REVIEWED: Russian Circles - 'Blood Year'
Function often follows form. Take Russian Circles: named after an ice hockey drill, a sport that has the combination of effortless gliding agility, but also the element of bone-crunching impacts that rattle teeth. Russian Circles the band, being post-metal (rather than whatever the chuffing fuck 'slam metal' is) have to walk the line between having discipline in their songwriting so they don't become pretentious and boring, but still have the tendency to explore long, meandering structures. Thankfully, Russian Circles has both as they spin out singular ideas into swirling tornadoes of tension.
Kicking off 'Blood Moon', the Chicago-based threesome segue the reverb-soaked chords of opener 'Hunter Moon' into 'Arluck' with a palpable sense of nervousness; bass and drums circle around each other, with the guitars a needling drilling melody. The tremolo-treble-tremble is a recurring motif through 'Blood Moon', especially the freezing 'Milano' coming on like black metal glory night on the back of a frantic sixteenth note kick drum and an windchill-cold guitar bridge that slices like a razor. From then on in, we enter into more contemplative territory with 'Kohokia' and 'Ghost On High' acting as the more sedate pace once the adrenaline has stopped pumping. You'll be gripped though; the track listing has been perfectly paced as 'Sinaia' expands, coalesces and expands again, the melancholy narrative easily expressed despite being unvoiced. It's a testament to their songcraft that 'Quartered' comes to a sudden stop and we're left hanging with anticipation at the sudden punctuation expecting for a resumption that never comes.
At 40 minutes, their seventh full-length is perhaps a bit miserly in terms of running time, but that's the Russian Circles way: get your best performances in a tight package, then unleash it to critical acclaim. While their core sound has not changed radically since their inception, they've been consistently high performers, tight and instinctive without outlasting their welcome. With the easy discipline that comes from regularly pumping out albums, 'Blood Year' is another triumph of urban angst written with fresh blood and concrete dust.
'Blood Year' is out now via Sargent House