I can’t say I’ve ever given Russian Circles a chance before. I knew of them, knew they had a former member of Botch (a band I like), but they were one of those acts I felt as though I would get around to when I had the time. And I never had the time. Recently, I listened to some songs of theirs online for some reason and downloaded Memorial. And it’s fucking great and now I feel like an idiot for not catching on to them sooner. Yes, they are an instrumental, post-metal band, similar to Isis or Pelican, but Russian Circles differs in that (at least with Memorial) they are much more atmospheric in their sound. Sure, there are some songs with staggering riffs (“Deficit”) of channeling of black metal (“Burial”), but much of the album is more reminiscent of the Japanese band Mono. There is an almost orchestral sound with the music (well, there are strings on at least one track, so it seems an appropriate adjective), a pastoral richness to the music; the kind of thing you’d want to listen to as you looked out on to snow-covered fields. (The black metal song would maybe ruin that, but whatever.) While the opener, “Memoriam,” is only a minute and a half, the rest of the songs on Memorialgenerally run in the four- to seven-minute range, which seems perfect for this style. My one complaint is that the closer, the title track, should have been much longer. It’s the only song with vocals (featuring the wonderful voice of Chelsea Wolfe) and I could listen to that music paired with Wolfe’s voice forever. I appreciate the breadth of styles on Memorial and the way it flows together. This isn’t for those folks who only like heavy post-metal, nor is it for those who only like moody slowcore, but instead it’s for those with a wide taste in music. If you consider yourself such a person and like instrumental music, don’t be an idiot like me; check out this album.
–kurt (Sargent House, sargenthouse.com)