Burn The Circus!
Review by TheOneNeverSeen on October 13, 2023.
Tardigrade Inferno have been the leaders of Russian metal and avant-garde/weird metal scene for me for a long time. Never have I come across a band playing in a style similar to theirs conveying an atmosphere of joyful madness with powerful riffs, deadly synths and Darya’s astonishing vocals. Their new album Burn the Circus! marks a significant change to their songwriting, yet still delivers epic and atmospheric melodies. Just like their debut full-length Mastermind, their sophomore one possesses an impeccable cover featuring the band’s perpetual mascot, the, well, tardigrade in a clown’s suit simultaneously holding 6 burning appliances with a circus wall devoured by fire in the background. What can possibly be more fire (pun intended) than that? Just like the cover of Mastermind composed of various seemingly random elements such as a whiskey glass and a syringe-headed clown surrounding the tardigrade and referencing the covers of the album’s singles, the cover of Burn the Circus! makes use of the diverse details around the tardigrade (this time the aforementioned burning appliances). I don’t normally pay that much attention in my reviews to cover artworks, but this one stood out to me a lot. The band’s decision to explore the theme of circus is not surprising considering its previous music often possessed the atmosphere of an uncanny circus performance, most notably songs like 'All Tardigrades Go to Hell' and 'I'm Coming for Your Soul'. So, just by looking at the striking cover, you are expecting a distinctive and immersive sound.
And the band certainly doesn’t disappoint you, for from the very first seconds of 'Ringmaster Has to Die' you are stricken with a ferocious riff combined with mysterious synths which are soon joined by filthy bass and Darya’s creepy distorted vocals. The song creates the aforementioned feeling you are watching a weird circus performance perfectly. The track is also a great one for getting acquainted with the band’s new songwriting style, for its structure is rather unpredictable despite the song still being very catchy, guaranteed to cause one relistening to it to sing "I JUST CAME AND SAW THIS SCENE - HE WAS DRINKING GASOLINE" along with Darya. The atmosphere of madness persists throughout the song, mostly thanks to the masterfully employed synths. Besides the great chorus there is an atmospheric passage at 2:06, a sick solo and... a blast beat?! by the end. So, the definition of a brilliant Tardigrade Inferno song.
All the following tracks are executed in a similarly terrific way. Memories of the immensely catchy 'Clockwork God' and 'Cholera', the anxious 'Tick-Tock' with 'Clown Therapy'-level energy, the nasty riff and bass melody of '9 out of 10' are guaranteed to grow inside the listener like the parasite in the lyrics of 'Lovely Host'. The sinister melody of 'Splinter in the Eye' and the 'The Worst of Me'-like insidiousness of 'Nailed to the Ferris Wheel' will definitely be enjoyable for any fan. As a whole, the album’s apocalyptic storm never fails to impress the listener with its unexpected turns of events, employing powerful synth passages with differing sound and Darya’s contemptuous, terrified, insane and mesmerizing vocals to enhance this effect. The ballad 'Little Princess' featuring acoustic guitar, for instance, is the second most prominent example of the band using an instrument I would never expect them to use (the most prominent one being the accordion on 'The Worst of Me'). The title track’s nearly musical theatre-like intensification eventually resulting in an epic solo also came out of the blue, to say the least. However, the peak of mastery in my opinion is reached on the chill-inducing 'Wearing White'. When I listened to this song for the first time, I couldn’t believe the band has managed to surprise me THAT MUCH. I mean, 'Church Asylum' was quite spooky, 'How Nightmares Die' was highly atmospheric and 'All Pigs Are the Same' was definitely gorey, but I can’t recall any song that would contain as much fear and tension combined with catchy verses and chorus as 'Wearing White'. I was very glad to discover this gem that stands out even by the album’s standards, for it proves Tardigrade Inferno are still capable of stunning me as they did one day with 'A Grain of Sand'.
As in my Mastermind review, I would like to spend some time discussing the album’s lyrics. Tardigrade Inferno have always been brilliant at writing uncanny stories for their songs, but this album takes that element of the band’s music to a new level. There are some tracks with older style and relatively sane lyrics like 'Rats' ("The world-famous rat detective/Has already took the case/Photos taken, dots connected/He is pretty sure it was rats!") and 'Little Princess' ("Little princess in the forest/Has a meathook for an arm/And her tears smell of poison/If she ever comes to harm"), but for the most part the album is relentless with the cruelty and captivating feeling of its lyrics. I appreciated the humor of lines like "Then he put himself on fire/Right before it, he was fired" and "Now you’ve got four minutes thirty seconds less" by the end of 'Tick-Tock', the lyrical theme of which is overworking and obsession with productivity a lot. The themes of 'Clockwork God' and 'Cholera' were explored already on 'Mastermind' and 'Clown Therapy', respectively, but the lyrics of the former are much darker and more complex. The aforepraised masterpiece 'Wearing White' is a masterpiece in terms of the lyrics, too. I mean, the lines "I smell your fear, and I feel tremors in your knees/And I can say in Latin the name of your disease" are absolutely mind-blowing. 'Splinter in the Eye' and 'Nailed to the Ferris Wheel' have surprised me with their level of brutality and emotionality I never beheld in the band’s lyrics before (especially the lines "Tell them “baby don’t you cry”/Pat them on the shoulder/Put the splinter in the eye/And fuck with the beholder" and "To hell with your opinions/It is the work of genius/A monument to a failed life/Is not for your convenience").
In conclusion, Burn the Circus! is yet another masterwork by Tardigrade Inferno and an ideal album for this miserable burning autumn. Catchy, murderous, surprising in many instances, distinctive even within the band’s discography and simply brilliantly executed. A "9.5 Out of 10" for sure (since nothing beats Mastermind, although this album came very close). Put your clown makeup on and take a trip through its engrossing insanity.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10517