Circle - Terminal

by Steve Rhodes Rating:6 Release Date:2017-06-23

It's hard to find a band with more of a work ethic that Finland's Circle. Over their 26 year existence they have rattled out more than 40 albums (studio, live and soundtrack) all centred around founding bassist and vocalist Jussi Lethisalo. I'd managed to catch Circle just the once previously, in their early years, through MTV Europe's glorious 120 Minutes, with Paul King, with their 'Kyberia' video from their debut album. A relentless rattling motorik song which was catchy as hell, their essence of which can be heard in recent psych troubadours such as Spectres. Their latest release Terminal is an interesting proposition, full of relentless energy and ideas, some of which work better than others, culminating in a record that struggles on cohesion but possesses some memorable tracks.

Epic thirteen-minute opener 'Rakkauta Al Dente' begins with repetitive head-nodding, throbbing guitar riffs, with a buried chiming guitar wandering in the background to a Post-Metal setting, knocking on the door of Red Sparowes. Screeching vocals appear and don't detract from the hypnotic backing. The chords change eventually and the track moves away from its default position, as Jussi's vocals become more whispered, with a sinister undertone, with nods to Black Sabbath or even Die Krupps. The tone changes with the next chord drops as Jussi's vocals become more theatrical, a'la Queensryche as the song settles for a time into a moor noodling, jazzy, hard-rock stance, but still with a pacy rhythm. The appearance of a xylophone brings the track back into focus with the instrumentation becoming fuller and louder. A bombastic and challenging, but interesting opener.

Spacemen 3 or Stooges guitar riffs introduced the title track 'Terminal', with soaring keys in the background adding spectral drama. The song relaxes its aggressive opening, taking a solid 'Indie Rock' guitar stance, like The Clean's Getting Older, or Smashing Pumpkins Cherub Rock, before returning to the sludgier opening. Vocals appear on the second return to the opening stance, with more vibrato and a hint of Middle Eastern mystique as a lead guitar flails in the background. Repetitive, but exhilarating at the same time, a track full of hooks

'Saxo' adds more dimension to the record, with a mantric, chanting opening, as hypnotic guitars and percussion appears. Jussi's vocals exhibit controlled aggression, like The Jesus Lizard of Skeptics, with a synth providing some respite to the tense atmosphere, and the chanting backing becomes eerier as the instrumentation plays on. Jussi's operatic vocals then make an appearance and thankfully veers away from any potential portentous territory, as the repetitive guitar provides stability as the remaining instrumentation becomes more unsettling.

Sometimes you can throw too many things into the pan and it comes out a mess, and sadly 'Imperiumi' suffers from this. With Jussi's WASP-esque vocals being supported by 'dramatic' guitars and synths, the overall effect is 6th form Am-Dram trying to perform Macbeth The Musical. Overblown and simultaneously tedious. Even when the pace lifts there is a forced lifelessness to it. The song improves as the synths take a lead, though they still sound dated and not in a good way.

The barbed guitar makes a return with 'Kill City, and the combination of synths and guitars works much better with the Finnish Sisters of Mercy-esque vocals, with only the mildest of Goth undertones. More forceful and aggressive but far more melodic than much of the album. The vocals are then belted out in a shouting punk style rather than a screeched metal tone and sit far better with the organ-heavy sounds. There are time, tone and pace changes a plenty throughout the tracks, performed successfully without drifting into self-indulgence, before the track collapses completely into relaxed introspection at the close.

The psychedelic 'Sick Child', full of driving guitars, hints at Kasabian in its opening vocal, as the chords and tempo retain complete consistency throughout. Only as the end is nigh does the track take on a noisier and apocalyptic vent. Certainly the most conventional track of the album, it almost craves some over-dramatic finale to close the album but manages to maintain its steady course.

Well there's certainly nothing predictable about Terminal, an interesting topsy-turvy, hotchpotch of an album that hints at Prog, Metal, Sludge Metal, Psychedelia, Post-Rock, Hard Rock, pretty much every guitar genre under the sun, without settling into a comfortable malaise at any particular one. It's unsurprisingly inconsistent but definitely brave and a welcome distraction from the one-dimensional monotony of a lot of artists. Now I need several years to catch up with their back catalogue.

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