In the time it took me to think up something coherent to say about them, Finnish avant-garde-metal-krautrock-artsy-wacky artists Circle completed five albums. They’re that prolific, and I’m not. I can’t even promise what I just wrote even is digestible, but I can assure you the band likely really is thinking many records ahead. So let’s just move on, shall we?
Circle, since their formation in 1991, have put out a ton of content. None of it sounds the same at all. Not even a little bit. The band has a knack for reinvention — at times taking on the title New Wave of Finnish Heavy Metal — and letting things go where they may, even if that’s to the weirdest, toughest-to-grasp musical terrain you can imagine. No one can predict what a new Circle album will bring, other than unpredictability. You either love that about them or it’s one of the reasons you’ve stayed away. Well, you might also have kept your distance because these guys are as unconventional — both in strategy and execution — as they come, but it’s what I’ve always admired about the band. I also admit I have had one hell of a time keeping up with their avalanche of work, but I’ve gotten to know their music well enough to know to leave all expectations at the door.
If you’re the daring type or a listener who has long worshipped Circle and need a new addition to your collection, Saturday’s Record Store Day will be an even more special event for you. For on that day Hydra Head Records, who have reissued many of the band’s catalog selections recently, will bring you the group’s latest “Manner.” It has an eyeball on the cover. Try not to stare directly at it. And almost like an embrace over Circle’s entire diverse career, this six-track offering sprawls all over the place, giving you little tastes of the numerous things Circle do so well. None of these songs sound anything like each other, and at times it comes off like a soundtrack made up of six different groups. Um, sort of, kind of.
You always can identify Jussi Lehtisalo’s (Split Cranium, Phantom Overlord) quirky, mad-man, gibberish-leaning vocals, and he’s one of my favorite people to hear sing because he sounds like there’s no plan and he’s just going for it. I can see how some people may be annoyed by him, but that just means you have no sense of adventure. He sometimes reminds me of an unhinged David Byrne on the doorstep of murder. When the songs are heavier, like on the awesome “Blue King,” he can come across like Denis Belanger or Bon Scott. Sometimes it sounds like he’s just muttering to himself. Say what you want, but you can’t deny he’s unique.
This 40-minute album should keep you guessing your first time through. Maybe even you second time through. It opens with “Lintu Joe,” a weird song that pushes that Talking Heads comparison and is jerky enough to dance alongside. If you don’t mind looking like you’re having a seizure. As noted, “Blue King” blows shit up, as its straight-ahead rock and catchy, shouty chorus makes it the easiest cut on here to grasp for newbies. “Here Come the Warm Jets” really pushes their trademark repetition to the max, as it lingers and pops for eight minutes, with very little changing along the way. There are some slight instrumentation additions, some minimal “na-na-na” calls that slide in and give you something to sing back, but for the most part, the whole thing jogs in place. And does so quite impressively. “New Fantasy” pulls the lid off again, with ’70s prog keys, some jazzy rock, and falsetto coos that might remind you of early David Bowie. “Mustaa Kultaa” pushes the tempo again, as the band settles into some classic Deep Purple-AC/DC-style riffing, and it’s the most metallic selection on here. “Potero” lets things get weird and slinky for the album’s final nine minutes, sometimes jamming on something jazzy that would make Steely Dan wonder what’s up, and eventually letting some cosmic interference into the room before Circle slip out the back door.
Lehtisalo and his mates have come up with one of the most jarring, inventive records you’ll find on RSD. Or any day. And you’ll have to actually hit a record store to get your hands on this first, because Hydra Head is not doing an online preorder like last year. But that’s the point, right? Go buy something physical. Be a kid again. Stare at an album cover, even if it has a weird eye on it, while you listen to the wonder inside the sleeve. You can’t go wrong with Circle’s new one, especially if you have an imagination that knows no limits.
For more on the band, go here: http://www.circlefinland.com/
To buy other Circle titles, go here: http://www.bluecollardistro.com/hydrahead/categories.php?cPath=4
For more on the label, go here: http://www.hydrahead.com/
For a list of shops carrying Hydra Head RSD titles Saturday, go here: http://hydraheadlines.blogspot.com/2012/04/rsd-store-list.html
There are some other metal-related products coming your way Saturday. Here are some of the selections below. Get up early and go support your local record store. You’ll be sorry if one day it isn’t there anymore. Also, while some of these may be regional releases or tough to find, go out anyway. Some shops do other specials. Last year, I scored a ton of cool shit for great prices that weren’t RSD releases but were specially priced for the event. YOB‘s “The Great Cessation” on double-vinyl for $10? Yes. That was one.
* BOTCH — “An Anthology of Dead Ends.” 180-gram vinyl version of band’s final EP, out on Hydra Head. Originally released in 2002 following band implosion.
* MASTODON/FEIST — “Commotion/Black Tongue” 7-inch. A weird project where each artist covers a song by the other. Could be one of the day’s more interesting gets.
* MASTODON/THE FLAMING LIPS — “A Spoonful Weighs a Ton” 7-inch. The original Lips song, along with Mastodon’s take on the track. WB is keeping Mastodon busy, are they not?
* METALLICA — “Beyond Magnetic” silver 12-inch. Whatever.
* NIGHTWISH — “Trials of Imaginearum” 10-inch picture disc. A bunch of demo songs with their bass player on vocals. There also are two tracks from the film “The Piano.” I don’t know what any of this means.
* OZZY OSBOURNE — “Believer” 7-inch, black-and-white polka dot disc in tribute to Randy Rhoads. Live version of “Believer,” along with 2010 guitar/vocal mix of “Goodbye to Romance.” Sounds cool.
* OZZY OSBOURNE — “Live!” A RSD First-Release. 180-gram, double-vinyl package, recorded on Ozzy’s 1981 tour with Rhoads. Today’s your first crack at this thing, basically.
* PELICAN — “Australasia” on 180-gram double-LP format. I’ll be headhunting for this bastard.
* RAINBOW — “Long Live Rock n’ Roll” reissue picture disc. Awesome, awesome, awesome.
* REFUSED — “The Shape of Punk to Come” double-LP reissue. Just in time for the reunion!
* RINGWORM — “The Venomous Grand Design”/”Justice Replaced By Revenge” 12-inch. First time either will be available on vinyl.
* SNAPCASE — “Progression Through Unlearning” 12-inch yellow vinyl. Has been out of print for half a decade.
* TOMAHAWK — “Eponymous to Anonymous” box set. First three albums packaged with their upcoming fourth record, due this summer. I’ll slap a baby for this.
For more on Record Store Day, including a full list of everything planned for release, go here: http://www.recordstoreday.com/Home