A fat, thick production and a meaty, heavyweight guitar tone: two factors which, when combined, are guaranteed to satisfy many a rock or metal fan. Even from a cursory listen, it is clear that Circle of Reason have these elements nailed down on their new mini album Faith or Theory, and they certainly are satisfying on a surface level. Of course, the surface level is all a listener really accesses on the first spin, meaning that the band have completed the first challenge any relatively unknown band faces – retaining attention.
After a second listen, you can start to latch onto the musical reference points Circle of Reason are anchored to. From the very outset of the vocals in opening track, ‘Never Enough’, an air of ‘heavier Muse’ hangs over the melodies of the album, but with some riffs borrowed from early Nickelback (contrary to opinions found on the majority of the internet, this is not intended as an insult – Nickelback once possessed a strong knack for powerful, grunge-inspired heavy riffs and solid metal-leaning songs). First single ‘Questions’ is a driving number, with a pleasing enough variety in pace to keep heads banging throughout and really belongs on regular rotation on Kerrang (who have, in fact, featured the band before), as well as at every dirty rock club around the country. Closing track ‘Colours’ goes in a more dense and emotional direction, personal development and misunderstanding clearly on the lyrical agenda and an album highlight in the songwriting department to end things on a high note – albeit something of a sad one.
Sadly, a few more listens through this brief release (29 minutes) bring on some ear fatigue. Once the initial impression left by the shining sonic arrangement and production has worn off, it becomes clear that most of the songs on Faith or Theory are decent yet unsurprising rock songs, dressed up with the low-tuned guitars and crunchy tone which appeal to fans of all things metal. ‘My Emergency’ is the best example of this: in essence, it is just a beefed out, detuned pop-punk track, laced with Mastodon-inspired guitar melodies, which somehow doesn’t quite manage to reach the interest levels of either element. Circle of Reason certainly haven’t done anything terrible here, and neither is Faith or Theory likely to put you to sleep due to complete lack of inspiration, but there is a little confusion in identity found between the different influences that have impacted this release, and despite some clear highlights, the whole experience is one that can unfortunately leave one a little cold.