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Circle - Katapult

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Artist: Circle

Album: Katapult

Label: No Quarter

Review date: Sep. 10, 2007

Circle have always been hard to pin down, but after some time with their latest, Katapult, I had to throw my hands up. The Fins have always had a fondness for stretching the skin of genre tropes over their consistent production techniques. No matter what they choose to tackle, be it the fractured synth-folk blues of Forest and Guillotine or the balls-out, Judas Priest-flared repetition of Tulikoira and Earthworm, the experiments have always made sense. We expect Circle to play with genre; they have reinvented so many wheels that only a dip in quality would come as a surprise. Moreover, if their chameleon is meant as witty commentary, masks of played-out clichés worn in order to breathe new life through them, Circle definitely get the joke – at their last NYC performance a few years ago, a Finnish-speaking acquaintance informed me that Jussi Lehtisalo was actually chanting ‘boobs’ over the kraut-metal. The point being that Genre, Music’s do-gooding, straight-laced offspring, is not to be taken as holy writ, and if there is a trap that a Circle album can fall into, it’s the inevitable temptation to pinpoint what is being deconstructing.

In this sense, the paradigm has always held – Circle are beholden to the idea. But rather than let Genre get this last laugh, Katapult ups the ante. Based on the artwork and a quick listen, I was expecting another foray into the black metal theatrics that Circle have made their own. While parts of the album do sound similar to Enslaved and the like, this album is a different beast. Shortly after “Saturnus Reality” introduces the expected guttural voices and jackhammer guitars, a synth string section momentarily floats in. Black metal is no stranger to synthesizers, but they are used here to a beguiling, almost fragile effect amidst the headbanging. The next track, “Torpedo Star Throne,” works the same magic in a different way. A metal lick is present, but some of Forest’s creeping electronics directly compete, rather than simply augment or contribute atmosphere. These juxtapositions and isolations of heavy rock trademarks are present throughout. In “Understanding New Age,” overdone chants of “Death FOR-EVAH” give way to heavenly piano washes, with the track ending on needling electronics seemingly borrowed from the Line catalog. If a ‘black metal voice’ happens to pop up, it might be over delicate guitar arpeggios, as on “Skeletor Highway.” Similarly, on “Snow Olympics,” the riffs are there, but the drums drop back to rim clicks and tribal stomp. The track even allows a mourning violin solo.

What does this add up to? Katapult is certainly not a deconstruction along the same lines as the above mentioned albums; it’s much more interesting. While I’ve greatly enjoyed prior outings, they mostly seemed like contained statements, as if genre somehow held Circle back from fully engaging all of their many strengths. Not so here – to pin it down feels horribly unfair. As such, it’s a wonderful album, easily one of their best. This must be what they’re referring to with all that NWOFHM talk.

By Brad LaBonte

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Tower (featuring Verde)




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