REVIEW: Circa Survive – ‘Descensus’


Artist: Circa Survive
Album: Descensus
Genre: Progressive Rock, Experimental
Label: Sumerian Records

On their fifth full-length, Descensus, Circa Survive have reinvented themselves with staggering efficiency, resulting in their most abrasive, well-rounded attempt to date. A stark divergence from 2012’s Violent Waves, the ten-track effort is laden with the same soaring intricacies that fans have grown to love, only this time around, they are implemented with a unified sense of purpose. Introspective and upfront, it is a perfect blend of all the band’s past embodiments, littered with enough nuance to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Their first release through Sumerian Records, this newest offering finds the outfit fully embracing their wild side. Though there has always been a kind of underlying aggression to Circa’s sound, never before has it been brought to the forefront in such a visceral and engrossing manner. “Schema” wastes no time getting acquainted, erupting into the fold atop a wave of hectic guitar work and snappy percussion. “Only the Sun” woefully gains momentum before igniting into an ominous wall of sound, while the final minute of “Child of the Desert” pummels listeners without warning or mercy. Not overdone in the slightest, it is a welcome departure from the group’s past outings, and makes for an enthralling listen from start to finish.

In addition, it would seem that this newfound identity has come at no cost to the group’s concrete resolve. Just as Circa’s creative edge is thrust front and center amid chaos and confusion, so is it realized during deliberate consideration. Anthony Green humbles listeners for the first half of “Nesting Dolls” before allowing his cohorts to dazzle via breathtaking ambience. In much the same way, “Phantom” captivates from beginning to end with haunting melodies and wonderfully controlled guitar lines. There is no filler to be found here, and while there are plenty of occasions where the outfit reaches, this exploration never feels intrusive or unnatural.

In turn, Descensus shines in ways which are wholly unique, showcasing a side of Circa Survive that, until now, had only been seen in fleeting glimpses. Brendan Ekstrom and Colin Frangicetto are electric, while Green continues to be a force of nature behind the mic. Nick Beard’s relentless rhythms are alive and well, and Steve Clifford operates with machine-like consistency throughout. Each track flows effortlessly despite an abundance of bends and breaks, and more than ever before, the outfit seems to be operating as a single unit with a shared goal.

Whether it be the enduring chorus of “Quiet Down” or the heartbreaking hook of “Always Begin,” there is an irrefutable confidence behind every bridge, verse, and refrain found on Descensus. Heavy, highbrow, and infectious as ever, this is Circa Survive as they were always meant to be.

SCORE: 9.5/10
Review written by Kyle Florence

Kyle Florence

Kyle Florence is a proud Wisconsinite, a dinosaur enthusiast, and a lover of all things weird and whacky.
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  • Jacob Johnstone

    umm. I really get irritated when I read about Circa Survive now. It’s like no one has ever listened to ” Juturna” , which I believe to be their best album. This isn’t a new sound for CS, it just seems they are finally getting back to what brought them out of the woodwork. ” In turn, Descensus shines in ways which are wholly unique, showcasing a side of Circa Survive that, until now, had only been seen in fleeting glimpses. ” .. Have you listened to the experimental rhythms in Juturna? The odd time signatures , swing into 5/8 ? It was so great and refreshing, and after that album, there were less and less songs on each album that I could get into. They went pop for damn near 10 years. Glad to see them come back. Anyone who thinks they love Circa Survive. Listen to the genius of Juturna in it’s entirety. I only ask that they re-release it with the same production of the following albums. This album is the reason why i got into mathy rhythms and experimental music. After that, Circa turned into something that all the attractive scene girls listened to.

  • Mr_Blonde57

    You’re totally right. After on letting go, the music they starting putting out kept getting more main-stream sounding. However IMO Juturna and OLG alone make CS my favorite band no matter what kind of shit they release. I was really just hoping this album would sound better than the last two at least. Oh well, I guess here’s hoping to Anthony Green making some good stuff with Saosin where there’s less pressure anyway.