There are ties here to some bands that I have recently reviewed so seems fair enough that Heretoir land up in my review pile. Morrok from Anomalie used to be in them as well as members past and present from Agrypnie. Their drummer used to be in Fäulnis and Eklatanz who seems to be the main motivator and founding member behind the group has helped out Australian act Germ on the live front. That’s some pedigree right there and despite never really investigating these Germans before, now seems the perfect place to start. The Circle is not an album for the casual listener, it has many parts to it and runs at a dense 66 minute playing time. It’s an album of both light and dark and moves between simpler passages of expressive post rock to parts of battering atmospheric darkness. There’s stacks to explore within and facets of this album that I found myself liking immensely and others that I was not quite so keen on. A circle is well rounded and after several plays I got this impression to a large extent but perhaps I could have done with a smaller circumference as I did find this could have definitely done with being cut down to size a bit.

We enter at ‘Alpha’ with familiar gentle atmospheric guitar strains spreading post-rock joy like sunbeams across the musical canvas. The musical weight fully drops in with ‘The White’ and like it suggests it is not a dark track and the impression I have both musically and vocally is like a cross between Novembre and Alcest, it’s no surprise to discover that Neige does add some guest vocals within the album. The band coast on in places, seemingly in no hurry, twisting through progressive sections and allowing the instrumental parts to swagger and breathe away. There’s both drive and emotion the latter being expressed in some patches of clean whiny sounding parts which just really aren’t to my taste, luckily there are plenty of more beefy roars to raise the levels up. Those that like music to leave them gazing a thousand yards into the distance will have plenty of opportunity here. Sometimes though I find attention wandering and it’s akin to treading water, waiting for a wave to batter me back towards land. Tracks such as ‘Golden Dust’ have just this effect and are just a bit too overly “nice” (there I’ve said it) for my tastes. I guess it comes with the territory with an album that narratively “deals with existence, self-reflection, fears and dreams – life in all its facets” though. Rich though it is and no doubt appealing to a large section of the group’s fan-base things are weighed down with too much in the way of self-indulgence and the mid-section of the album really goes nowhere fast.

Perseverance is however ultimately rewarding as elements of atmospheric doom start to seep in and there’s some solid weltering drumming snapping out of lethargy. Guitars unravel with weeping textures that would give Katatonia and October Tide a serious run for their money and there’s a definite feeling that things are picking up and gearing towards an invigorating finale. That they do too as the last couple of tracks are gargantuan and deliver everything I could have possibly asked for. The clamour of ‘Fading With The Grey’ and the guitar work harks back to older My Dying Bride and everything around it hones in with anger and urgency. Having unleashed the full restraint of what they are capable the effect invokes a maelstrom of head-banging action. Although both it and final number ‘The Circle (Omega)’
have their fair share of atmospheric interludes they are pitched precisely and perfectly. The only real downside to this is I was left wondering just how brilliant the whole album would have been if it had all been as focused as this.

(7.5/10 Pete Woods)