When lead singer Anthony Green left the nearly-popular rock metal Saosin for something new and a bit more experimental, there was a good chance that he could wreck both endeavors. Saosin (a Chinese proverb meaning “small heart” or “love cautiously”) had just released the EP Translating the Name, which was a smash hit. Just as the record deals began to pour in, Green left without looking back. Within two years, Green had released the first full album with Circa Survive.

juturna.jpgJuturna (2005) is nothing if not cryptic. Though it has been critically acclaimed, most are not willing to let Circa Survive turn into another Mars Volta – that is, they want lyrics that actually make sense. It’s not that they don’t form comprehensive thoughts and stories, but there’s an inside joke that the band isn’t sharing. With song titles like “The Glorious Nosebleed” and “The Great Golden Baby,” it’s not too far off the mark to say they were trying to evoke the gods of bombast. It only helps the case to note that the songs have seemingly nothing at all to do with the titles.

Circa Survive is certainly not a bad group. Green has left behind the predictable chord progressions and rock cliches of Saosin, and the band has found a nice mature sound for a freshman album. The lead singer has grown considerably since his debut with Saosin, though his self-indulgence wears a bit thin not too far in. Echoing guitar riffs, truly interesting percussion, and arrangements that would not be too bad on their own – all become somewhat tainted by Green’s efforts to sound and feel authentically genius. Sadly, it comes off as more of an affair with the strange and annoying. Musically, it is good writing. Vocally, it becomes awkward – like someone singing a trumpet part with interpreted words. Not to mention that Green manages to sound as if he’s singing about something important that he has trouble understanding how to relate its importance. Perhaps that’s unfair because of the mood he tries to evoke, but sounding unaffected can be contagious to the listener.

Regardless of any complaints against the album, it’s been a relative success and rightfully so. No one’s first time up to bat gives a .1000, and it’s good to experiment and push capabilities up front instead of having mid-life crises. But it becomes painfully obvious that Circa Survive is aware of its own relative immaturity (all members come from previous bands) and has some vendetta against the low standard for fresh bands. By doing so, they have opened themselves up to a new brand of criticism. It sounds as though the band is so anxious to sound like rock prodigies that they cemented themselves into mature sounds that the critics – or they themselves – hadn’t quite warmed up to yet. Thus the expectations for Circa Survive are high and just as pretentious as their lyrics – perhaps giving them enough rope to hang themselves with.