Review Summary: Russian Circles craft their best album to date, fusing together elements from their previous records to create a near-perfect album.
Russian Circles have never been a huge name in the post-rock/post-metal world. In a genre filled with many imitators and bands that seem untouchable, it is hard to stand out in the crowd. Russian Circles broke out onto the scene with a promising debut Enter
didn't make waves in the music world, but it did show that Russian Circles was a band to look out for. Fusing together heavy riffs and undeniable talent, the Chicago trio had a lot going for them. On their sophomore release, Station
, the band seemed to have taken two steps back when they ditched their technicality for a more traditional post-rock approach. Unfortunately, Station
fell flat because of this, but it did show that the band was more than a one trick pony, and more importantly, they were more than willing to experiment with their sound. With fans on their feet anticipating the bands' latest release, Russian Circles unleashed their greatest album to date, Geneva
goes above and beyond any expectations the fans may have had about the album. Russian Circles have taken their crushing riffs and unpredictable rhythms from Enter
, and transfused them with the atmosphere and pastoral beauty of Station
. It would be easy to compare the band to their peers in the post-rock and post-metal realms, but it wouldn't be fair to the band. While there are somber moments of beauty, reminiscent of Mono, and brutally heavy riffs that recall Pelican-- Russian Circles take everything they are good at and focus their talent and energy to put their unique twist on what you would typically think of as post-rock. Another factor is the size of the band. While many post-rock bands can have as many as twenty-something members (I'm looking at you Godspeed), or the more typical five members, Circles works as a trio. While it might be hard to imagine how a band whose goal is to craft epic compositions can be run with only three members, it may be the bands largest strength. Guitarist Mike Sullivan works like a classical composer, using various techniques to trigger certain emotions out of the listener. From spaced out guitar lines to distorted riffs, Sullivan is incredibly versatile. Drummer Dave Turncrantz is absolutely mind-blowing on Geneva
. While Dave's drumming has always been a highlight of Russian Circles' music, on Geneva
Dave outdoes himself. Solidifying himself as a permanent member, Brian Cook returns on bass guitar. With a resume of former bands such as Botch and These Arms Are Snakes, Cook is no stranger to music. While Cook only did session work on Circles' previous release, he has composed all of the low-end for [i]Geneva[i]. Also joining the band in certain places of the record is violinist Susan Voelz and cellist Allison Chesley, who do a great job of adding the orchestral feel to the album.
Opening up with the distinct sound of the cello and violin, it is immediately noticeable that this is not your typical Russian Circles album. Booming tribal drums enter before Sullivan lets out a short heavy riff. Sullivan trades off riffs with Cook before each member locks in on a brutal groove. Just as things start to get too loud, the band comes to a stop, and the opener 'Fathom' fades out on cello and violin. 'Fathom' incorporates many of the themes found on Geneva
. Things never get too loud. Just as what would typically be a cathartic post-rock climax feels like it is coming on, the band comes to a halt, and the band will fall back onto either guitar or drums. The bass acts like the aggravator, barking at the other instruments to get up to speed. The first three songs are a kick to the face, bringing back memories of Enter
. The title track is a balls out display of the band's talents, never letting up in its 5:50 runtime. 'Melee' takes its time to get going, exhibiting a perfect mix between the previous two albums. 'Hexed All' paces the album by giving the listener a rest from the mayhem before segueing into another crusher, 'Malko'. The last three tracks will bring back thoughts of Station
, but arranged significantly better. The eight minute epic 'When The Mountains Came to Muhammad' feels like half that. The track uses nearly inaudible news reports and strings to create a feeling of desperation and hopelessness. Ending on another massive track, 'Philos' is about as close to post-rock the band will get. Starting off quite, the band uses the violin and cello to feed off a saddened tone. The track speeds along, coming to a point where a climax would be, but falls again onto drums. Ending on electronic noises and bass feedback, the band has done their job, leaving the listener with thoughts of 'what's next?' and a feeling of resolution.
With the release of Geneva
Russian Circles have cemented themselves in the music community. Not quite post-metal, and not quite post-rock, pinning Geneva
down to a particular genre is futile. And there is no need to; the music speaks for itself. While their debut showed an up and coming band struggling to find their footing, and their sophomore record taking a completely new approach, Geneva
masterfully combines everything the band has done into a near-perfect package. The only question that can be asked is how will the band top this?