The opening instrumental intro on “Above The Deep” gives no indication of where we are heading musically though we can tell it is rock of some kind. The first track ‘15 Stitches’ soon gives us all the information we need to know. Bursting into life with a vengeance and vying for the position of best track on the album right away.
Nottingham based band Imperial Circus sit at a crossroads of musical directions, employing at times a grunge feel, at others a nu-metal touch whilst many moments contain a harder darker sound to their riff driven, intense metal creations. Most of the time they meld all at once into maybe not an overly original mix but certainly distinctive compared to other bands walking the same road.
’15 Stitches’ is a track with the nu-metal feel coming off like an amalgam of Disturbed without the vocal screeches and beeps and bands like Nonpoint or Saliva though the track is superior to most songs from any of that trios back catalogues. From that point we take another route with ‘Bitter Pill’, a tight little track cruising the Life Of Agony/Soundgarden road.
Throughout the album the guitars of Daniel Buck and Andrew Cargill weave musical patterns that raise each song from melodic strolls through ripping metal runs traditional and nu, to dark and heavy collisions fitting on any hardcore track. They can create mellow sounds through to sonic bursting sounds that sit perfectly on and around the rampant bass riffs of Leighton Mead whilst drummer David Weston-Smith beats the hell out of his skins to stir the mix.
Tracks like the terrific ‘Darkerside’, another contender for song of the album, with its early Therapy? riff stirring and rippling through it and the distinct Soundgarden sounding ‘In The Name Of Hate’ perfectly encapsulate the musical skill and outlook of Imperial Circus. Every track needs a singer of course and Leigh Dickens produces on each song more than ably with a range that slips from soulful to growling fury easily and back again through screams and smooth vocals.
No album is ever truly perfect and “Above The Deep” is no exception especially with the inclusion of ‘Fall From View’. It starts off with such promise with guitars and growls but once Dickens starts singing ballad style vocals it loses all cohesion.Two thirds into the track they almost pull it back with a full onslaught of power. Weirdly considering the delivery and consistency for all other 8 tracks the vocals are flat and very loose and for me it was a misguided inclusion, but against the rest of a strong collection of songs does not detract from the promise the band shows .
Imperial Circus are still possibly a couple of steps short from finding their own unique sound but with “Above The Deep” the quintet have landed an album that indicates they should be watched closely, heard often and played loud to all that have any kind of taste in good metal music.