With the mouthful title alone resembling a biblical extract from the prophecy of Yves Tumor, the project takes us through their religious journey “hot between worlds”, flitting between the murky depths of the underground and the hallowed sky highs, with romantic notions of heaven and hell lying in both.
‘God is a Circle’ kicks this pilgrimage off, opening with a blood-curdling scream fresh out of a horror movie and laden with starving, repeated breaths which cloak Yves’ frantic vocals as they navigate a mental labyrinth of paranoia and anxiety, with their primary confession: “Sometimes, it feels like there’s places in my mind that I can’t go”.
A track as with psychedelia bordering on psychosis is hard to visualise, but in collaboration with Director Jordan Hemingway, Yves executes their vision impeccably in the paired, dystopian music videos for the lead singles, giving the listeners a cinematic glimpse of the chaotic mania we’re hearing.
The ‘Heaven Surrounds Us Like A Hood’ video rises flawlessly to the same challenge. The punchy song, divided by a powerful strumming interval, explores the ‘inner child’ of Yves Tumour, as they exercise their falsetto over hard-hitting drums and electric guitar thrashes.
Similar to the album’s register of allusive titles, lyrically no explanations or conclusions are ever made. Instead, the project showcases a series of fleeting observations on the meaning of life and existence. The lack of cohesion only adds to the singer’s clear strive to unsettle.
This frenzy can also be heard on the call-to-God ‘Operator’, where, in the midst of the madness, the singer seeks guidance, “Are you my lord and saviour? I need a reason to believe”, closed off with a cheer of “Be aggressive”, as though the demonic thoughts begin to take over and win.
‘Lovely Sewer’ is an opportunity to really bask in this tortured, satanic imagery as the track romantically paints the once-grim sewer as the “tragedy free” zone, away from the despair of the ground above. Adorned with stunning, flowing vocals from Diana Gordon, the track’s lush orchestration offers a moment of release from the tense and rushing hysteria of the rest of the album.
The high of this cut is instantly squashed by the subsequent ‘Meteora Blues’, which leans too heavily on monotony, both vocally and in production, to provide much replay value. With its influences clearly paved by classic ‘90s alt-rock, the dull, sluggish ode to the genre falls short on this song, and equally on later track ‘In Spite of Fire’. On the other hand, ‘Fear Evil Like Fire’, sees the singer righteously opting for their fuller vocal range to contemplate life once again, with a catchy hook declaring, “Heaven is a place that we all have / Watch the city vibrate”.
That isn’t to say that Yves’ vocal monotony isn’t effective elsewhere. On ‘Echolia’, Yves polishes a sample of Neon’s ‘80s grunge track ‘Lobotomy’ to a groovy, indie banger which feels as though it’s been plucked straight off the soundtrack of your favourite film. The singer circles back to their religious imagery, opening the track with “Looked up to God / She looked so good” broken up by pulsing “uh’s” and “mm’s”.
Despite the singer’s Italian-American roots, the spirit of Brit Pop is deeply-embedded in this LP, following in the footsteps of heavier cuts from the likes of Blur and Radiohead. Stepping away from the more experimental, genre-blending ventures in his previous catalogue of work, the project predominantly employs rock’s principle instrumentals of strong guitar riffs and battering drums to create a sonically cohesive whole.
The cutting, ego-death anthem ‘Parody’ serves as a highlight in this respect, relishing in the purity of being a rock ballad. You can already hear the “What makes you feel so important? Can you spell it out for us?” line being belted back by a festival crowd as the ascending drama of the flashy electric guitars heightens the intensity of the questioning.
The only track that strays significantly from these rock roots is the penultimate, instrumental track ‘Purified by the Fire’, which resembles an unreleased MF Doom or Kanye West beat. The hip hop-infused cut, along with the majority of the album, was co-produced by Noah Goldstein who flexes a collaborative history with Rosalía, Frank Ocean and Bon Iver, to name a few. With the remarkable switch-ups and progression, I find it hard to believe anyone could listen to this track without catching themselves naturally pulling a stank face.
The phenomenal closer ‘Ebony Eve’ follows, embellished with euphoric strings which already feel timeless, cutting through the track’s grungier drum and guitar layers. This cut serves as a sonic decision day, signing off the existential mania that colours the rest of the album, as Yves stands in front of the “pearly gates”, with no conclusions drawn on where they might be and what lies behind them.