10 years of Russian Circles (12 counting EPs). TEN YEARS! This alone is a laudable achievement. The fact that the trio has continued to stay relevant while making minor adjustments to its sound is icing on the cake.
A slightly longer-than-usual time has passed between albums, as Memorial was released in 2013. The vocal experiment over, the band returns to its melodic post-metal sound, although the opener ~ serving the same function as “Memorium” ~ is an ambient post-rock teaser. Just don’t get too relaxed. Riffs will arrive like summer storms, loud and swift. As “Aves” topples into “Vorel”, one can hear the static electricity, the drum rolls, the sense of impending doom. A cavernous bass drum takes over the sound field, continuing to hold back. Then with a whoosh, the guitars spew out the album’s first massive melody. From this point, there’s no turning back. The headbanging riffs arrive mid-piece. One hopes the guitarists have hair to swing around, because this is stadium-level sound. And yes, Virginia, they are touring.
Disregarding any idea of tracks as separate entities, the band allows the opening notes of “Mota” to inhabit the final few seconds of “Vorel”, while the opening notes of “Afrika” infringe on the final few seconds of “Vorel”. The album tops out a second shy of 41 minutes, so it’s not difficult to regard it as one long four-piece track, followed by three shorter tracks. “Afrika” does provide space for water and breath, reminding listeners once again of the band’s post-rock roots. Even in the last three minutes, when the guitars grow as large as behemoths, the tempo remains measured and slow. And if the drummer doesn’t quite get the memo, all the better.
“Overboard” is the final rest stop on this highway, as “Calla” (sounding more like the band than the lily) comes out strong and stays muscular all the way through. As the album’s most metal-influenced piece, “Calla” will be the go-to track for hard music fans. The finale is especially uncompromising. Album closer “Lisboa” then combines both ~ like “Calla” driving into the back end of “Overboard”, with steel from its truck slicing through the aluminum of the forward car. To proclaim that Russian Circles is back would be improper. The band simply continues to plow forward. (Richard Allen)