Circles ($3 Special)

"A Chinese Firedrill is a project assembled and put together by bass player Joey Vera. He has written all the tunes, and play most instruments, with just drums and "DJ scratching" handled by others. Which makes this album more of a solo release than a band project as such. Previous to this release Vera was best known as a band member, with his involvement in Armored Saint, Fates Warning and OSI arguably being the most high profiled. The album “Circles” was issued by Bridge Records in 2006, and re-released in 2007 by ProgRock Records when Joey Vera signed for them.

Musically this release will be seen as an odd one by many listeners. Vera's background from metal bands shines through in the guitarwork on many tracks, while his involvement with bands like Chroma Key and OSI are easily detected by the use of synths, as well as ambient and industrial sounding elements in the musical tapestry. But the most striking feature of “Circles” is variation, as all songs explore more or less different musical styles.

“Circles” moves between hard rock and heavy metal in style, with some nice synth work throughout, "Automatic Fantasy" explores a more folk-rock influenced musical landscape, spiced with at times extensive synths and a hard rock influenced chorus. The more or less aptly named tune "Insane" mixes mellow psychedelic influenced moods with a grandiose prog metal chorus, fusing both styles at the end, whereas "Siúcra" is more of a symphonic rock and neo-prog musical journey. "Never Say Never" is a trip into prog metal territories with space rock elements included, and the following track "Grass and Stone (Ethereal)" is more of a haunting metal ballad with symphonic and psychedelic tendencies. "Rock, Paper, Scissors" is the final track, mixing electronic and ambient sounds with hard rock and metal in a song with numerous changes in style, pace and sound.

Vera is a talented performer and producer, and “Circles” proves that he's a very talented songwriter too. All tunes are coherent, even when exploring multitudes of styles. The songs move effortless between the different styles explored, and each individual song as well as the album as a whole has a distinct, individual sound. Overall this comes across as a very strong release - but perhaps with a slightly limited appeal.

Personally I'd recommend this album to people into OSI in general, and fans of their second release Free in particular, but fans of slightly experimental progressive rock and metal might also find this album intriguing." - Olav Björnsen/USAProgressiveMusic.com

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The album’s concept is thus drawn into the music and it creates a quite captivating effect. The sudden and disturbing emanation of pop shite from one of my housemates’s bedrooms drew me from my trance and alerted me to how involving the material is.Despite the repetitive and seemingly improvised nature of the music, its technicality is another boon. As the songs progress and layer, the guitars and drums can become quite intense despite the over-arching serenity (I’m aware this sounds like a contradiction but it’s a testament to the subtle song-writing). The nifty transition at 2:30 of “Akasha” foregrounds a sound very similar to mid-era Anathema, and the transition at 4:00 demonstrates the talent of the bassist and drummer, leading into an appropriately-climatic harmony. This is just one song, but jazzy drum fills and strong bass work permeate the entirety of the release. 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