Rating:
8.1
Russian Circles - Memorial
29 October 2013


01. Memoriam
02. Deficit
03. 1777
04. Cheyenne
05. Burial
06. Ethel
07. Lebaron
08. Memorial [feat. Chelsea Wolfe]


The trio of instrumentalists known as Russian Circles put a fresh metal spin to their post-rock with their fifth release Memorial. Despite the name these gents are from the USA, having formed in 2004, and have been steadily increasing their circumference of sound with each successful studio album.

In the past they've been inappropriately associated with the likes of fellow Americans Pelican, most likely for their vocal-less preference, however the two bands sound nothing alike as Russian Circles create circulating atmospheres by use of frequent repetition and melody.

Here the repetition is collected in a selection of concise tracks which still manage to create sprawling instrumental environments, as is the band's forté. With each studio attempt they continue to refine their own stylistic line with which they navigate between post-rock and post-metal, and they draw from both while avoiding conforming to the expectations of either. Memorial leaves more of a metallic impression than previous albums with its darker tone receiving a heavier emphasis in the interwoven avant-garde guitar and bass of tracks like "Deficit", "1777" and "Burial."

In their tunes with heavier leanings you could always sense the imminent metallic edge growing in gradual builds and, as is typical of post-rock acts that move in and out of the genre's extremities, the listener would find hardened metal granules contained in the crescendos. Memorial, however, isn't an album that merely sojourns or makes brief visits in metal territory, but actually spends most of its time there, despite playing to song structures more closely associated with post-rock. At its heaviest moments in tracks like "Deficit" the band ventures well beyond their comfort zone and makes a foray into Cult Of Luna-esque territory.

In fact, the sojourns here seem to be in post-rock; in those softer and tremolo frequented environments of the atmospheric title track and the contemplative "Cheyenne," the former holding the only vocal arrangement of the album with a guest performance from singer-songwriter Chelsea Wolfe.

If memory serves you well while listening to this album in full you'll notice the clever recurrence of melody which is introduced in the first short track "Memoriam" and returns to be expressed more fully in the closing title track. This feature was inspired by Pink Floyd's Animals record, and its use brings Memorial back neatly and in full circle to its origins, a resourceful way of paying homage to their own band name.

The pacing of Memorial tends to diminish the appropriateness of such an album title though, as the tempo is fixed and constantly gradual in the album's early stages and seems drawn out despite its concise scope, which blurs track distinction somewhat. However this does enhance the overall mood as it pulls on the album's darker tones, with "Burial" being the best representation with which a black metal association can be drawn in the riffs. "Ethel" is remarkable and discernible in comparison as it lifts the mood free from melancholia with its uplifting guitar melodies, however the most easily distinguishable track is "Lebaron" as it offers the most direct and tangible point of the album with the guitar pushing its rhythms along and jutting most effectively through the mix.

This time around Russian Circles have chosen to enhance the experience with more instrumental features than usual. Aside from the mainstay presence of each man at their respective instruments (bass, guitar and drums) the album also uses additional cello, violin and trombone instrumentation, to add a bit of variance to the already dynamic trio's performance.

Overall this an accomplished record which shows the artistic decisions of Russian Circles coming into realization. They successfully explore a more metallic sound with originality as well as confidence.

Performance: 9
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 8
Production: 8


Band profile: Russian Circles
Album: Memorial


 



Written on 09.12.2013 by
R'Vannith
R'Vannith enjoys music, he's hoping you do too.
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Monolithic - 09.12.2013 at 13:51  
Great review. I got interested in the album when I heard Chelsea Wolfe was in the album as well.
R'Vannith - 09.12.2013 at 14:05  
Written by Monolithic on 09.12.2013 at 13:51

Great review. I got interested in the album when I heard Chelsea Wolfe was in the album as well.


Thanks! I wasn't familiar with the name at all before I listened to this, but I'll be checking out her own music based on that performance, exceptional and hypnotic as her voice is here.
tea[m]ster - 11.12.2013 at 05:02  
Nailed it again R'! Russian Circles and Pelican have rebounded well after a couple of dormant releases. Enjoying those two at the end of a great 2013 for metal!
R'Vannith - 11.12.2013 at 06:56  
Written by tea[m]ster on 11.12.2013 at 05:02

Nailed it again R'! Russian Circles and Pelican have rebounded well after a couple of dormant releases. Enjoying those two at the end of a great 2013 for metal!


Thanks tea[m]ster. Yes, both bands are clearly showing signs of improvement and shaking things up a bit, that's for sure. A great year indeed, especially for post-metal!
dismaleuphony - 11.12.2013 at 07:38  
Nice review, and certainly my choice for releases from this band so far I always became indifferent after several spins from past Russian Circles albums, but not this one. It's still in my normal rotation. I also blindly picked it up, instead of the usual "download first" mentality I employ for most releases, when I saw Chelsea Wolfe was on the album. A great choice for both I believe

Personal picks for me are "1777" and "Lebaron."
R'Vannith - 11.12.2013 at 11:58  
Written by dismaleuphony on 11.12.2013 at 07:38

Nice review, and certainly my choice for releases from this band so far I always became indifferent after several spins from past Russian Circles albums, but not this one. It's still in my normal rotation. I also blindly picked it up, instead of the usual "download first" mentality I employ for most releases, when I saw Chelsea Wolfe was on the album. A great choice for both I believe

Personal picks for me are "1777" and "Lebaron."


Hey thanks! Memorial is having more of an impression on me also, as nicely written as all their albums are really. Though this one stands out to me, I have to say.

If I were to choose I'd say "Cheyenne" is my favourite track.

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