Summoner’s Circle – Chaos Vector Review

After a hectic few weeks, I couldn’t be bothered to dig through the remnants of the promo pit. The vultures had long since ascended from picking the bones dry and the remaining scraps of carrion were unappetizing. Ever the team player, GardensTale recommended me Summoner’s Circle, and at some point used the adjective “prog” to describe them. I tend to shy away from whatever “progressive metal” is because, now more than ever, it seems like a catch-all term for anything that doesn’t neatly fit into an increasingly narrow set of boxes.

Calling Summoner’s Circle “progressive” was, as it turns out, a bit of a misnomer. Describing themselves as “theatrical metal,” Summoner’s Circle is a swirling morass of influences that, peculiarly, leaves little lasting impression. Chaos Vector takes the most accessible parts of mainstream death metal and mainstream black metal and mixes them with the accessible melodies of modern progressive metal. Given that the vocals are largely blackened rasps a la Rimfrost, the guitars pull double duty in trying to make the proceedings overtly heavy and melodic. Progressive is definitely used in the catch-all way here, as the listener will find more creativity on Here in After or Formulas Fatal to the Flesh. Chaos Vector is less inventive, but more showy.

Credit where it’s due, Summoner’s Circle succeeds when they lean fully into their more theatrical aspects. The nine-minute highlight of Chaos Vector, “Terminus Egress,” has operatic vocals over the record’s best melody, and while the excitement cools down when the quintessentially “metal” part of the song kicks in, Summoner’s Circle returns quickly to their gratuitous yet entertaining pageantry. The main flaw is that the parts driven by metal instead of pageantry are largely bland. That said, Summoner’s Circle knows their way around some decent simplistic riffs. “Vessel” has a nice chug that’s effective in its context, but it overshadows the boilerplate B-grade Dimmu Borgir riff that acts as the song’s main theme.

Chaos Vector is a frustrating record. Summoner’s Circle can write compelling melodies and create nice soundscapes around them, such as the piano-driven bridge of “The Hierophants.” They’re also entertaining when spicing up basic riffing with Wakeman-style keyboard flourishes, like in “Of Black Horizons.” A major issue is how scattershot the whole affair sounds. The title track’s verse sounds like something I would do, and the vocals even take on a croaking character for the occasion. This transitions clumsily to a “heavier” riff which, with the synth accompaniment, sounds like a SNES action game theme. It’s almost charming, but the disjointed nature of it is grating. Also scattered throughout the record are startlingly weak black metal riffs which, in combination with the production, just sound tepid. Each time one cropped up I’d have to force myself not to tune out completely.

Summoner’s Circle have created a modern record in every sense of the word. Unlike the relentless creativity found in bands like Morbid Angel, Summoner’s Circle are far more spectacle than substance. It sounds “gonzo” and a bit “off the wall” at first, but once the listener gets past the ornamentation Chaos Vector is really just a metal record with too many disparate ideas and too little organization and flow. It’s produced to the hilt, and while it doesn’t sound squashed like too much modern metal, it sounds lukewarm and sterile. This serves the piano-driven and softer parts well, but for the heavier moments, it saps whatever energy they had. Like a modern CGI-laden film, there’s no lack of technical talent present here; Summoner’s Circle, like the tireless animators at, say, Marvel, are technically skilled in their craft. What both end up missing is the visceral elements in their forms of art. Massive CGI fight scenes show a lot going on, but little of it is meaningful or interesting beyond pure sensory overload. Likewise, while there’s plenty happening on Chaos Vector, I found myself hard-pressed to truly get involved in it and care about what was happening. Both here and in and in blatantly CGI-heavy action films, the theatricality just leaves me numb and unenthused.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Blood Blast Distribution
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: August 27th, 2021

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