Of Awakening by The Circle

Release date: August 18, 2023
Label: AOP Records

The Circle is an extreme metal trio featuring songwriter and guitarist Stanley Robertson, with lyrics and vocals from Damnation Plan frontman Asim Searah. Their second release Of Awakening is a solid chunk of symphonic bleakness that has moments of real greatness.

More than anything else Of Awakening aims for a consistent, gloomy atmosphere. There is the same murk to its double bass drum powered black metal sections as its slowest, doomiest segments. Think along the lines of Swallow the Sun’s use of melodic death metal in longer, more atmospheric song structures than that genre usually favours. The mix of violins and blast beats that supports this is very Ne Obliviscaris, so it only makes sense that their violinist appears for an excellent guest solo that is the centrepiece of the title track.

As strong as this sound is, the best parts of the album are when brighter melodies are brought in for contrast. ‘Ruins, My Dying World’ is eight minutes of escalation that climaxes with sweep picking and a wall of symphonic backing over a hyper speed finale. It’s a really good production too, with a slightly clicky and clinical kick drum sound the only blemish on an otherwise very nice sounding album.

Asim’s vocals are consistently strong. He’s a diverse vocalist with a wide range of harsh vocals and much of his clean singing is mournful to match the rest of the album. But again, when his brighter, power metal vocals make a brief appearances they shine through like a bulb in smoke.

Some of this is just a matter of taste – I’m conscious of latching on to the parts of the album that sound most like Asim’s former band Wintersun. The Circle’s heaviest segments aren’t too far away from Celeste’s post-black metal extremity, which works exactly because of its unrelenting nature. There isn’t quite the same intensity here, so its rare outbursts of euphoria feel more powerful than wallowing in the darkness that is the rest of the album.

Despite its quality throughout, Of Awakening’s moments of greatness are when it pushes beyond its core sound. Its consistent, bleak atmosphere deserves praise, but its rays of light are something special.

 

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