Circa Survive has been forming, molding, and evolving its sound for over 13 years now, and having been around since the beginning, I’ve been keeping up with each album—gaining more and more anxiety as each album is announced and eventually released.
As I’ve had thousands of conversations about Circa Survive with other Circa fans (the CircaFam), it seems that depending on when someone comes around to the band, it’s pretty clear which album tends to be their favorite. If someone found the band around Violent Waves, that’s often the person’s favorite album, same for Blue Sky Noise, On Letting Go, et al. Which, that can be frustrating for an old-timer like me—someone who claims Juturna as the band’s opus—the album that truly disregarded genre.
In being around since the early days—and being the resident old man on this site—I tried something different with Circa Survive’s new album, The Amulet. After about six listens, I noticed something about this album that the band hadn’t achieved on ANY of its later releases—Circa found a way to revisit the sound, mood, and atmospheres that made me fall for the band on its seminal debut album, Juturna.
So I decided to listen to Juturna and then listen to The Amulet directly after it. And then I put on On Letting Go and holy shit! It’s such a fantastic way to experience this album.
The Amulet is apparently the proper follow up I was looking for when the band released On Letting Go. Granted, I didn’t know that back in 2007—because I LOVED On Letting Go when it was released, but there was a step up in accessibility that the band achieved with OLG that was stark and quite absent on Juturna, which is a moody, dark, and eerie album. So The Amulet felt right at home in between those albums.
After all, Juturna was the goddess of wellsprings—and The Amulet feels like Circa returned to this well from which it was bore.
The album begins with the methodical, prog-experimental lead single, “Lustration,” which serves as a re-introduction to the atmospheres I came to love on tracks like “Holding Someone’s Hair Back” or “The Great Golden Baby.”
“Lustration” was the only of the four singles I listened to before hearing the album in full and I didn’t like it at first. I thought it was boring. And it wasn’t until I found the classic Circa groove on the fifth or sixth listen that it really connected for me. Once I got this song to connect, I felt like I unlocked the rest of the album!
The album finds frontman, Anthony Green, hitting on the polarities of his intense vocal range in ways we’ve never heard on a Circa Survive album. Perhaps being able to let himself loose on Saosin’s album last year gave him a reborn desire to scream more on Circa tracks.
Whatever it is, I’m here for it.
Green’s liberal use of screams throughout the album has given restored freshness to the band’s sound—explicitly on “Never Tell a Soul” and “Rites of Investiture,” both of these songs are go-to for my exercising playlists, by the way. They’re rambunctious, alive, and full of vigor. The sense of freshness makes tracks like “Tunnel Vision” and “Stay” also feel as though it could’ve been placed on any Circa album and they would fit perfectly—two timeless tracks that honestly demonstrate how the band has been able to evolve while maintaining many of the tricks that have gotten them to where they are today.
On the flip side of that vocal range, Green challenges Sigur Ros’ Jonsi at times on this new album by hitting heights of his falsetto that we’ve only been given hints of in the past. “At Night it Gets Worse” is peppered with Green’s borderline helium range—a track that perfectly breaks up the album as the first of two clear and deliberate stoppage points—the second being “Flesh and Bone.”
The brilliance of this album comes with the final two tracks—which mark my favorite ending of a Circa Survive album ever (at least since “Your Friends are Gone”). “Flesh and Bone” is a track that I did not know I needed in my life until I got transfixed with the layers upon lush moodiness and Green serenading us with that falsetto throughout.
The truest highlight of this album comes at the very of the album with the title track, “The Amulet.” This might be the best song that the band has ever written.
I don’t say that lightly.
I mean that wholeheartedly.
I’ve been able to claim a favorite song on each album that maintain them all within a top ten ranking of sorts and “The Amulet” has risen up that ranking so fast. It’s one of the best closing tracks of the year, and truly a track that uplifts as much as it comes down, in the end, as a stunning protest to that sense of hopefulness.
Ultimately, there’s really only one instance on the album that disappoints me and it’s a pretty blatant reference to cutting.
This happens in the chorus of “Premonition of the Hex,” a song that features a trip of a music video. With so many issues around mental health and self-harming and suicide occurring in our mainstream music culture—especially with the loss of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington this year—it seems like an odd way to make a point in the song. Also, as a suicide attempt survivor, it really fucked me up to hear these lines come from Anthony. It’s actually made me skip the songs on a few instances—it’s one of those references made in an attempt to be coy but backfires and has really only alienated a lifelong fan.
And honestly, “Premonition of the Hex” and “the Hex” are two tracks I have wanted to love on this album, but they sort of get washed away by being just very mediocre Circa songs—they carry a lot of the atmospheric weight that I mentioned earlier that gives the album some necessary balance and coherence; however, neither feels particularly stand-out like the rest of the album, which is otherwise untouchable.
The album has one of the most balanced sounds on a Circa Survive album since Blue Sky Noise, as all of the members get their moments to shine throughout the album. Guitarists, Brendan Eckstrom and Colin Frangicetto trade some of the most dynamic leads and atmospheres we’ve ever been gifted from the band. Bassist, Nick Beard’s presence on the tracks gets an unparalleled depth to the moodier tracks, but especially on the lively opening for “Rites of Investiture.” Then there’s the haunting moment in “Premonition of the Hex” where it’s just drummer, Stephen Clifford playing as Green sings, ‘You’re dying just to be there’—which, despite what I’ve already said about the song, is one of my favorite moments on the album.
Overall, The Amulet is a stunningly temperamental release that finds the members of Circa Survive sipping from that well, but also inserting so much of what they’ve learned along the way. There are hints of virtually everything that Circa has ever done drenched throughout these tracks. It’s a vivid return for a band that has been sort of meandering for its last three releases after a terrible stint with Atlantic Records. So it’s been fantastic to see the fans stick with the band throughout the journey.
And if you’re a fan that wants more from Circa Survive, makes sure to catch the band this fall on a co-headlining tour (circasurvive.com/tour) with Thrice, alongside Chon and Balance and Composure as the opening supports. The Amulet is out now through Hopeless Records—yes, you read that correctly! And you can still order many different vinyl variants and bundled preorders!