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Killer CDs: Leaf - Circle of Ways 
By Mark Hensch

Someone should clarify something for me. Either Eddie Vedder (of Pearl Jam fame) has been kidnapped and forced to play as indy rock outfit Leaf's frontman, or good old Eddie has a intelligent and potentially radio friendly experimental metal band.

Upon hearing these guys (Leaf), it becomes apparent that they have a lot going for them. Besides the fact their lead singer sounds like one of the most popular and revered frontmen of the entire 1990's (and daresay beyond) to an exact match, the band itself plays catchy, emotional, and interesting progressive metal that is either light and airy or crushingly tight and heavy. 

Opening track "Impressions" is really uncharacteristic of the band's sound; it is a quiet instrumental piece that uses swirling effects and tribal drum beats. It's cool, but people hearing it for the first time will like what's coming next a whole lot better. 

"Breakable" rolls in perfectly after that intro with a quiet guitar part, before breaking out in some nice, solid, and meaty guitar riffs. I've never been too much of a Vedder fan, but the Leaf frontman's voice is refreshingly soothing for a metal leaning act, and it sounds urgent and powerful. 

Title track "Circle of Ways" starts with some grungy and quiet guitar parts before going ape with some start-stop riffing that is again processed, seamless, and sonically perfect. 

"Swimming" showcases the screaming talents of their vocalists, more ambient to grungy metal riffs, and sounds like an unholy matrimony of angry Pearl Jam and older Incubus. 

"81" a really sweet intro that is swirling and epic in texture; it sets the mood for what becomes one of the strongest tracks on this CD. 

"Floatin" comes in with empty soundscapes and echoing, lonely instrumentation. A subtle guitar piece that is one of the album's coolest is defeated only by the awesome solo in the previous song. This is another great song despite the fact it's instrumental. 

"Burned Eyes" is another good, strong, progressive guitar laden song. 

"Changin" is yet another highlight with it's great vocals and top-notch riffing.

"Not Enough" is at first a quieter song that later gains some of the band's typical ambient heavyness. 

"Stolen Childhood" is a heart-on-the-sleave ballad that again later showcases some excellent guitar riffs. 

"Thank You" swirls in with some goofy effects and then breaks out in a catchy melody. 

"Inside Me" sounds a lot like oldschool Incubus at first, and closing track "Temple of Love" is a creepy little ambient metal song that has some catchy female vocals dueling with the Vedderish frontman's own vocals and tight riffing alternated with some ambient soundscapes.

This is an interesting CD. Picture the best elements of nu-metal, prog, ambience, industrial, and the voice of Eddie Vedder combined, and you might be closer to understanding the nirvana of Leaf. It makes for compelling music, and more importantly, interesting music. There are some excellent screams on this album too, which hints at a screamo, metal, or maybe even hardcore influence for one of the band members. All in all, this CD was a lot of fun and I would highly recommend it.


CD Info 

Leaf - Circle of Ways
Label: Locomotive Music
Rating
 
Tracks:
1. Impressions
2. Breakable
3. Circle of Ways
4. Swimming
5. 81
6. Floatin
7. Burned Eyes
8. Changin
9. Not Enough
10. Stolen Childhood
11. Inside Me
12. Thank You
13. Temple of Love
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