Brilliant, shockingly brilliant! Herewith we present to you what we can only say is the headbangingest record yet from our Finnish friends Circle (containing also, paradoxically, a couple of their most gentle numbers). The Circle concept is one of repetition, and while ALL their records are in fact great, one can find some of them to be a lot like another. So it’s nice that this new Circle really goes out on a limb, with so much success, while totally managing to remain Circle to the core. How do they do it?
The album opens with “Nopeuskuningas”, seemingly Circle’s answer to Judas Priest’s “Breaking The Law”! Down and dirty hard rock riffing (cyclic and repetitive in the trademark Circle way, of course) with keyboardist/vocalist Mika Ratto — a relatively recent, and significant, addition to Circle’s lineup on their past three or four discs — simultaneously channeling screechy metal gods Rob Halford (Judas Priest), Klaus Meine (Scorpions), and Brian Johnson (AC/DC), but in an indeciperable, or Finnish at least, babble. It stretches to nearly eight minutes after the space-rock effects and swirly keys kick in. But then, when you think this is going to be The Heavy Metal Circle album, track two gets all mellow and pretty and folked-out, even MORE unlike any previous Circle we’ve ever heard. Acoustic guitar, and lots of la la la’s from Mika. Unbelievable — and lovely. But then the next song triggers the dormant motorik Circle drum pulse, overlaid with heavy guitars and vocal histrionics akin to the opening track. Plus new wavey/Axel F keyboards. Hit material here! Following that, track four, “Vaanen Valtiatar”, heads back to the forest glade where Circle do that hippy jamming again a la track two, but more plugged-in, turning into a spacey jam session. And then, as you might now expect, it’s back to the mosh pit for the monstrous rifferama of the next song, “Kylan Suurin Miekka”. Evil stuff. This is True Circular Metal indeed. From then on the album maintains the heaviness, getting spacier and spacier though, culminating in the droning fifteen-minute “Lokki”.
Wow. An amazing album, making effective use of Mika’s unusual/unique vocals — he’s developed some sort of exotic (Middle Eastern? American Indian?) meets metal style, delivered in a manner as over-the-top as the most insane Italian prog of the ’70s. Throw in some violin and moog and of course all the heavy metal moves, and you’ve got a bizarre blend of, uh, Yoko Ono, Hawkwind, Judas Priest, and of course Circle’s krautrock forerunners Neu! and Can.
While “Sunrise” is in many ways a departure for Circle, it can also be seen as an album harking back to their hard-rockin’ roots (they’ve nodded that way on the guitar-heavy “Prospekt” and Jussi’s Kyuss-ish Pharoah Overlord side project, but you’ve got to also remember that the very first Circle album, “Meronia”, drew quite a few comparisons to Helmet at the time). Recommended.