Russian Circles: Memorial

Russian Circles: Memorial

(Sargent House, 10/29/13)


From start to finish, Russian Circles’ fifth album, Memorial, whips listeners back and forth through dark thunderheads into blinding sunlight. The Chicago post-metal three-piece carefully adjusts its compositional tint, forcing listeners to surface in a winter scene — as beautiful as it is harsh — of some imagined past or future.

Whether it’s through Mike Sullivan’s increasingly adept guitar looping or layering, or both, or Dave Turncrantz’s spot-on percussion bouncing off of, or replying to, Brian Cook’s deeply texturized bass tones, the band achieves such a relentlessly expansive and, at the same time, tight sound here that Memorial is sure to become a genre touchstone.

Exploding out of the last seconds of bright opener “Memoriam,” second effort “Deficit” recalls post-metal performer Isis’s excellently grim “So Did We” (Panopticon) sans vocals. “Deficit” ends with strands of synthesized noise and disembodied voices that cut nicely into “1777,” a seven-minute-plus piece that starts to sound like the soundtrack to a David Lynch film, with a thrust of metallic scuzz.

As it did on Empros (2011), Russian Circles employs a vocalist (this time Chelsea Wolfe) on its last number, “Memorial,” giving the song a washed-out Mazzy Star vibe complete with soupy reverb. It’s the perfect bookend to an album that’s meant to be heard in full, and to prepare you for the emotional peaks and valleys that winter conjures.