Boundary-pushing is not generally a term which many people have associated with djent-related genres lately. As with many scenes, what started as innovative has quickly become self-referential and given rise to a plethora of wholly uninspiring acts. Not so down under; exciting metal bands seem to be order of the day in Australia, and right now it’s the turn of the progressive genre-bending Circles to come into the limelight. After impressing the metal community with “The Compass” EP back in 2011, the announcement of a full-length album was greeted with heated anticipation. Sure enough, “Infinitas” has arrived in style and it is every bit as off-the-wall as you’d expect from these fellows.
As far as the heavier metallic end of the spectrum is concerned, there’s nothing that creates cause for concern. The chugging sections are suitably hard-hitting, setting the listener off on a nearly constant subconscious headnod or headbang. The album careers headlong between grooves like a drunk at a rave; ‘Ground Shift’ is a potent example, where a thundering instrumental break gives way to a brief rash of blastbeats later as all Hell breaks loose. What is intriguing is how the electro element, which was less prominent on “The Compass” EP, somehow adds to the musical clout when the band reach for the lower frets. The other significant factor of heaviness, which marks a change from previously, is that Perry Kakridas has fully embraced ferocious harsh vocals to complement his unique singing style. While these harsh vocals are a little Vegemite for some, there are moments such as on opener ‘Erased’ where their ire complements the darker twists of the music.
The singing is easily one of the strongest elements of “Infinitas”. At times resembling Protest The Hero, Periphery and Dead Letter Circus, Kakridas possesses a strong and emotive delivery made all the more potent by heartfelt moments and slightly off-kilter lines such as “Thanks for the handout, we couldn’t make it without you”.
He even flirts unabashedly with a Michael Jackson vibe such as on ‘Another Me’, where the bass-driven pop-drenched chorus resembles the late superstar’s more introspective moments. It’s also perhaps no secret that the vocals carry a couple of the more unadorned tracks on the album; interlude ‘The Signal’ would be an obvious example, featuring Kin of Twelve Foot Ninja, but ‘Responses’ also feels a little too stripped-down, lacking a distinctive hook that isn’t vocal-based, and the ambient sections within ‘Radiant’ and ‘Verum Infiniti’ feel a bit superfluous.
The band claim their sound can be considered as an experiment of “walking the line of making a song as heavy as possible, whilst incorporating accessible melodies,” as stated by drummer David Hunter. While quite a tall order, this experiment largely goes over as a success, and nowhere is it more successful than in the yin/yang twins of ‘As It Is Above’/’So It Is Below’. Both tracks are strongly intertwined both lyrically and musically, although yin comes out the stronger in this pairing with a strong melodic hook and a better technical side, while yang drags a little, and the latter half sounds like Rémi Gallego of The Algorithm just walked in, went nuts, and left again. The album as a whole carries this balance though, and for every empowering and melodic ‘Another Me’ or ‘Radiant’, there’s a heavy ‘Ground Shift’ or ‘Wheels In Motion’ to follow. The album bounces about the place, but instead of bewildering it’s simply fun.
Circles have garnered a huge amount of praise in the run-up to and since the release of “Infinitas”, and it’s clear to see why: the album is a carefully crafted blend of pop and groove, light and dark, chaos and beauty. They wanted the songs to stick in people’s heads and they certainly achieved that here. For a début full-length “Infinitas” is of stunning quality, and once the band trim some of the ballast from their sound, Circles will undoubtedly become one of the top modern metal bands in Australia. And they’ll be having some fun along the way.