Disengage 
Artist:Circle of Dust  
Label: Flying Tart Records/Polygram, 1998 
Time: 16 tracks 63:45 

It is an extreme understatement to say that this is a long-awaited album. After releasing their self-titled record way back in 1992, Circle of Dust has been almost non-existent.  Sure, the genius behind Circle of Dust, Scott Albert, may have been a part of a number of other projects in one way or another (Brainchild, Argyle Park, Klank).  And true, the original Circle album was redone in 1995 with a few new songs, but on the whole, it would seem as if Circle of Dust was left in the dust for five years. Until now. 
  
The irony behind all of this is that the new album, Disengage, is the last album that will be released as Circle of Dust.  Over the last few years, there have been hints that Scott Albert has been going through a personal metamorphosis of sorts, and this album is indeed indicative and reflective of that.  For one, he has changed his name to "Klay Scott." Within the liner notes of this album, these words are plastered on an image of a face: "The person I was, for a lack of a better description, is dead."  It goes on further to state, "I disbanded Circle of Dust in 1995 for more reasons than I'd care to discuss."  No doubt the album title Disengage was an appropriate selection. 
  
So, how does this record stack up to the previous Circle of Dust records, with its dark overtones,  machine-gun guitar riffs, and drum patterns?  This one's better by a mile.  Scott is a bit more experimental on Disengage, opting to use more darkwave sounds and electronica beats, and dropping the level of voice distortion by a notch on many tracks.  It is also slightly less metallic in its delivery, as a whole.  The songs appear to be more complex, layered with different sounds ala Front Line Assembly.  Tracks like "Mesmerized" are sad ballads, not unlike the more fragile moments from Nine Inch Nails.  In these 16 songs, Scott has demonstrated his ability to create introspective aural soundscapes without losing any of the intensity in the songs. There are purely instrumental tracks on this album, such as "Thulcanora" and the beautifully ethereal "Perelandra" (think Engrave), as well as heavily distorted numbers like "You are Fragile." 

Disengage also comes across as lyrically mysterious.   In the opening track, "Waste of Time," the listener may be left wondering to whom the song is directed: 

    Visions of another day -- are far from the sublime 
    Nothing left for me to say -- it's just a waste of time 
    I listen to your words replay -- forever in my mind 
    Shut your mouth and go away -- it's just a waste of time
Take "Blindeye" as another example: 
    Unblemished traces of blind conceit 
    Assume your places in the scoffer's seat 

    Consuming hatred you hide behind 
    Contaminate the simple mind

The album is sliced into two parts--"Disengage" and "Refractorchasm"--each section with eight tracks apiece.   "Refractorchasm" contains remixes of songs found in the first half of this album, plus some new ones.  What's interesting is that the guitars are less abundant, often even dropped, in this second section.  Electronica takes center stage.  Think Prodigy with a gothic twist--some sweet stuff. For those who like electronica, you will enjoy songs like "Leveler 2" immensely.  The sampling here is top-notch.  This may perhaps be a hint to the sound of Scott's future/current projects, like Angeldust (a music/theatre/illusion show done with partner Criss).  
  
While it is a shame that this is the end of the entity that legitimized Christian industrial music, Klay Scott has given fans a lovely last show before dropping the final curtain on Circle of Dust. 
  
By Jeremy Choi 

            

   

Klay Scott, or whatever he decides to call himself this week, gives what may be his farewell performance as Circle of Dust in Disengage.  I have to say that while I like this, I don't think it is as good as Brainchild. 

The music itself is as gripping and technically excellent as before, but most of those lovely samples that really made things shine and gave that poignant flavor to the music are not evident here.  I was really looking forward to hear what audio clips Klay would use this time. Without the samples to support the music a la Brainchild, the success or failure of Disengage rests solely on Klay's considerable skill as a musician. It has a heavier edge and sound than earlier releases, but without the samples, it just doesn't have that take-your-breath-away fascination. Even on a bad day, though, Circle of Dust is better than most of the stuff out there in the Christian or secular markets. 

Lyrically and musically, three themes are revisited constantly throughout the album -- "Refractor," "Chasm," and "You are Fragile."  This gives the entire project a unity and flow that I have come to associate with Klay and Circle of Dust's music.  The three themes blend together to give us a view into Klay's soul.  We can hear his cries of pain as he desperately searches for God through the struggles he has faced.  The imagery is very strong here, but I'll leave it up to the listener to decide whether or not Klay succeeded. 

As usual, Klay's production is flawless.  If he has to give up doing Circle of Dust, I hope he will continue to produce.  His production capabilities and his musical talent have improved both Klank and Living Sacrifice.  If he does continue to produce, we can be hopeful for the future of heavy Christian music.  I will enjoy Disengage, but I find myself listening to Brainchild more.  For someone's first taste of Circle of Dust, this will be a big hit, but for those of us who are already big Circle of Dust fans, this seems like a sad way to say goodbye to a "band" we have come to love. 

By Mark Aylor