Every Friday, The Metal Examiner delves metal’s endless depths to present the genre’s most important and exciting albums.
Click here to download Circle of Animals’ “Poison the Lamb”
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Producer/multi-instrumentalist Sanford Parker (Minsk, Buried at Sea) and saxophonist Bruce Lamont (Yakuza) have long and assorted ties in and around Chicago, where the two reside and contribute to the city’s vibrant underground.
Parker, in addition to his main gig in Minsk, has produced the likes of Pelican, Rwake, Unearthly Trance, Jai Alai Savant, Lair of the Minotaur, and Nachtmystium, and Lamont, outside of Yakuza, recently finished recording a solo album and regularly plays with other experimental metal and noise outfits (Decayist, Sick Gazelle) as well as improvised-jazz players (Jeff Parker, Ken Vandermark, Dave Rempis).
Each man’s résumé is a mile long, and now the two have come together to pay tribute to Chicago’s late-’80s and early-’90s Wax Trax! industrial scene with their new project, Circle of Animals. A diverse and widely recognizable cast of drummers rounds out the lineup on this release, with names like Dave Witte (Discordance Axis, Municipal Waste), John Herndon (Tortoise), John Merryman (Cephalic Carnage), and Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth) lending their talents.
The band’s press release specifically references the Chicago industrial scene, and one can pick out more than a bit of Ministry influence on this album. However, Godflesh, Swans, and neo-folk come off as bigger inspirations. This is not terribly surprising, as Parker has shown quite a bit of respect for the works of Justin Broadrick and Michael Gira in interviews.
The bigger surprise might be Lamont, whose main role, outside of general sonic direction, is as vocalist. Parker is responsible for most of the recorded instruments, including guitar, bass, synthesizer, and programming, but he also vocally backs Lamont throughout. (As a side note, Lamont’s sister Kelly provides an excellent vocal guest spot on “Poison the Lamb.”)
Historically, this brand of industrial music is based upon layering textures and rhythms into sonic paintings rather than creating hooks or riffs — a technique that can be very hit or miss. When it misses, it results in boring sonic experiments and sympathetic nods of “cool idea — never want to listen to that again.” Circle of Animals, however, has hit the mark, and Destroy the Light is exciting and engaging throughout. The soundscaping pushes visceral buttons that stimulate the subconscious. “No Faith,” for example, functions as an NON-esque burgeoning swell, sweeping the listener away in a wave of epic synths and chattering crowd noise.
An ominous sense of foreboding ties each of these tracks together. This is deeply uneasy music that captures a state of longing and dread. It has a consistent, pulsing rhythm, whether from breakneck tom triplets or unflinching, echoing snare hits. This is the perfect soundtrack for questioning whether or not a modern metropolis is the right place to live out the rest of your days.
The true test for this record will come in the coming months when its experimental tendencies are no longer a novelty. Will it stand out enough to bear repeat listens down the line? The depth of its immediate emotional impact, coupled with its rich atmosphere, seems like more than enough to relive its experiences. But only time will tell.