(NCS contributor Austin Weber wrote the following review. All of the excellent photos are by Nicholas Vechery.)
While Circle Takes The Square are not wholly a metal band, they do have some heavy moments and enough metal influence to interest open-minded metalheads. I know some of our more eclectic readers probably like them or used to. I planned to bring previous NCS collaborator Nik Vechery in tow to take photos, though I arrived a bit later than him due to awesome traffic and found my way to Haymarket Whiskey Bar in the downtown area of Louisville, Kenfucky. Which of course led to numerous Jack and Coke’s for me, and plenty of piss-beer PBR’s for Nik. Several local bands played first followed by Circle Takes The Square who gave an exhilarating and adrenaline-filled performance.
Opening the show was a local band I’d never heard of, and upon seeking them out online could find no music to get a glimpse at what they might sound like. Except that there used to be a progressive metal band called Greyhaven that is pretty cheesy. This Greyhaven were a sort of noisy punk-rock meets quasi-metal group with occasional djenty chugs slicing overtop at faster tempos then you would normally hear in that style. It was gritty and frantic, and a decently interesting merger of sounds.
So they weren’t bad per se, but weren’t terribly original either. The best part of their set was that one lone idiot you find at every show, slam-dancing and spin-kicking by himself and making wild bird gesticulations while running into everyone else in the crowd. He was almost more amusing than the band. Especially his wild angry swipe at some flyers, knocking them to the ground off a table in a faux stupid act of rebellion while looking like a puny Anthony Michael Hall in his 80’s heyday. I suppose someone has to slamdance and be the single person at the show totally beyond hyped for his brahs’ sick band.
Following Greyhaven was the progressive technical (and I don’t mean djent) metal band Eschatos, a group I hadn’t seen before and whose only music I had heard was an instrumental pre-production track. They were death metal in some places and wonderfully mellow in others. Their vocalist Darrien Phillips had a number of singing parts, and as their set wore on, his singing grew stronger and I started to enjoy it. Sometimes, lead guitarist Josh Holmes sang as well, and harmonized with Darrien, which was interesting and I liked that as well. An acoustic guitar was set up and played often at a moment’s notice by Josh Holmes. This added yet another interesting layer to what they were doing, and bassist Josh Mumford had a great tone live and played some cool licks.
Slamdance Superman tried slamming hard to their material, which was funny because they had no breakdowns and only one or two parts with a chugging riff. After stomping into their gear he was about to get his ass beat by several people and conveniently stopped, which was great for everyone. Though I would have loved to see some violence.
The band’s drummer Michael Temple was a strong backbone to each and every style they played and showed a lot of creativity behind the kit. They had a new guitarist on stage, as I found out from talking to him briefy after the set, but as a result of being a bit intoxicated I forgot his name and I apologize! Toward the end of their set, their vocalist busted out a Bongo with a strap and put it on, and started hand drumming while the drummer did a tribal-sounding part. It was very cool and funky and not something I expected from a metal band.
It was a lot of fun to hear Eschatos. They stated that they are going to record an EP soon, which I can’t wait to hear. This is video of their set, courtesy of Keep Louisville Loud, followed by Nik’s photos.
I had no clue what to expect from the next band, Great Floods, as I’d never seen them live or heard their music. I was pleasantly surprised to hear an aggressive, d-beat-influenced grindpunk-sounding group musically, with hoarse hardcore barks courtesy of their sole guitarist. Hearing them reminded me of Converge and Botch at certain points, but often they were stripped down and knocking out songs in blunt bouts of fury. It was caustic and to the point, and played at a lethal volume. Great Floods were quite abrasive and headbang-able all at once, and gave an intense set that was impressive.
CIRCLE TAKES THE SQUARE
Circle Takes The Square burst out of relative obscurity to beloved band cult status after the release of 2004’s As The Roots Undo, and in retrospect that album has been considered a classic — one I replayed daily for over a year after its release and still jam to frequently to this day. There was a long pause for years when the general public assumed Circle Takes The Square had fallen into a quasi-hiatus. So when they came back in late 2011, I like many others assumed the new music would not be as good. How could it possibly live up to the phenomenal quality, both musically and lyrically, of their debut?
Well, somehow they succeeded, and the new material they played took on a sometimes heavier and occasionally more technical approach while still containing their previous eclectic amalgam of disparate ideas, unique male/female vocal dueling patterns, and the dense manner in which they structure their sprawling epic songs. Circle Takes The Square pulled liberally from their debut—playing classics such as “Crowquill”, “In The Nervous Light Of Sunday”, and “Kill The Switch”. They also played some excellent new cuts from last year’s Decompositions Volume Number One, including “Enter By The Narrow Gate” and “Way Of Ever Branching Paths”.
Getting to see them live for the first time had another special significance for me, as Circle Takes The Square was a band near and dear not only to me but also to my brother, who killed himself in July of this year. I know if he were alive he would have been here with me tonight sharing in the beauty of their live performance. Live in their element, Circle Takes The Square were an engrossing poetic force—metallic shards within a screamo meets grind/indie/punk/hardcore amalgamation delivered with a powerful passion that made the recorded music feel even more alive and swarming with energy.
They played as a power trio of Drew Speziale on guitar/vocals, Caleb Cornett on drums/vocals on new songs, and Kathleen Stubelek on bass/vocals. I’ve been to countless live shows but I’ve rarely heard so many people crowded in, shouting all the lyrics. I’ve likewise never heard people clapping so long after every song. It was a good mutual feeling of appreciation among all attending.
The lyrical aspect of Circle Takes The Square’s music is another facet of their uniqueness. Their lyrics are introspective and written in an avante-garde storytelling manner, with true artistry in the eloquence of their lyrics. Witnessed live, all their powerful words added even more electricity to their already engrossing performance. Their lyrics abound in truthful themes of self-realization and thoughtful reflection on the human condition. Here are a couple of the lines that really resonate with me from “Kill The Switch”, which they performed this night: “Life is lowly, lowly anonymity”, “Mouth the words to deny, deny the symptoms, as ‘oh yeah I’m doing fine’, as I’ve found a most endearing psychosis”; “The image is clear, a tower is built of my own pride, I cry in the shade that it offers, the only shelter I’ve known.” Circle Takes The Square poured out their hearts, and on this night we were all high on the experience.