Russian Circles - Memorial
Release Date: October 29, 2013
Record Label: Sargent House
There are a lot of bands out there that constantly walk the line of consistency and redundancy. At what point does a band start sounding too much like themselves? Is a band sounding too much like themselves even a bad thing if their sound is captivating? These are questions that listeners have to deal with and that bands have to struggle to break free from. This goes double for instrumental bands. With the absence of vocals, it seems like there's more pressure to put wider variation into all of the other elements to compensate. This can lead to a lot of instrumental bands sounding great early on in their careers, but losing steam as they become established in what they do.
Russian Circles don't have to deal with that problem. From the start, they've been a force to be reckoned with in the post-metal scene, and with every album they find new ways to make their three piece set up sound as big as any other metal band out there. Sure, each Russian Circles album sounds like a Russian Circles album, just like every Sigur Ros album sounds like a Sigur Ros album and every Godspeed You! Black Emperor album sounds like a Godspeed You! Black Emperor album. Like those bands, Russian Circles are absolute masters of their craft and currently leading the pack in their genre. The only rules they play by are their own, and as such, their newest album, Memorial, is everything you could possibly want from a post-metal band on their fifth album.
Part of the reason why each Russian Circles album stands apart from the others is because they each function so perfectly as albums that, even if the parts are easily identifiable as their signature sound, the sum of their parts creates a whole new beast. The crushing guitars and drums on “Deficit” move in ways that are familiar to those that know Russian Circles, but the song constantly twists and turns, with each element bouncing off of the other, creating a powerful atmosphere that rarely lets up. Most people that listen to this band without knowing much about them are shocked to find out there are only three members of the band, and this song makes it even harder to believe since its among the most crushing stuff they've ever written.
Things reach something of a climax with the third track, “1777." This track finds the three piece creating more space and atmosphere to use for firepower as things crescendo into a menacing wall of sound before dying down. From there, the band exposes their softer side on the following song "Cheyenne." While the back half of the album may be quieter than the front half, there's still a sense of heaviness in the music that never leaves. Songs like “Burial” and “Labaron” do bring the energy again on this side, but “Ethel” and the title track find the band more subdued, with the latter song featuring lovely vocals from label mate Chelsea Wolfe. The vocals are a nice addition to the track and don't detract from the instrumentation and they show that, while this band functions best without vocals, they can function nearly as well with them.
Memorial is arguably Russian Circles' best work to date. It's certainly debatable, but this is undeniably a staggeringly strong output for a band on their fifth release. Their sound is unmistakable, but each time around they keep things fresh with soaring highs and dreadful lows that make for a journey of an album. There's no need to worry about where they'll take us next, because at this point we know we'll always be in for a ride when it comes to Russian Circles.
I saw Russian Circles open up for Between The Buried And Me and Coheed earlier this year and I was just flabberghasted by how amazing a 3 piece could sound so amazingly large! I bought this record the minute I saw it on iTunes. Just absolutely mindblowing. I recommend them to all of my friends.
I have to agree. Russian Circles continue to use similar patterns from a rhythmic, chordal, and dynamic perspective. However, the production, the execution, and composition are so strong that the "familiar characteristics" should not be viewed as a liability. This band has put 5 quality albums and Memorial is probably their best work.