Punk metal fusions have been occurring for as long as the two genres have been able to stay in the same room without a fight breaking out (and maybe even before that), but 9th Circle Symphony offers a unique take on the idea. The Indianapolis group lives up to their name as the prominent keyboards and occasional blasts of extremity suggest some symphonic black metal influence alongside their fast song lengths, grimy bass, metallic guitar, and raspy Johnny Rotten-style vocals. While the band may still have to fine tune their approach, they thankfully know how to integrate these elements without feeling too gimmicky.
Instead, 9th Circle Symphony’s gimmick rests in their cheeky Mad Max by way of GWAR stage getup and lyrical concept. The post-apocalypse is almost mainstream subject matter these days thanks to things like Fallout, and this album offers plenty of fun tales revolving around nuclear warfare, fighting mutants, and hunting for resources in desolate wastelands. The short song lengths and catchy writing keeps the themes from getting old.
The decision to bookend the album with revamped takes on “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “House of the Rising Sun” may be a bit divisive though. It comes close to feeling clichéd, but I find it actually fits in a way. These recordings don’t beat you over the head with their meaning, and the appropriation of what would be lost classics does make sense with the theme at hand.
The band’s main challenge may be getting their musicianship and production style to truly match their vision. The musicians are all balanced in the mix and every instrument is able to be heard, but there are moments where the timing on certain rhythms is a little rocky and the production in general could stand to have some more oomph to it. I feel like a more polished production could potentially suit them well though I would also hate for them to lose their punk edge in the process.
Overall, 9th Circle Symphony’s debut album has some pretty unique ideas that are enjoyable, and are sure to be even better once the band gets some more prowess under their belt. The song barrages are pretty fun and the themes more or less achieve what they’re going for, but there seems to be a greater purpose that may need some extra energy to be fully realized. In the meantime, metal punks and horror fans are advised to check this out.
“Greetings from the Wasteland”
“To Conquer the Divine”
“Destroy All Mutants”