There is a moment about a third of the way into “Harper Lewis,” the second track from Russian Circles’ new album Station, when, following an engaging arpeggio build-up in opener “Campaign,” guitarist Mike Sullivan and drummer Dave Turncrantz must have remarked out loud in unison, “It’s good, but is it metal enough?” What follows is a riff so sludgy the band’s momentum is lost for the better part of the album trying to free itself from its stultifying, mucky grasp.
Chicago ‘s Russian Circles (once all those inevitable “post-rock” markers are laid in the sand) are at heart a metal band defying the roots of their conception. Lurking beneath a thick veneer of carefully constructed crescendos and gushing streams of cymbals, a heavier, murkier aesthetic rushes steadily into play. Despite their best intentions, the duo is often enough so wrapped in its decibel-cranked cacophony to notice the progressions they’ve concocted (which, when not entirely shrouded in an all-encompassing shred fest, are rather invigorating), or to save them from the uttermost head-banging depths.
After clearing the gates of its deceptively calm initial moments, Station screeches along with the reckless abandon of a charging semi as it jackknifes its cargo across a packed freeway, eardrum regard scattered on the wind. Live, you’d better bring your earplugs (I write from experience). A tendency for crushing sound the band’s debut Enter on hinted at is here in full, piercing swing. Lending their flair for fist pounding rhythms in the recording studio are These Arms are Snakes/Botch bassist Brian Cook and of the recently split Blood Brothers, Morgan Henderson on double bass for bookending coda “Xavii.”
Among its instrumental brethren, Russian Circles’ flex is considerable; it’s only when they flex too hard that the seams covering their not-so-subtle love for all things metal begin to rip. “Youngblood,” whose rapid riffage resembles a more perforated Isis (minus the whole screaming thing), wouldn’t be as sufferable if it didn’t jar from memory the nimble guitar picking of preceding track “Verses.” A cohesive sonic experience not unlike a lilting yet precarious narrative, complete with (relatively) tranquil peaks and peppered throughout by machine gun barrages of rampant guitar, Station, while certainly not adding anything new to the genre at least tries its best to rattle some life into it.
Red Sparowes – Every Red Heart Shines Towards the Sun
Explosions In The Sky – All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone
Isis – In the Absence of Truth