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Metal - Released August 2, 2019 | Sargent House

Russian Circles recorded their seventh studio album with producer/engineer Kurt Ballou (of Converge) at Chicago's Electrical Audio and God City studios, where many of their previous records were made. While the group has usually assembled their albums piece by piece, using click tracks to lay down individual parts, this time they decided to record much of the album as complete, full-band takes in order to capture the ferocity of their live shows. Russian Circles have long since mastered a balance of precision and spontaneity that has practically become their calling card, but Blood Year is still one of their most unmistakably raw releases. The walloping drum sounds have a particularly explosive slap to them, and the guitars have more of an abrasive churn than an atmospheric drift. With the exception of two brief, droning guitar pieces, the album's songs are direct and dramatic, forcefully navigating through different sections and building towards a resolution. "Milano" is one of the album's most epic-sounding compositions, building up to a frenzied blast-beat section and lumbering on before bursting back after a false ending. "Kohokia" opens with angsty, disassociated guitar notes and tremolo effects, and while it starts out almost unremittingly gloomy, it seems a bit more hopeful by the time it concludes. "Siniai" is the album's most complex piece, emerging from the soft, ethereal interlude "Ghost on High" and building up an angular, splashing rhythm, only to switch it up halfway through and knuckle down on the track's intensity. Equally focused and vicious, Blood Year is another triumph for Russian Circles. ~ Paul Simpson

Alternative & Indie - Released August 5, 2016 | Sargent House

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Arriving ten years after their 2006 debut Enter, Guidance is Chicago post-rock/metal trio Russian Circles' sixth full-length and third for Sargent House. As much as any of their previous works, this album proves the band masters at controlling dynamics, shifting from heavy, explosive sections to more delicate passages with grace and ease. While the group has previously utilized strings and vocals on very few occasions in the past (with Chelsea Wolfe guesting on the closing track to 2013's Memorial), this album sticks to their standard formation of guitars, bass, and drums. As on Memorial, the songs are generally shorter than on previous releases; nothing here reaches seven-minute mark. Russian Circles' songs tend to flow freely and avoid typical song structure, and they don't fall into predictable formulas of building up to an explosive crescendo. There's an undeniable spontaneity to them, but they sound carefully considered rather than fully improvised on the spot. Many of the selections on Guidance segue into each other, with the lovely atmospheric drift of "Asa" interrupted by faintly screeching feedback that turns into the overwhelming wallop that is "Vorel." Beginning with an anxious drum roll and quickly escalating to intense clobbering and angry storm clouds of guitars, the menacing, hulking song actually sounds quite frightening when played as loudly as possible. Seguing through chugging metal riffs and swarming feedback, the group pack several ideas into the song's five-minute duration without sounding scatter-brained or random; there's always purpose and conviction to their explorations. "Mota" follows, beginning with lightly picked arpeggios that lead into a more poignant melody, in contrast to the aggression of the previous number. Crashing, panoramic drums and bulky bass guitar lines drive the atmospheric guitars which continuously elevate and become more dramatic, ending with a squall of screeching feedback at the end. "Afrika" similarly balances moments of solace with sludgy rhythms and triumphant melodies. "Calla" begins with a compressed guitar that might trick you into thinking you're listening to radio-ready tough guy aggro-rock, and it's not hard to imagine testosterone-heavy growling over the song, but the song's combination of suspense, metal crunch, and ambient drift is simply beyond the abilities of most mainstream bands. Rough and explosive yet perfectly controlled, Guidance is yet another powerful statement from the heavy instrumental rock behemoths. ~ Paul Simpson

Alternative & Indie - Released October 29, 2013 | Sargent House

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Traditionally, a memorial is a place for reflection; a locus where we're able to go not only to contemplate the events of the past, but to allow ourselves the opportunity to carry the emotional weight that accompanies them. With their fifth album, the aptly titled Memorial, Chicago instrumentalists Russian Circles craft an album that fully, and mostly wordlessly, explores this idea of a specific, controlled space where one is supposed to let their feelings run wild. Continuing to explore the expansive and metallic sound of the brilliant Empros, the band's music seems to really capture this duality, offering up a series of tightly constructed tracks that seem to surge with catharsis and sadness, creating a musical tempest in a teapot. Without vocals, this kind of pathos can be hard to evoke without a direct way to connect with the listener, but as they so often do, Russian Circles rise above the norm to imbue their instrumental musings with the kind of emotional hooks that dig themselves into the listener quickly and effectively. Not looking to be slaves to their rather excellent formula, however, Memorial finds the band making an interesting change by way of a guest appearance from Chelsea Wolfe on the album's titular closing track. After an album of instrumentals that weaved between chilling heaviness and haunting quiet, the singer's ethereal voice feels even more delicate, as if it were a wisp of smoke that could be waved away by even the slightest movement. This provides Memorial with a beautiful denouement that makes for an album that's not only satisfying, but one of the band's strongest works to date. ~ Gregory Heaney
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Alternative & Indie - Released May 6, 2008 | Suicide Squeeze Records

