Circle of Dust is an artist that most people haven’t heard of, but you’ve definitely heard their influence. In certain circles this band is legendary — an industrial metal pioneer with a massive sound and far-reaching imprint.
While the group had touring members in its heyday (including “Klank”, who went on to become a great frontman in his own projects), the man behind the music was Scott Albert. These days he has settled on “Klayton” as his central identity, but over the years he established a presence that was difficult to measure, particularly in pre-Internet times. Similar to hip-hop’s MF Doom, he has worked under various pseudonyms, sometimes even appearing under multiple names on the same project — among them Brainchild, Klay Scott, Dread, Deathwish, Celldweller, and Scandroid, not to mention numerous side projects, collaborations, and producer efforts with Argyle Park, Chatterbox, Criss Angel, and Klank, among others.
In 1998, frustrated by years of bad record deals, financial strain, and the sensation of constantly getting screwed and going nowhere in a cesspool music industry, Klayton put out a final album (and sonic masterpiece) as Circle of Dust, Disengage, and then dissolved the project.
Working for himself and focusing on his new project Celldweller, Klayton achieved success as an artist, producer, and businessman — he launched his own record and merch label, which has become one of the most respected brands in electronic and industrial music, and with the onset of the “post-album” age and music industry downturn, managed to find a new niche, complementing traditional distribution with major licensing and commercial music efforts, providing music for films, trailers, and video games.
Two decades after Disengage, Klayton had acquired the rights to all his old albums and finally found success as an artist — and decided to bring things full circle, resurrecting Circle of Dust with deluxe remastered re-releases of the entire classic catalogue, and even a new record.
Full Circle is his way of telling the whole story, as Klayton combs through his archives and narrates three decades of music history.
Along for the ride are many guest interviewees from the band’s history — including bandmates, fellow artists, and even the record label execs who are part of the fabric of the tale. The interviews vary in production quality (many are simply Skype videos), but the story is a fascinating one.
While many voices lend themselves to this tale, this is still a first-party documentary created by the artist, so we’re definitely getting his specific perspective on the story. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — I want to hear that story — but there’s some stuff that doesn’t really get touched on, most notably any commentary on how Circle of Dust was (inadvertently?) linked to the Christian music industry by their association with REX Records, and the huge negative and positive impacts this had on both the band and their audience. It’s a big part of the band’s story (if also a sore point), and a more objective approach should’ve covered this.
As a huge and longtime Circle of Dust fan it’s difficult for me to gauge how much appeal this would hold for someone who isn’t, but it’s definitely a fascinating story that would be of relevance to anyone who has an interest in music industry tales, or of heavy metal and electronic music — and the intersection thereof. If you enjoy hard music in general and are not a fan, this film will probably make you one.
For the fans, this is an absolute must-own release, and the bonus-packed DVD edition is a career-spanning collection of material that pretty much serves as the band’s definitive video representation.
The DVD package is a handsome region-free 2-disc set with the documentary and ample bonus features, as well as a 12-page booklet with photos and discography.
The notable bummer here is that this is on DVD and not Blu-ray, though I can understand the thought process behind that decision — between vintage footage and webcam recordings, a lot of the video is of lower quality sources to begin with. The good news is that if you purchase the DVD from the FiXT Store, you’ll get an HD digital copy as well.
Special Features and Extras — Disc 1
A pair of mini-docs or extra segments that follow a similar format to the film on a couple of tangential subjects:
- “Argyle Park: Misguided” (11:58)
One of the Klayton’s coolest side projects, Argyle Park boasted a ton of guest artists and eventually became a highly sought-after record in fan circles (fun story — I paid a king’s ransom for a copy on eBay, then soon after found one locally at a used record shop for $7). This discussion doesn’t really fit into the documentary, so I’m glad it was still included as a side narrative.
- “Making The Music: The Gear & Production of Circle of Dust” (32:47)
Klayton is joined by BlueStahli on a tour of his studio; intriguingly the focus is on his creative and technical processes with the older gear used on the classic records — samplers, synthesizer soundbanks, ADAT recorders, a comically tiny Macintosh Classic, and hundreds of DATs and floppy disks. This one’s fascinating for hardcore fans and gearheads; casual viewers will probably tune out.
Special Features and Extras — Disc 2
Disc 2 Content is DVD-exclusive material not included in the VOD edition of the film.
- Circle of Dust Live: VHS Bootlegs (1:31:44)
Live recordings of 17 songs from various classic Circle shows. The audio quality on these fan-submitted bootlegs varies from very poor to surprisingly decent, but for anyone who’s never seen them live, these are probably the closest thing we’ll ever get. Standouts include well-shot multi-angle videos of “Dissolved” and “Rational Lies”, and an acoustic performance of “Consequence”.
- Music Videos
Classic videos of “Deviate” (3:58) and “Telltale Crime” (4:21), as well as the new ones from the Rebirth era: “Machines of our Disgrace” (5:25), “alt_human” (5:00), and “Contagion” (5:24)
It’s worth noting that while all the Rebirth era music and lyric videos are available on Circle of Dust’s YouTube channel, the classic ones are not. It’s not like they really got any distribution back in the day, so even longtime fans may be seeing these for the first time.
- Lyric Videos
“Dust to Dust” (5:49), “Embracing Entropy” (6:52), “Hive Mind” (5:56), “Humanarchy” (4:59), “Neurachem” (4:43), “Outside In” (6:10)
Get it at FiXT:
Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.