Encircled have been together as a 3-piece for around 18 months and Scott Evans related the following to me about how the band got together:-
“I had been writing but casually for a few years but decided to get serious and drafted in Gareth Evans whom I have been friends with since school days and also we were both in the Prog band Epilogue who had a CD out in 1994 entitled Hide. It was a happy accident that we then got Mark (Burrows) on board as we had known him as a gig goer the same as us for a few years, I just happened to mention the project and he said he could sing, and that’s how it started!”
Their self-confessed influences are Genesis, Marillion, Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree, but they also have a great love for Crowded House, The Smiths and lots of ’80s Indie/New Wave. I can easily hear the Marillion and Floyd, the Genesis is there but more subtle. As for Porcupine Tree, I am not really au fait with them only owning one album – maybe I should try harder?! The vocals here are great, Mark does a grand job, although I would say that the intonation and phrasing are more ’80s Electronica than Prog, Depeche Mode springing to mind most.
I like it, the music is rich, characterful and, yes, owes much to Marillion (more Fish than h). There is a deep melancholia to the vocal and lyrics which perhaps lack the anger and drive of Fish. (“Give the man a chance Tony!”). Marillion, despite their dark corners, always seemed to create light within their music and perhaps – merely a suggestion – it is the absence of drums that slightly diminishes the music of Encircled. It needs a little lift.
Rise/Fall is about bad luck and always making the wrong decisions – something I can say I have related to at times. This very much has that early Marillion feel. That the band have chosen to write about subjects close to everyday life makes this work both interesting and challenging. Challenging? Yes, I think so, there are some lines that just make you face some of your own demons.
This Abyss is about office politics and how bitter you can become about it. I have always tried not to play this game, but unfortunately there are egos out there whose place in society would probably be better in an institution than an office. As I said, truisms that make you face your demons. Very dark, but with the consolation of knowing that you are not alone. Musically again it is quite dark, matching the sense of despair of the person on the receiving end of the bullying. Heavily reliant on Marillion influences with hints of Genesis, perhaps this is the Porcupine Tree element that I miss.
Bruise deals with the subject of domestic violence, what people are prepared to put up with and how they return to domestic “harmony” until the next time. Written from the perspective of a personal observation I can understand the difficulty in seeing people live in a situation that should be unacceptable. Brave lyrics and that intonation and delivery really make you feel the darkness of a sad situation. I can hear undertones of Pink Floyd here, those elements of helplessness when you feel completely un-empowered, and yet not the disturbed despair of, say, The Final Cut.
It is unusual for an artist to address those things that affect everyday lives, the dark corridors we travel down at times, and how we try to deal with them. The lyrics are very personal but they have a broader audience and it takes courage to speak out, to attempt to address those everyday worries and fears. Scott Evans has given insights into his character and the effect that circumstances have had on him, the tracks This Too Shall Pass and One For Sorrow both dealing with dementia, bipolar disorders and paranoia, and the denigrating effect these conditions have on the individuals and those around them.
The last song, the album’s title track, addresses the mass paranoia that has been affecting society since 9/11 and 7/7, of our heightened fears and perhaps a little understanding of the media’s dialogue of fear. A dark album, but as Scott has said, ending on a message of hope:-
“Don’t give it up so easy
Hold on to what you want.”
Seek this album out, ultimately it is rewarding, musically sound and lyrically dark without being depressing. It is a personal album, and the reward is in its intimacy, a closeness to the artist rarely found. I recognise the influences, personally I wish for a little more of the Marillion “upbeatness” within the lyrical misery. Who else could tell you that the whole world is totally “fugazi” but still leave you feeling good? (okay, there are a few…)
Encircled have just finished writing their second album, to be entitled The Monkey Jamboree. Something in a simian vein? They say not, it will have a very different feel and vibe with writing from all the band members. On the strength of The Gun Has Replaced The Handshake I look forward to hearing it. Give them a shot.
[Thanks very much to Scott Evans for his insights into this album and the band.]
01. Rise/Fall (7:40)
02. The Abyss (9:23)
03. Bruise (4:14)
04. This Too Shall Pass (4:49)
05. One for Sorrow (10:36)
06. The Gun Has Replaced The Handshake (9:26)
Total time – 46:08
Scott Evans – Bass, Bass Pedals, Keyboards and Programming
Gareth Evans – Guitars
Mark ‘Busby’ Burrows – Vocals, Guitar
Country of Origin: U.K.
Year Of Release: 2014