I’ve a certain sweet spot in my musical soul for “real” music, the kind of experience that you know comes out of a love of music, rather than a desire to be famous. This manifests itself differently every time it’s found, and with Circle of Reason, it’s evident through their unashamed relentless rock. They display a confidence in their art which shows through with every subtle change.
I always worry when the term “prog” is used when describing rock, as it usually means an eight minute guitar masturbatory session with an overload of 80’s sounding synth. What we find on “These Hands And This Mind” is quite refreshingly taking the ethos of prog (stepping through a musical journey/storytelling) whilst mixing a plethora of styles – never overindulging on any one over another.
Kicking off the EP is ‘Don’t Be Still’ with its stadium sized guitar intro, this is a song that screams to be played loud and preferably live. From start to finish this track is relentlessly driving forward, a testament to a great solid rhythm section providing the ground work for the floating vocals to lay the icing on the hard rock cake. Musically, this is a pretty straight forward track, and all the better for it. My only wish would have been for a more defined vocal line to sing along with, as everything in this song screams ‘anthem’, but that is part of the bands charm, that they appear to take what you expect and do it their way.
Track 2 ‘Home’ was a bit of a surprise, with the hauntingly smooth start I expected 4 minutes of a chilled ballad to meet my ears. After a minute of letting the dreaminess float over, we see a glimpse of the “prog-infused” nature that the band talk about. In less time than it takes to boil a kettle we see Circle Of Reason taking the track from rock/folk ballad to a heavier than thou riff session, as the track progresses I can’t help comparing to Stone Sour, if this is prog, I want more prog.
Themes Amongst Thieves brings an upbeat grind, and finally the singalongable vocal line. It’s a song that requires participation, my feet and head took it upon themselves to get involved before my heart was really prepared! There’s a breakdown at about 2.30mins which made me smile, I hadn’t listened to “Blind Melon” for years, but I would be shocked if someone in the band didn’t cite them as an influence.
Next up is Novel, a fine mixture of hard rock and grunge. There’s a great amount of space musically in this song, while driving forwards the band manage to retain an air of control and almost nonchalant levels of calmness. This can be said of the EP in general, they are taking control of their songs and doing them how they want, rather than conforming to industry patterns.
Sleep, the final track on ‘These Hands And This Mind’ shows the ability to command control and fits perfectly with the airy harmonies floating across the top. There’s a distinctly 60’s feel to ‘Sleep’, with a brilliant walking bassline that is subtle enough to blend yet distinct enough to shine through.
Overall, I found this a great EP with very few negatives, it's not a sound that everyone will connect with but that's a good thing in my book. I'm glad to hear music that is written from a love of music rather than to be sold as a commodity, 'These Hands And This Mind' is lucky enough to cover all bases - they've done something that sounds less generic than a lot of it's peers and should do well.