By all accounts, Circa Survive shouldn’t be here. The band’s frontman, Anthony Green, sometimes can’t even believe that the band has survived all the demons and turmoil over the course of their career. But Green and his bandmates have continually persevered through it all, alive and thriving with their sixth full-length album (and Hopeless Records debut) The Amulet, the band’s darkest and most personal piece of art yet.
The hazy opener, “Lustration,” begins with Green’s familiar croon before erupting into an unshakeable groove provided by drummer Steve Clifford. It’s a warning of sorts (“Beneath your finger nails/they’ll find small pieces of stone/you’ll face the sun/cut with the pressure point”) mixed in with Green’s desperate pleas (“I don’t want to be the anchor on your chest“ and “I don’t want to see the moment you forget”). Elsewhere, the album’s ominous vibe penetrates on tracks like “Premonition Of The Hex” and “At Night It Gets Worse,” with the latter being a career highlight. Its glacial pace slowly picks up as the implied dread increases, leaving the listener feeling uneasy. We also get some of Will Yip’s best production work ever – the thrilling guitar riff that kicks off “Stay” is incredibly crisp and Nick Beard’s bass work across the record (especially on the Juturna-esque “Tunnel Vision” ) is thoroughly killer, providing the backbone to the vast majority of The Amulet. Colin Frangicetto and Brendan Ekstrom’s dueling guitar acrobatics are a pleasure as well – “Never Tell A Soul” never lets up the pace as Green tears through the chorus.
On each of The Amulet’s ten tracks, Green displays perfect precision and control over his vocals, ebbing and flowing within the rest of the band’s masterful compositions. His voice soars on the ripping “Rites of Investiture” and teases on “The Hex” and yet he saves his best for the album’s final two tracks. “Flesh and Bone” is a haunting number that showcases Green’s voice in an intimate setting usually reserved for his solo records. It’s the perfect appetizer for the closer – the album’s title track slowly builds until the frenetic end as Green empties his soul in those final few minutes.
The Amulet’s artwork (once again done by Esao Andrews) is visually striking – a nude woman carrying a giant seashell across a harsh terrain, trying to preserve something beautiful. The art’s essence is essentially the overlapping theme throughout the album’s ten tracks – shit is always gonna be tough but it’s still worth suffering and fighting for. And there’s a certain resolve to Green’s lyrics on The Amulet as he’s accepting whatever’s dealt him – it’s not complete hopelessness but he doesn’t promise some unrealistic utopia. After a decade-plus of continually searching, Green seems to have found a certain kind of a peace within his life. And with Green operating within that headspace, along with the best performances ever from his bandmates, Circa Survive has released the most immersive and challenging record of their illustrious career. What doesn’t kill you only makes you better – The Amulet is the resounding evidence.