Russian Circles CD/LP reviewed by Luc Rodgers
Sep 20, 2007, 15:57
RUSSIAN CIRCLES Enter CD/LP
In the mid-to-late nineties, Chicago arguably became the center for the post-rock movement. Tortoise,Â Gaster Del Sol, and Dianogah, among many others, all called the Windy City home and undeniably a nutritious bed of soil was laid for future bands to take root in and flourish all their own. Enter Pelican and their “post-metal” 2001 self-titled EP. While their sound is definitely grandiose, failings in their execution have blacklisted them among many listeners and critics, leaving the door wide open for the post-metal usurper to show their face. The Russian Circles accepted the duel and with Enter, their first full length, triumphed easily over the waning coastal bird with an unmatched ferocity and blood-thirst.
The opening track, “Carpe,” is a haunting descent into the cellar of pure, cold blackness. The sticks clickity-click and the guitars intertwine blanketing one with safety until the abrasive chords part the cobwebs for the lower-than-low bass quake. This is when all hell breaks loose. The matching triplets of Dave Turncrantz (drums), Mike Sullivan (guitar), and Colin DeKuiper (bass) flash their chops quickly to ensure an enjoyable ride, if nothing else. Revolving and playing on the same theme throughout the opener, attention is given instead to the amount of space the sound can take up. Cyclonic in its power and terrifying in its fullness, there is nothing left to want.
It is not all as such, of course, and when the vehemence is parted serenity replaces it with typical, simple scales and progressions woven together in a deceiving winter coat, only to catch fire shortly after becoming accustomed to its fit, as in the second song, “Micah.” The only thunder remaining in the first two minutes are the unrelenting drums, slow they may be but bruising nonetheless. The fills and use of the sopping wet cymbals expands on the most basic of ideas and clues one in to what is constantly around the corner— danger. Again, everything ascends into the upper spheres with the force and sound of a fresh rocket. The door is opened and the darkness of space ensconces the body and collapses the lungs. Relish in this death because it is the most glorious that anyone could wish for. As a whole, “Micah” hovers in the softer side and makes for a smooth segue deep into “Death Rides a Horse.”
Finger-tapping and monstrous guitar overdubs dance with the emotionally unstable, but rhythmically precise, drums to immerse you once again into the inescapable lava. After crisping away to nothing, a happy, hoppy riff bounces and jolts you and there is nothing left to say except, “My bones hurt.” The latter part of the song houses a straight forward, metallic riff that matches, chop for chop, anything coming out of the darker, more serious modern metal scene. Everything falls off the skeleton, leaving the twitching drums to borrow your ear for a second only to scream, scream, and scream.
The title track presents itself as the heartbeat of your killer hiding away, watching you. Just as you catch a glimpse and realize what is happening, everything changes andâ€¦maybe this isn't the killer after all. Your hand is shaken in a familiar way, but there's one problem—they don't let go. Instead, you are drawn near and what first seems like a secret being told turns out to be your ear being completely bitten off. Of course your body goes into shock and it is the heartbeat heard again—your own. The rest is a madcap laughter fit for the most evil of mankind.
“You Already Did” calms the nerves and patches the wounds. Swells mimic the natural world where patience is still a virtue and rewarded with bounty. The feast this time is a heavy beat and meditation reminiscent of classic Don Caballero. Unfortunately, “You Already Did” falls short of the precariousness of the rest of the album. It is recognizable and because of that, unmemorable.
Rounding out the album is “New Macabre,” another exercise in polyrhythmic play. Sure, without all the distortion and sheer terror one can hear the intricacies of the boys enjoying their instrumental duties, but it just isn't as fun. After possibly realizing this, the Circles climb and climb until everything is frozen over and once again brutality takes precedence over watch-my-fingers showmanship. The last thirty seconds of the song and album redeliver what was the best part of the recording—the stabbing of the listener with well-produced goddamn wrath.
Neurosis, Isis, and the aforementioned Pelican can be credited with paving the way for the Russian Circles, no doubt. While Neurosis will remain untouchable as they have since solely ventured into an upper echelon of post-everything, the others will be tested and it will be seen who is the first to stand aside to let the other-worldly vehicle of destruction and controlled chaos pass, nodding to the forefathers and the future simultaneously. [Flameshovel]
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