Artist: Russian Circles
Label: Sargent House
Release date: October 29th, 2013
I was in Hamilton the first time I heard Russian Circles, and it’s a memory that’s never dulled. I was on tour and we rolled into the Underground to set up for our show. Tired, hung over and a little stoned I laid down on a bench, eyes closed, while the bar staff got ready for the evening. I came to just as the most amazing music was playing. It was heavy, melodic, drenched in reverb and sprawling guitars, just technical enough to be interesting and not lame, and the drums were fucking unreal. As I sat up and looked around to my band mates we all had the same stunned look our faces – “What the HELL is this music?”
This was in 2008, and it was Russian Circle’s debut album.
I’ve kept tabs on the band ever since as they rose from complete obscurity to the kings of whatever the hell kind of music it is that they play. When their third album Empros was released I felt it was a pinnacle not only for the band, but also for all music that year. With their new effort Memorial the band have not treaded any new ground really, but why should they? My favorite part about a band like this is seeing how they work within the confines they’ve put upon themselves. Russian Circles are an instrumental three-piece. It’s not quite metal, it’s not quite post-rock, and within that extremely limiting environment they manage to write incredibly interesting and beautiful music each time around.
Memorial opens with a soft intro but doesn’t take long to come out swinging. They seem to let parts develop a lot more on this record, with Cheyenne having a crunchy, doom-y bass layered under a really nice acoustic guitar that plays on for a while but doesn’t climax into a heavy mess like you would expect. I guess if they’ve developed any parts of their playing it would be their patience, which results in bigger payoffs for the listener.
By the time Burial kicks in, you know you’re in for some dark and muddy goodness. Maybe not the heaviest song on the record but definitely the darkest, the guitars are reminiscent of early Cannibal Corpse while the drums and bass keep it slow and sludgy, so it comes out sounding like a more sprawling Melvins.
On Ethel we get a taste of Dave Turncrantz’ awesome kick drum foot, and it’s reminiscent of the wicked pattern he plays on 309 from Empros, with some doubles thrown in at perfect times. I’m not even that impressed by some of his more extravagant drum rolls and fills, I’ve always been a fan of the parts where he locks it down for a long time with something most drummers could never think of. There’s less of that on this album, which would be my only criticism.
The fact that anyone can make music like this with only three people is incredible, and while Memorial doesn’t make me feel like quitting music the way Empros did, as a fan you just can’t really help but get excited when there’s new Russian Circles tracks. There’s no point in really ranking their albums against each other because they’re all just going to end up being shuffled all together in a playlist on my phone anyway. Staring at people on the bus just got a whole lot gloomier.
- Josh "Pinky" Pothier