Russian Circles

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

Enter (2006) , 7/10
Station (2008) , 6.5/10
Geneva (2009) , 6.5/10
Empros (2011), 6/10
Memorial (2013), 6/10
Guidance (2016), 5/10
Blood Year (2019) , 5/10

(Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)

Chicago's instrumental combo Russian Circles (Mike Sullivan on guitar, Colin DeKuiper on bass, Dave Turncrantz on drums) debuted with the rude post-rock suites of Enter (Flameshovel, 2006) as grandchildren of Blind Idiot God via Mogwai and Godspeed You Black Emperor. The most interesting part of the nine-minute Carpe is the beginning, when the clock-like ticking of the guitar is transferred to the drums, laying the rhythmic foundation for the loud jamming that follows. The frantic noise and convpluted dynamics of Death Rides A Horse are more interesting than the heavy riffs of the eight-minute Micah. This is music that requires extreme tension to justify its labyrinthine structure, and the band finally delivers it in the angst-filled Enter. The eight-minute You Already Did does even better, packing raga-like hypnosis and a theatrical sense of tragedy into a fluid construct with the eloquence of a Shakespearian monologu, albeit with a happy ending. New Macabre closes the album with an apotheosis of the calm/visceral dynamics.

Station (2008), featuring new bassist Brian Cook, was more elegant but generally less brutal. The band still displays a preference for opening the album with a relatively uneventful piece, Campaign, their most "new-agey" composition yet. Harper Lewis begins to increase the level of tension, although it is still mostly idle doodling. Then the eight-minute Station delivers the goods, thanks to a powerful progression peaking in a Metallica-like orgasm, and the eight-minute Verses slowly builds up to solemn hymn-like intensity and to feverish strumming. Despite the cascading metal riffs of Youngblood, this is a more pensive and introverted work.

They further tempered their mood on the sophisticated Geneva (Suicide Squeeze, 2009). This time the album opens with a loud and dense piece, Fathom, almost a wall of sound, followed by the panzer riffs of Geneva. They are at their best in Melee, that slowly surges to become a massive raga-like cyclone. The longest and most ambitious pieces are at the end. Surprisingly, When The Mountain Comes To Muhammad intones a mystical melody during an ecstatic apotheosis. This segues into the neoclassical quiet of Philos that soon morphs into an even more emphatic crescendo only to decay rapidly into cryptic noise. The rhythm section of bassist Brian Cook and drummer Dave Turncrantz has become one of the most effective of post-metal.

Empros (2011) feels more straightforward and therefore less ambitious, and even includes their first vocal piece, the gospel-ish (Praise Be Man). Schipol and the rousing Mladek get the job done with the usual diligence, and bassist Brian Cook and drummer Dave Turncrantz shine as usual, but something is missing.

The slightly heavier Memorial (2013) displays again excellent playing but lacks memorable compositions, except maybe Deficit. Guidance (2016), produced by Kurt Ballou, retains the excellent playing but also lacks emotion: the compositions feel frigid, soulless and often unnecessarily brainy. Calla cannot redeem the rest. Blood Year (Sargent House, 2019) indulges in their trademark prog-metal with a lot of competence but little enthusiasm. Pieces like Sinaia sound like erudite summaries of their career.

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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