Russian Circles: Blood Year (Sargent House)

Chicagoan heavy rockers deliver fantastic seventh LP

Released Aug 2nd, 2019 via Sargent House / By Erick Mertz
Russian Circles: Blood Year (Sargent House) Russian Circles are a Chicago-based, instrumental band that has been cranking out jaw dropping post-rock/post-metal for more than a decade. Blood Year is the band’s seventh full-length recording on Sargent House Records and their first since 2016’s Guidance, an album that was met with both critical and fan acclaim.

One of the aspects of any Russian Circles album I feel right away is a stark and almost militaristic inspiration in the songwriting. On Blood Year, that sensation of being trapped in a realm of clashing armies is alive and well. The songs are draped in thick smoke and you can feel hot metal. Its churning intensity speaks of dark totalitarianism. One only needs to feel the gloom of the near seven and half-minutes Kohokia or the staggering, war anthem, Milano which was the album’s first teaser track to recognize that these tracks warn of wolves at the gate. The production on the album is in lock step with the songwriting too, intense and aggressive, capturing the crushing energy.

While other post-rock bands (take Explosions In The Sky or Mogwai for example) seem to strive for staggering heights and astral visions, Russian Circles are grittier and their results are, no surprise, far gloomier. Their fusion of raw, knuckled and melodic metal in a spacious song structure has defined who they are and Blood Year does not disappoint. Structurally, the band seems to have experimented with adding a few wrinkles to the track list, Hunter Moon and Ghost On High are short, bittersweet interludes that would not have had a place on Guidance or Empros. This album isn’t quite the study in soft/hard contrasts like on Memorial though but it approaches that level of complexity.

Russian Circles have, once again, delivered a dose of fantastic, atmospheric post rock on Blood Year an album that keeps the parade line moving. One may give pause to wonder if and when the band will veer further off and find other, more nuanced avenues, but until then, this chunky, heart wresting sound will have to do. 4/5