Crate Skimmers #17 Circle Takes The Square – As The Roots Undo

Owned since: 2018

Genre: Screamo, with heavy technical math-rock overtones

Where I bought it: Discogs

Year: 2004

Label/pressing: Hyperrealist ‎

It’s always hard to discuss your favorites, even more when they’re kinda obnoxious. There is no record more obnoxious than the full length debut of Savannah’s Circle Takes The Square. Their mix of weird prog math rock and screamo in the technical sense reminds me of bands like Fall of Troy but this is literally one of the few records I know every word of. And boy is it even obnoxious in the lyrics.

Rejoice, rejoice a noble birth, a prince is born. Behold the birth of violence, beasts of fang and feather cry for our concrete rapture, and if we beg to be put down, unto us the most inspired storm. A princess ravaged by her prince behold; the birth of sex and distance, two frail corpses both were they, his eyes were the first to stray… every tree held fast the earth to sky.

That’s just the opening lines of the record; it becomes way worse after that. Honestly, it’s been ages since I’ve even heard this record and it’s been dropped from my most favorite album discussion. But this record still means so much to me and I still think it’s tremendous to this day. When I first got into it back around 2006, it was a bolt of lighting above a sky of mostly basic hardcore-punk and extreme screamo stuff. While a lot of those spot those infamous screeching vocals Circle’s vocal style, while screaming, always been fairly straight.

Two vocalists also; Drew Speziale and Kathleen Coppola Stubelek have been in every version of the band and their dual leads are what makes this music work. Because honestly without it the band’s endless shifting of speeds sound is headache inducing, it’s extremely technically impressive but also leaves like no breathing room. CTTS’s is just way closer to technical overdrive of a Fall of Troy then the heart on sleeve approach screamo bands like Hot Cross were doing. Honestly, if they’re close to anything it’s the Blood Brothers. Both bands spot dual vocalists, a love for experimentation and a lot of chord progression. They also both really enjoy pretty brickwalled production, which has been a nuisance of mine since forever, but it just works for both bands really well.

Circle’s take on this way has always been a lot more prog rock based, while Blood Brothers went the way of 80’s noise rock a lot of the time. It’s not a rare sight in this wave of screamo (check out Gospel’s amazing The Moon Is A Cold Dead World, which is full of hard rock nonsense) to take inspiration from long dead and fairly unhip genres, but the approach of prog rock always landed Circle in a weird inbetween zone. Too screechy for technical metal fans and too clean for a fair bit of the screamo crowd, even if the album did become a pretty big cult classic. Even today a lot of people are discussing it as being a horribly overblown nothing or a masterpiece.

For all the right reasons, also, because this is a record that has become honestly even more beloved over the years. It’s one of the few records of the scene to spot an honest to God decent production and is pretty much a 44 minute long rollercoaster ride. If you can leave the try-hard ‘deep’ lyrics at the door, a fair bit, it remains a record that is a massive favorite of mine. Just an absolute fit of stuff I’m normally not a big fan of, but together they make for a record that even nowadays I still think is brilliant and fairly unique. Would we need another one of it in the world? God no.

Weirdly, I never really was much into a lot of the other technical screamo bands but this, Gospel and Blood Brothers hit all the right notes for me. Just absolutely unique music that people tried to copy a lot, but never really seemed to hit the right feeling with. Just the perfect mix of being obnoxious and making something original, I guess, and isn’t that a lot of the best art made. Even the band itself never really managed to get a decent follow up made, in my eyes.

They reunited around 2010 and released a bunch of fine but completely unneeded reunion records and then went on hiatus again. I did get to see them tour a ton of times during that; once co-headlining with Kylesa, once with the baby versions of Full of Hell and Code Orange Kids, who both are way bigger than CTTS ever were now, and the absolute highlight being in 2013 at Ieperfest. Where they had, for some reason, the 12 o’clock second band of the day spot in the tent and played for a crowd of 100 people in a massive tent through some of As Roots Undo with a power any of the previous gigs quite lacked. Then the band split till around 2015, did some shows, and disappeared again.

As the Roots Undo is a relic of the early 00’s screamo/alternative metal scene that feels extremely dated these days. It is that kind of high-reaching self-seriousness that just makes me kind of giggle today. I would be lying also if this wasn’t still a record I love from start to finish and can scream along in full, which is impressive when the lyrics are near chapters length. An absolute gem of being loud and obnoxious is the way to go sometimes.