There’s something to be said about a band that can take a long road and never veer from the path, no matter what temptations are out there. Even more can be said about a band that does that but also manages to keep their craft interesting and stimulating to their audience. People are fickle fucks these days, and if you can prevent them from getting bored, you’re onto something.
Chicago instrumental force Russian Circles happen to be one of those bands. You generally know what you can expect with their releases, and despite that, it’s still easy to walk away excited having digested another chapter in their story. Same goes for “Guidance,” the sixth record from the band and one that takes its inspiration from a pretty unlikely source. The spouse of one of the band members was given an envelope of photos depicting a man being led to his execution. No story or historical anecdotes were provided. Just the photos and the messages they took from the man’s face, unbowed even being led to his demise. That’s apropos for the band’s music. Telling stories sans words has been their way all along, yet you always can get caught up in the emotion of their music without a plotline being fed.
Russian Circles have been doing their thing for 12 years now, slipping nicely between the bombast of MONO and the metallic crunch of Pelican but offering their own fingerprints on heavy rock’s instrumental terrain. The group is comprised of guitarist Mike Sullivan, bassist Brian Cook, and drummer Dave Turncrantz, and they’ve established themselves as one of the most passionate and reliable bands in the entire instrumental realm and beyond. “Guidance” is another steady step in their journey, a record that bears the artwork of that photo packet that came into the band’s possession, trying to paint a portrait of strength and dignity even in the face of hell.
“Asa” starts the record with noise wafting then guitars trickling into the space, giving off a gentle feel. Melodies slither into the picture, only to be swallowed by fog, and it seems as if a waiting storm is off in the distance, threatening to land but taking its time doing so. That spills into “Vorel,” where noise agitates, drumming bursts the bubble, and things start to light up. Burly doom riffs take over, as melodies slip in and out of the mix, and sludge terrain is stomped. The bass thickens up while riffs cut in, and the playing swells up, scorching and giving off smoke, heading right into “Mota.” There, guitars spark, reflective playing rolls in, and a pulsating, atmospheric sentiment settles. Later, things toughen up, with doom riffs clobbering, darkness draping its curtain, and the track ripping into the night, only to be resurrected by synth dreaminess. That leads right toward “Afrika,” where the keys continue to waft and a heartfelt melody sweeps up. Drums kicks into the gazey matter, while cosmic keys send rays, riffs chew up the scene, and all of the elements cascade, sending the song off into an unexpected calm.
“Overboard” lets keys hover, and serene guitars emerge like a mist coating your face. Much of the song makes me think of a sunrise, watching colors explode on the horizon as a new set of possibilities arrives. The guitars work forms tributaries into which everything flows, stinging the senses and heading into a greater body of water. “Calla” is the piledriver of the record, starting with guitars gouging away and punishment being delivered in spades. The track is scathing and threatening, setting fire to everything and crushing all that stands in front of it. Savage sludge slips into calm for a split second, a tease in the midst of turmoil, and then it’s on to an ending that’s heavy with decimation. Closer “Lisboa” brings things back to Earth with a numbing, echo-rich start that later gets blown to bits. The cut is chock full of emotional bloodletting, gazey fire, and tempo shifts that coax the heart, and one final explosion lands before the song sinks back into the Earth’s crust.
Russian Circles may not take bizarre twists and turns, and they’re probably never going to turn in a symphonic black metal-based record nor drown in, like, EDM just to make waves. And really, who could ask for more from this band? They’ve been a rock-solid group through their entire run, and “Guidance” is more of the good stuff from a force you always can lean against.
For more on the band, go here: http://russiancirclesband.com/
To buy the album, go here: https://www.hellomerch.com/collections/sargent-house
For more on the label, go here: http://sargenthouse.com/