Review: Stellar Circuits – Sight To Sound
Stellar Circuits du Soleil
(This review was written by Jake)
June 9th 2023, saw North Carolina natives Stellar Circuits deliver their second full-length album Sight To Sound with Nuclear Blast Records. 2023 has been a big and controversial year for progressive metal. Notably two of the biggest mainstream metal releases, Sleep Token‘s 3rd album Take Me Back to Eden and Avenged Sevenfold‘s 8th LP Life is but a Dream… have drawn similar amounts of praise and derision from fans and critics alike. The term “progressive metal” really represents a multitude of different subgenres and recently has rubbed shoulders with avant-garde and experimental metal. The Tool`s brand of progressive metal differs from Dream Theater`s interpretation which is different when compared to Opeth`s brand of prog.
The recent trend in the more “mainstream” and so called “accessible” variation of progressive metal is meshing together several other genres with metal. From hip-hop, hardcore, electronic and more, Stellar Circuits take a similar approach to how groups like Sleep Token and A7X have crafted their prog material while still retaining their own uniqueness and sound. However, similarly to the other prog releases this year, some aspects work and some do not.
On a positive note, like most bands making progressive music, all the players on this record are clearly very talented. Following their 2015 EP and 2018 album Ways We Haunt, working with the likes of producer Jamie King (Between The Buried and Me, A Skylit Drive) and touring with groups like Chevelle, it is clear to see there has been a lot of musical growth and improvement among the band. All four members give commendable and at times impressive performances.
Vocalist Ben Beddick, and guitarist Jared Stamey work well together and have some standout moments. In particular though, bassist Jesse Olsen and drummer Tyler Menon give energetic and emotional outings holding the rhythm section and the band as a whole down expertly. For a group that tries to flip the script, do things differently and throw the listeners for a loop, the band needs cohesion and these gentlemen have it in spades.
While it’s clear the band knows what they’re doing and the songwriting and performances are strong, the progressive elements are not always executed or orchestrated in the cleanest ways. It’s always inspiring and praiseworthy when a group takes risks so the group deserves credit outright. However, some of the genre integrations, tempo changes and stitching all their aspirations together is a bit messy and it breaks the immersion a few times throughout.
The moments of the record where their ideas are fully realized are definitely “For the Birds”, “Skull Beneath the Smile”, and “Nightlife” really show inklings of what this group is capable of. Other bright spots on the record are “Witch House” and “Pleasure Cruise”, and while I can see what they’re going for on songs like “Catch Your Death”, “Truthseeker”, and “Alchemy” certain aspects of those songs are gripping and other sections lose me along the way.
At the end of the day, Stellar Circuits show a lot of promise and are clearly very talented and are knowledgeable on both crafting impressive songs and integrating music theory into their ambitious progressive ideas. I look forward to seeing how they continue to grow and hone their sound. I feel their next effort will rectify some of this album`s shortcomings and capitalize on its strong suits.
Top Tracks: “Skull Beneath the Smile”, “Nightlife”, and “For the Birds”
Sight To Sound by Stellar Circuits gets a 3 out of 5
Sight To Sound is out now via Nuclear Blast Records.