Release Date: Oct 25, 2011
Record label: Sargent House
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Post-metal, like post-rock, seems to be one of the genres that has fallen prey to the music critic’s tendency to always need to have a genre for something that deviates from the norm. Whereas, for instance, much of Steve Vai’s music is classified as “instrumental metal”, that label doesn’t seem to suffice for bands like Russian Circles. There’s something more to the band’s sound, something that demands a new subgenre of metal music.
Chicago post-rock heroes return with stellar fourth album... For a genre that’s literally bursting at the seams these days, it’s hard to see how post-rock can really progress and stay fresh. Fortunately, these thoughts don’t seem to bother Russian Circles. The Chicagoans unleash album number four and show no signs of withering just yet.
On their previous album, Geneva, Russian Circles had a quiet conversation on the nature of patience in music with a collection of songs that quietly and calmly built themselves up with layers of melody. On Empros, however, the band has escalated from conversation to argument, combining the precision of their last album with the metal fury of some of their earlier work. The album opener, “309,” gets to work almost immediately, unleashing a suffocating wall of snarling guitars that seems to embody the stark, unforgiving cold of the winters in their native Chicago before eventually dissolving into the uplifting second track, “Mlàdek.
They seem to have a passion for Europe, these Russian Circles. Their last album, 2009’s Geneva, while undeniably accomplished, was named after only the second-most-populous city in Switzerland, while latest effort Empros is seemingly named after a Greek news site. What we can learn from this (aside from never to use Google to help write the opening paragraph of a review) is that the band have a wider-ranging gaze than that of many of their Stateside contemporaries.
309 is the first track. You hear doom-laden riffs; colossal and reverberating trails of sound that wallow and float so clearly they almost generate vivid arterial colors in your mind’s eye. Chunks of bass tone are pounded out above the ever-widening array of sounds, Sabbath-borne severity meets your ears and behold: Post-rock’s Russian Circles introduce the genre’s ethereal floating nuance and grace to a patch of asphalt and happily rubs its skin raw against the flawed and unforgiving surface.
"Consistent" can be a damning term for many bands. For some, it implies that the band puts out material of a uniform quality, without any real dips or peaks. It can also mean that the band has become utterly predictable. On Empros, Russian Circles firmly establish their consistent credentials. The ….
A balancing act on a cosmic scale, Empros-- the fourth LP from mostly instrumental Chicago trio Russian Circles-- marries light to dark, order to chaos. Empros swings from the exceedingly beautiful to the punishingly physical in seconds flat. Every note on Empros is its right place, every surface scraped-up just so; a recent Decibel writeup found bassist Brian Cook claiming he'd never make another record "from the ground up" like the meticulously constructed Empros.
Rather than a continental drift, Empros maps the Earth when it yielded a single landmass. The Chicago instru-metal trio's fourth LP coalesces suitelike from sea to sea, beginning with the dive-bombing doom of nine-minute opener "309." Big-gun recoil in the seventh and final minute of the succeeding "Mládek" (Czech music tribute or Slavic evocation?) fades into the blue vista of "Schiphol" (Amsterdam), itself outlined in atmospherics building to tsunami. Likewise the chamber echoes mounting an "Atackla." "Batu" (Indonesia) circles but never lands, while closer "Praise Be Man" gurgles the end too early, but this hot comet Empros is anything but Greek.