Russian Circles - _Memorial_
(Sargent House, 2013)
by: Aly Hassab El Naby (8 out of 10)
Despite the very strong impressions that Russian Circles made with their first three albums, 2011's _Empros_, their fourth full-length, was quite lacking in terms of lasting impressions. In some parts, it seemed to carry the air of Russian Circles losing steam. This year however, the steam has been regenerated and it's doing a lot of work. _Memorial_ is Russian Circles' fifth full-length in their nine year existence as a band, throughout which they've kept an entirely stable line-up. This homogeneity found between them is indeed the main driving force in their music and _Memorial_ just shows how far these guys have come.

It starts off with "Memoriam", which is a very relaxing introductory track that doesn't bear any similarity to its successor "Deficit". This is much darker in tone and atmosphere than anything this Chicago trio has done earlier. There's a bit more gloom in the overall sound and the drums lean more towards the plodding style than its virtuosic nature found on earlier albums. "1777" features lots of agonizing guitar trills that further emphasize the mood, and that mood gets elevated by "Cheyenne", which brings things down a bit with its sedated nature. The music continues to ebb and flow like that through the short-lived yet effective duo of "Ethel" and "Lebaron", and by the time you've sunk into the hypnotic feel of the title track, which features Chelsea Wolfe as a guest vocalist, you're done with the album.

So why is _Memorial_ such an accomplished album? The main reason behind _Memorial_'s appeal as an album lies in the overall atmosphere it creates. This is something that Russian Circles were already able to create in the past, but on this record, it's all taken a few steps higher. The more somber and reflective tone of the guitar and how the drums just so swiftly accentuate every note is simply stellar. The layering of sounds is as intricate as ever, yet without losing any sense of direction. The whole record winds down to just thirty seven minutes, making it the shortest in Russian Circles' discography, but it's one that will definitely be very difficult to top in the future.


(article published 1/12/2013)

1/13/2010 A El Naby 8 Russian Circles - Geneva
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