In their 2011 album Empros, post-metal band Russian Circles takes a bold step in its composition towards a mature fusion of the atmospheric and the autocratic. Returning to the element of open space prominent in Station (2008), Empros demonstrates a more refined movement that is leading Russian Circles into fresh territory. While it may have been a direction easily foreseen, the result is nonetheless a solid cornerstone in the band’s repertoire.
A steady influx of steamy electric grind is well balanced by an earthy percussion that doesn’t pander to the excessive. The album’s first track, “309“, is a fitting introduction to an album that intermittently alludes to the Isis heard in Wavering Radiant. No sooner has “Mladek” spread its talons from the framework, than we are given a glimpse at how the band has chosen to waive the formalities of smooth transition. This may be an inevitable consequence of pushing the boundaries, given that Russian Circles has upped its dosage of ambient elements in Empros, in comparison with previous releases. Throughout the remainder of the album, these hovering instants of ambiance serve as dependable organic breaks, although the introduction is dubious. A surprising choice to trail the heavily-inflated conclusion of “309”, “Mladek” is a concoction that wastes no time in shaking you from your reverie, alternately liquefying and gelatinizing, always thundering with control.
Familiar Russian Circles topography is charted in “SchipHol” with throaty winds and lingering melancholy inciting momentary paralysis, which would have made it a more suitable companion for the first track. Plunging through the rousing anticipation of “Atackla” and the anxiety of “Batu”, there are much-needed moments when your breath can envelop vibrating tides of metal static, suspending in the spaces between understated grace, militant charge, and predatory feline murmuring. Taking the last dance, “Praise be Man“ is perhaps the biggest leap for the band, seducing with a buoyant use of lyrics– a first for Russian Circles. The vocal effect wanders somewhere between Sigur Ros and Fleet Foxes, providing essential contrast to the band’s otherwise rumbling instrumentality.
Since their first full-length album release, Enter (2006), Russian Circles have gone through an evolution from hasty and impulsive communiqué to meticulous arrangement. Comparing their maiden album with the balanced and controlled progression of Empros delivers an endearing moment of recognition at how much the band has matured and refined its sound. Perhaps not as cohesive as the celebrated Geneva of 2009, the juggernaut of Empros is ultimately an important step in the expressive progression of Russian Circles, and a promising indication of the Chicago trio’s future development.
Brian Cook – bass, guitar, vocals
Mike Sullivan – guitar
Dave Turncratz – drums
Phil Karnatz – accordion, cello
For more information on Russian Circles:
Official Website: http://russiancirclesband.com/