Circle of Animals – “Destroy the Light” Album Review

(Ok, I’ll apologise now for a lot of what follows: virtually no band mentioned in this piece can be described in less than a novel, or be slotted neatly into one genre. So, if you think I’m losing it with some of these descriptions, bear with me: listening to ‘Destroy the Light’, I pretty much did.)

Circle of Animals are a supercollective, of sorts. Fronted by the awesomely prolific Sanford Parker (of post-metal masters ‘Minsk’, the frankly astonishing US post black-metal overlords ‘Nachtmystium’ and the baffling post.alt.industrial supergroup ‘The High Confessions’) and the Bruce Lamont (of hardcorefreejazzpostrock quartet ‘Yakuza’), they’ve got already got a pretty inspired history behind them. And covered virtually every genre.

But, I hear you start to ask, how are two guys a ‘collective’? And what’s so super about it? Well, they’ve managed to amass one of the most diverse collections of sticksmen I’ve ever seen. From Steve Shelley (proto-grunge/postpunks Sonic Youth) to John Herndon (math:jazz:funk:rockers Tortoise), through to Dave Witte (Thrash/Crossover metallers Municipal Waste) and John Merryman (Technical deathsters Cephalic Carnage); its pretty impressive. Virtually everything else is done by either Sanford or Bruce. Oh, and Chris Connelly turned up too.

While I’m not quite sure who’s playing on which track (apart from ‘Poison the Lamb’ – that one features Steve Shelley, and Kelly Lamont (Bruce’s sister), but to be honest it really doesn’t matter – some of the drum tracks are obviously human, some are possibly electronic, a few could be hybrids – it’s the depth of the rest of the sound that grabs you, disrupts your brain patterns and leaves you pale and shaking.

‘Invisible War’ and ‘No Faith’ open like lost Ministry or Big Black numbers – all pounding drums, percussive guitar riffs and distorted  ranting. ‘No Faith’, in particular, uses a blend of voices throughout – some choral, some clean, some growled and sneered. Ending with an obviously human drummer, the build-to-crescendo and the fade-to-a-dying-sequencer is both hypnotic and disorientating.

‘Seminal Animal’ is a change in both tone and tempo – at once droney and electronic, brooding and compelling. It’s got (slightly) cleaner vocals, but it’s no friendlier for it, the track slowly builds in intensity before an abrupt ending leaves you wondering where you are and what just happened.

The electronic drumbeat that opens ‘Lesson Human Suffering’ jars you free from the trance that ‘….And Together We Are Forever’ slowly lulled you into. ‘Lesson…’ is a slow builder that is about as good an example of post-rock-prog as you will ever get.

The aforementioned ‘Poison the Lamb’ is pure Chicago industrial – think Ministry’s ‘Dream Song’: pulsating, pummelling and punishing, but soothing and entrancing in equal measure.

Epic closer and title track ‘Destroy the Light’ just can NOT be described – to do so would steal part of its soul. But I’ll say this, it opens with 8 minutes of hallucinatory swirls, before bursting into an almost free-jazz like cacophony of light and chanting. I’m pretty sure it’s the music that cults play to you to take away the pain of being stolen from your family. It’d work too.

As an album, it’s an incredible and addictive piece of work – if it sinks its claws in, you WILL come back. You can’t drive to it, dance to it, have sex to it or have it playing in the background – you have to listen to it, and it alone –  get it right and it’ll feel like you can exist INSIDE it. The word I’m looking for here is ‘Symbiotic’ – this is an album you have to give yourself to entirely, but the reward is more than worth the time you give it.

Depending on where you live it’s released on 10/12/10 or 12/10/10 (ie the twelfth day of October) by Relapse Records.

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