Initiate have been around long enough (since around 2016 if you wanted to know) to understand how hard it is to gain any sort of traction in heavy music. Promising projects over the years (2020’s Lavender hit hard) have led to this moment, an LP that sees the California hardcore band cash in all that goodwill built with a growing fanbase and a ton of heart. It’s the perfect complement to Jesus Piece’s stellar new album which was released the same day.
If you heard Lavender or other early work, you may be a tad surprised to see the band take a more melodic, ever so softer approach to their hardcore; it’s not a full-on Turnstile pivot, though I have nothing against that. Crystal Pak’s vocals are just as impactful as ever, given new life with cleaner production and mixing courtesy of Sam Yarmuth; guitars still beat massive ass with meaty riffs and great momentum from section to section, song to song; the bass especially stands tall, pounding out some supreme licks that tend to follow lockstep with the other guitars, but then takes lead with wonderful vigor and groove.
To get right to it, Cerebral Circus holds hands with other sensational and sensitive hardcore bands blowing shit up as of late. But this album is uniquely Initiate, carrying a Cali energy that’s resolute and fun in the same breath. Opener “Waste Your Life” is a prime example. The intro alone is wildly catchy, almost pop punkish in execution, but the hammer swings back as soon as Pak’s vocals kick in, enunciated and clear, but still packed with passion and power. This is especially true of the post-crescendo screech of “time’s up for you!”.
“Alone At The Bottom” is similarly styled but with quickened, thrashy drums and supreme melodies wailing from those sunny guitars - such a great tone to them. This is a song with awesome momentum, able to be looped with ease. Actually, that describes pretty much every track on Cerebral Circus.
If you want something different, there’s two tracks worth eyeing and earring - “The Surface” is a beautiful track with an even better video of the band playing shows, hanging out, recording, having fun, and truly enjoying each other’s company. If you ever wanted a hardcore song to soundtrack a summer road trip with pals, this is it. Its cleanly sung chorus is infectious and a great singalong moment surrounded by other great screamalong ones. And if that wasn’t enough sentimentality for you, “Transparency” is sure to top you off nicely. It’s a profoundly personal track laced with acoustic guitars and spoken word from Pak. By the time the screams return, you get the sense this whole endeavor’s been deeply fulfilling and soul-baring for the band, this particular track being transparency between them and the listener.
The album loops and, with the knowledge of your first listen, lets you experience the whole thing again with a more open heart and ear to catch things you may have missed the first time. It’s like how old video games made you play a second time through to get a “true” ending, but unlike that soulless tactic to artificially extend product lifespan, Cerebral Circus comes in at a cool 22 minutes and some change, practically bite-size compared to the second quest of The Legend of Zelda, right? The only criticism I have here for Initiate is one based on a pet peeve - an interlude track splits the album’s halves when it could have just been tacked onto the track that follows it (which is “Fire Starter”, another rock solid, appropriately named burner). This isn’t enough to hold against the album in any meaningful way, so I won’t. This is a great-ass LP.
Bottom line: it’s incredibly telling for a band’s future if they can hit on every major, meaningful level. Initiate are vulnerable, energetic, melodic, fierce, and so needed in today’s climate where finding ways and reasons to press on are imperative. Cerebral Circus shines like the California sun and illuminates even more than it beats ass. I dare you to not feel inspired to live after hearing it.
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This is a maybe a light 5.
^Bud Light 5
"California hardcore band " immediately dropped
Not a fan of the music but the chicks scream sounds pretty good
Is "beats ass" a thing people say? Seriously asking, I'm old…like, ima beat yo ass makes sense…but to mean "this shit rocks/rips/slays/slaps/f$$ks" I have not heard that before. Because I'm old
Didn't read. You suck at life.
A lambgoat review could have nothing but how much the writer came listening to a record and the score would be a 6. Stop reviewing shit if they're all fluff pieces.
"A lambgoat review could have nothing but how much the writer came listening to a record and the score would be a 6. Stop reviewing shit if they're all fluff pieces." It's all fluff pieces if you, like you obviously do, lack intelligence and reading comprehension buddy!
Last two reviews were a 9 and a 5 breh
No black band members. 7.