with an expressionless stare"
One Word Review: Obscure
Now this is something of an oddity. The Last Things only made this one album and then disappeared into oblivion. Sad, because it is a debut that feels mature and shows immense potential. Circles and Butterflies captures a unique sound and a distinct, touching frailty in both the music and lyrics. The production shows the album was made on a budget, but it impresses with its musical ideas. Any genre defining barriers are ignored and the result is often surprising. The closest definition would be Progressive Metal, but that doesn't really do the album justice. So varied and surprising is the music, that it defies labeling.
Richard Elliot IV is the main man behind the band, having written most of the music, all lyrics and created the surreal artwork. A variety of instruments are used to give the album a very special atmosphere with a slight psychedelic vibe. These include flute, violin, bagpipes and fretless bass. It works extremely well and adds to the unique flavor, the album leaves behind. Psychotic Waltz fans take notice; you may have found a second heaven here.
Richard's voice has an emotional edge that gives the metaphor-heavy lyrics a greater impact. He handles the aggressive, thrashy parts just as well as the more laid back passages.
Darren McFarland provides some unique bass work that stands out, especially on the six-part Circles and Butterflies suite. His bass playing is inventive, dynamic and makes the bass appear not so much as a separate instrument, but more like a special entity that weaves in and out of the music, often guiding it along surprising detours. Jeff Cinotti plays bass on three songs and it is apparent that his playing is good but not quite as inspired. Lou Buffo's drumming is technical, tight and littered with cool detail.
I found it easy to live with the slightly lacking production.
The six-part Circles and Butterflies suite makes up the main feature and deals with interrelationships and mental corruption.
Inside the cirle opens frenetically. It is a good example of how the songs don't follow any direct path, but weave in and out of aggressive technical passages and into moody relaxing states with the melodic element always in focus. Keyboard is used sparingly but enhances the atmosphere in a wonderful way, when it enters the sound.
Blackhours has a moody introduction, that eases the listener into a tranquil state of mind. Suddenly an intense guitar melody tears the rug away and you're caught in an unpleasant state of confusion and denial. This song is a good example of how Darren's bass playing provides some unique nuances to the music. As previously mentioned, it gives the impression of a living entity that evolves through time. Blackhours finishes in a mesmerizing way with layer upon layer of interconnecting melodies.
Circle of Willis (also the name of a part of the human brain) employs several neat tricks to generate a rather disturbing atmosphere. "Sweet" instrumental passages are littered through the song and they build tension and make it appear as if the song is caught in a loop it can't escape. A wonderfully aggressive song.
The Vow is 3 minutes of pure emotion. I absolutely loved this song since the first time I heard it, as it reflected some recognizable feelings in a special way. The bass work once again brings the song to another level.
After.....Birth is a chilling mood-piece. It concludes the lyrical part of the suite with a glimmer of hope and strength.
The instrumental finalé The Circle Ends has a positive vibe and enough twists and turns to stay interesting.
Among the 5 remaining, and very different tracks, Ghost from the past is a personal favorite with both music and lyrics having a slightly haunting feel. The inner peace motif continues for a few songs before The Spirit Lives adds another instrument to the mix and effectively closes the album with an environmental stance.
Circles and Butterflies was released in 1993 and has been impossible to find for many years. A unique gem, lost in the sands of time, until now. About a week ago, I discovered that Arkeyn Steel Records have re-released the album in a re-mastered version, limited to 1.000 copies. It is a must-buy for those seeking a musical challenge, different from anything else out there.
Written By Steen
Online: Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Inside The Circle