For those who celebrated the intricate heaviness of Russian Circles' debut album, Enter, or better yet saw them devastate live audiences with the sheer metallic roar of it all, Station may seem a little underwhelming -- at first. Brian Cook of Botch/These Arms Are Snakes has replaced bassist Colin DeKuiper (on record at least). That said, one should expect a wall of sonic attack that would make the gods cower, right? Not exactly. Texture and dimension have become a big part of Russian Circles sound on this six- track album. They've tried to get themselves out of the post-rock "build up and up and up and finally explode" equation that has actually hampered the growth of the music. They haven't left metal behind, but have tempered it somewhat with some softer sounds, a more gradual expansion, and layered textures on any given theme, or some set thereof. About half the album relies on this technique, and admittedly, it can be a bit frustrating on first listen because there are so many parts folded into one another it simply isn't as obvious as Enter was. Mike Sullivan's guitar playing relies as much on fingerpicked swells that shimmer and refract as it does power chugging riffs. Dave Turncrantz's drums won't announce the shifts and twists and turns, either. He jumps in with the rest of the band, playing to the sense of drama and tension that get spread beautifully over the dimensions of space and power, framed perfectly by producer-engineer Matt Bayles. "Harper Lewis" takes the ominous heaviness that Russian Circles are known for, pours paranoid ambient sonics around the drum kit, and allows Cook to let that low end bass just throb wide open, until Sullivan just crushes the entire thing with his wall of squall stun riffing. It takes a little while to develop, but the payload is big. This is also true to a greater degree on the title track. Back and forth guitar and bass thrumming becomes a push and pull between the two players until only the thudding drum fills can breach the gap. It becomes almost unbearably tense even as the tonal and time signatures shift. The same kind of metal effect takes place in "Youngblood." Think of the menacing guitar intros of vintage Iron Maiden or Judas Priest paired with the sense of distortion, detuned feedback, and the noir transcendence of Isis or Pelican. The softer tunes, such as "Verses" and "Xavi," are really compelling puzzle pieces loaded with tricky corners, intricate spaces, and floating guitar and bass parts that open the door of power rock infinity but stop at the threshold. The bottom line is that this diversity is not a lack of focus, but growth and development that make the band stand out from the pack, making the effort to spin this a few times yield very big rewards. ~ Thom Jurek

Alternative & Indie - Released June 6, 2017 | Sargent House

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 20, 2009 | Suicide Squeeze Records

The relationship between the calm before the storm and the storm itself is a crucial element of post-rock. The patience and restraint to allow the music to build slowly and organically is an incredible virtue within the genre, and it's a virtue that Russian Circles have been growing into over the course of their career. On Geneva, their third full-length outing, we find a band that has matured as songwriters. With a larger, more atmospheric set of tools at their disposal, the band crafts songs that are more about buildup than release. Instead of down the usual "build, build, build, destroy" route that's so common, the songs grow organically, with changes unfolding so naturally that the big finish is more of a logical conclusion than an explosion. Brian Cook's (of Botch and These Arms Are Snakes) impact on this record is more apparent than it was on Station. His gritty, fuzzed-out bass provides a dynamic contrast to the lighter moments, providing a bit of sonic dirt for the more ethereal guitar parts to play in. This influence might also have something to do with Russian Circles' further tempering of their metal tendencies. While Geneva has its heavier moments (like "Fathom" and "Geneva"), they're not as out-and-out metal as their past work, more reminiscent of Pelican's later work or the sludgy harmony of Zozobra. Given their past work, it would be easy for Russian Circles to simply play it quiet for a while and then absolutely bowl over the listener with huge, metal riffing. As the record goes on, that patience and restraint starts to reveal itself more and more. On the sprawling, eight-minute epic, "When the Mountain Comes to Muhammad," the band allows the song to build slowly and easily, reigning the song in and allowing it to fold in on itself, growing slightly larger and larger without ever getting completely out of control. Geneva is an album that builds like an old building being demolished, starting out with an explosion and ending with the dust clearing to reveal a changed landscape that's ready for something new, as if the band is symbolically clearing away their old sound in favor of something new and exciting. If you weren't already on the Russian Circles bandwagon, this is the perfect opportunity to jump on. ~ Gregory Heaney

Pop/Rock - Released October 25, 2011 | Sargent House

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On their previous album, Geneva, Russian Circles had a quiet conversation on the nature of patience in music with a collection of songs that quietly and calmly built themselves up with layers of melody. On Empros, however, the band has escalated from conversation to argument, combining the precision of their last album with the metal fury of some of their earlier work. The album opener, “309,” gets to work almost immediately, unleashing a suffocating wall of snarling guitars that seems to embody the stark, unforgiving cold of the winters in their native Chicago before eventually dissolving into the uplifting second track, “Mlàdek.” This kind of musical drift continues throughout the album, with each song giving way to the next, allowing the disc to unfold in movements rather than tracks. Perhaps to match the more aggressive musical aesthetic of Empros, Russian Circles have also adopted a more aggressive production style, taking on a rawer and more open sound that allows the mid-range of the guitars to scrape and growl their way out of the speakers, and gives the drums an overdriven openness that makes every song sound like it’s happening in some kind of abandoned factory. As an album, Empros shows Russian Circles bringing together everything they’ve done before into one complete package, compiling the lessons of albums past into one singular vision, and bringing it all together for a new vision of their future. ~ Gregory Heaney

Rock - Released June 6, 2017 | Sargent House

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Metal - Released May 21, 2019 | Sargent House

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Metal - Released June 26, 2019 | Sargent House

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Metal - Released July 23, 2019 | Sargent House

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World - Released May 27, 2005 | Russian Circles