark might be a little jarring at first (if you see them live without prior knowledge, anyway), but it fits well with the quasi-lo-fi yet bulky, reverb-tinged propulsions of the record. He sounds plain mean in "Black Dot" at one point, almost sounding he's gonna let off a John Joseph "YOWW!!", but the guitars' sudden change in melody to something more upbeat and hopeful makes for a subtly dynamic ending. Speaking of husky voices, though, Abraham assuredly steals the show in "Blur," while Petit's more hoarse screech provides a suitable layer to the chorus of "In Tranquility," whose abundance of hooks reveals a fine songwriting crutch for Vicious Cycle to have.

The most outright experimental VC become is the interlude "Death," a mix of guitar yawns and vintage fuck-withs (a similar treatment given to "Rebirth"), and "For Carl," a probable post-punk nod in a minimal setup with a slow, stop-and-go guitar sway and Taus's Ian Curtis echo rather indistinguishable. But the second half follows "Death," kicking off with the mildly muffled "Vertigo" and its charred, chugging chords and distressed howls; the title track follows "For Carl," busting through with a sudden higher-pitched fire in Taus's voice and a bustling midtempo beat.

As one can see, there's a lot of stylistic clashing and ambitious attempts that make Pale Blue Dot a success, though perhaps only to about three-fourths of its potential or so. Still, this is indeed one of the better hardcore albums to surface this year (top 5?) and one of the more challenging interpretations of the style's traditional backbone in recent times. If Vicious Cycle can explore this further with greater focus and improved songwriting, the aforementioned "shape" could indeed take the form of a pale blue dot.

Pale Blue Dot