Released: 2005, Bled Out Records
Hailing from Lancaster, PA, U.S.A, The Tenth Circle, formerly known as Cirrhosis, have released their debut album, OF WAR AND REFLECTION. With 5 years since the band’s formation and this full-length it’s obvious the band has been given at least a reasonable amount of time to find their style and their voice, and what is The Tenth Circle’s voice of choice? Groove death/thrash, not unlike Grimfist or a more extreme Watch Them Die.
OF WAR AND REFLECTION is based around strong guitar/drum interplay between Dave Moody, Ross Gerson, and Tim Yeung (of Hate Eternal, Vital Remains, Council of the Fallen, Decrepit Birth, Agiel, and Aurora Borealis). This is actually one of the few albums you’ll find where the drums feel important to the music, like they’re what’s really driving the songs and pushing them just a little farther. Vocalist Ross Whitecavage takes the rather popular route and sticks to mid-range growling/yelling, somewhat reminiscent of Randy Blythe of Lamb of God. As far as production goes, it’s nice and bottom heavy while staying rather clear, the guitars don’t really fuzz out on the stop/start riffing which gives a more precise feeling to the riffs.
The album opens with its best track in “Oblivion”. The song begins with some chunky off beat stop/start riffs before hitting the main fast verse riff and then goes off on a few different tangents. Really, the riffs aren’t what makes the song interesting, it’s the drums, the vocals, and the energy the song creates that makes it something better than it is. Not to imply the song doesn’t have any good riffs but if they were to be isolated, they wouldn’t be much better than average and yet this song instantly pumps me up. Blastbeats intermingle with solid groove sections during “Of War and Reflection”, their really isn’t much to write home about in this song. The band sounds convincing enough but it doesn’t really feel like they really get off the ground.
The band really hits on the low end for “In the Name of”. It’s really low, heavy, straightforward chugging, into solid groove pieces, and a rather over the top death metal section. Actually, one very nice touch I found is the way the band implements two similar riffs. One is played overtop of blasts but when the band slows it down only slightly the drums hit something akin to a slow, intermittent, crawl. “Last Will and Testament” has a nice groove running through it, the first 52 seconds of the song and the way it switches between the two riffs is just freaking heavy. Much of the song is based around vocals and the underlying groove though I was a little turned off by the rather hardcore-esque breakdown at 2:36. Unfortunately by the time you get to track 10, “Divided” one might become a little disappointed, maybe even disgusted depending on the person as the song reeks of mallcore/metalcore with it’s very Slipknot feel to the riffs. There’s still talent in the playing, but when you hit parts like 1:06 when it’s just two notes and constant drum fills it becomes rather boring and at 1:23 when that Korn riff kicks in, well…
The Tenth Circle are on the right track, many of the pieces are here to create a real ass kicker but the band hasn’t quite hit that magical little thing they need to really push them over the top. For a debut, OF WAR AND REFLECTION is rather commendable with only a couple real missteps and a couple drowsy moments but it’s still worth a listen.