Russian Circles
Empros


4.5
superb

Review

by Ryan Kroner USER (29 Reviews)
October 21st, 2011 | 269 replies


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Forsaking subtlety in favor of immediacy, Empros is the album that fully realizes Russian Circles' potential.

Empros is the sound of a band thoroughly examining their sound and weeding out any and all flaws they may find in the process. However good their previous three records were, all were plagued by an oft-present lack of purpose. Yes, post-rock and those bands and genres associated with it is not a scene known for making quick, decisive, and to-the-point music. Constantly choosing to brood rather than burst, meander instead of progressing, or build in place of exploding, this is not always a bad thing when taken in context of the music, but the fact that thousands of bands follow the exact same formula makes real originality (something almost always essential to truly great music) hard to find. Russian Circles, a three-piece hailing from Chicago, have always been a band a few steps ahead of associated acts, but even at their strongest (2009's Geneva comes to mind) they have shown an unwillingness to completely pull away from genre conventions. Meandering is not always a weakness, but when a band shows as much potential as Russian Circles, one wonders why such a talented act feels the need to place songs like Philos in the midst of those like Malko.

Here, they seem to have recognized that this fundamental issue is the only thing holding their music back from true greatness, and they have taken every step to eliminate it. Their previous records took time to really get going, but on Empros Russian Circles cut straight to the chase and don't let up for almost the album's entire 41-minute runtime. Of course, there are brief respites like the quiet build that endures for the first half of Schiphol, but even here, its tranquil post-rock ambiance is shattered by soaring riffs and crunching bass in a way so abrupt that it may startle the listener. Also, album closer Praise Be Man is a 4.5 minute (the shortest on the album) odyssey of peaceful progressions, relaxing atmosphere, and calm singing, earning the title of the first non-instrumental Russian Circles song. However, the track is neither meandering nor boring, serving as a perfect outro to the most intense album of the band's career.

In their downgrading of buildups and tranquility, Russian Circles have chosen to drastically expand upon the more metallic influences that were hinted at on Geneva (these touches often caused them to be possibly mislabeled as a post-metal band). This is progression and growth at their finest. The crunchy, massive bass tone that made an appearance during specific moments in a few songs on previous albums now is present on all but the aforementioned Praise Be Man, elevating bassist Brian Cook to a stature held by few bassists in similar acts (Intronaut's Joe Lester is one whose role is comparable). Working in perfect unison with Mike Sullivan's intense axe-work, laying down line after line of glorious tone and driving rhythm (Atackia has some especially tasty riffs), his work on Empros cements his place as possibly the band's most utterly integral member.

The other two instrumentalists are also at their prime throughout the entire album. Sullivan's riffing is, like everything else on Empros], more immediate than it has ever been, opting for a heavier and crunchier tone that is the perfect complement to Cook's dense lines and Turncrantz's frantic percussion. Opener 309 has some of his best riffs to date, often overlaid with shimmering leads and undercut by thundering bass (did I mention that Cook's bass-work is amazing?). Sullivan also shows that he is no stranger to variation: Mládek is filled to the brim with beautiful leads reminiscent of The Edge before his band became inconsequential, while Batu's Meshuggah-esque chugging shows him at his most metal. Additionally, Dave Turncrantz continues to prove himself as the genre's most underrated drummer, throwing down a performance whose equal is non-existent among heavy instrumental post-rock (imagine how much Pelican would improve just by adding interesting drumming). Returning to the excellence that 309 is, he lays down the god damned law on this outstanding song, coalescing with the guitar and drums to form what may be the band's best song to date.

Empros is the album that so many bands wish they could make. Simultaneously, it leaps away from genre conventions and builds on the band's previous work, all the while keeping the band's unique identity completely intact. Russian Circles perpetuate every driving riff, frenetic beat, and crunching bass-line with an unmatched sense of atmosphere, and instill a sense of purpose and urgency into even the album's most solemn moments. A typical post-rock band will make music that builds, an average metal band will make music that erupts, and a generic instrumental band will make music that meanders: Russian Circles make music that flows. They eschew building for brooding, erupting for leveling, and meandering for progression, melding the abilities of three considerably talented musicians into music that manages to journey effortlessly to its goal, all the while displaying the prowess of each individual member. Empros is everything good about the genre condensed into 41 minutes that fly by at remarkable speeds. It's now almost useless to compare Russian Circles to similar acts, because with this album, they have reduced the number of their peers who can pull off this formula to similar success to one that can be counted on a single hand.



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user ratings (442)
Chart.
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Ignimbrite
October 21st 2011


5345 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Working on the obvious coding errors, my internet's being really weird right now... It's refusing to load my profile page.

EDIT: fixed

Digging: This Will Destroy You - Another Language

boogs
October 21st 2011


222 Comments


Good review, going to check this out.

Rev
October 21st 2011


9423 Comments


wyankief, is that you?

Ignimbrite
October 21st 2011


5345 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is me. Greetings

Ignimbrite
October 21st 2011


5345 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It's like Geneva except without boring songs like Philos or Muhammad

Rev
October 21st 2011


9423 Comments


oh my god dude, I knew it was you


I missed you. Your old account banned?

Gyromania
October 21st 2011


15717 Comments


Stellar review, man. Pos.

Ignimbrite
October 21st 2011


5345 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

For a week, but I made a new account sometime during then and I haven't gone back to the old one (this one has a non-stupid name and I can upload avatars).

Actually, this is technically my second new account, but I wrote a couple bad reviews under the first that I wanted to be disassociated with.

Ignimbrite
October 21st 2011


5345 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

it wasn't the "wyankeif" as much as it was the stupid numbers that i could not get rid of.

and hello to you too

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
October 21st 2011


31173 Comments


Album fucking rules

Digging: LV and Joshua Idehen - Islands

Ignimbrite
October 21st 2011


5345 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Amen to that, feeling post-rock/metal AOTY.

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
October 21st 2011


31173 Comments


I still think that Geneva is better though

Ignimbrite
October 21st 2011


5345 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

There's a chance that this wears off in a couple weeks, but as of right now this beats Geneva for me.

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
October 21st 2011


31173 Comments


Yeah, and for me this could potentially overtake it, we'll wait and see. Pos by the way, good work man

Ignimbrite
October 21st 2011


5345 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Much appreciated, thanks!



Scoot
October 21st 2011


17754 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

nice review

can't wait to check this out

Faint7
October 21st 2011


252 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Just jizzed on this album.

crazyblinddude
October 21st 2011


3389 Comments


i like

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
October 21st 2011


23828 Comments


cool review. I just dl'd their old one that everyone goes off about (Geneva?) and I'm going to get this one soon.

edit: this is wyankeif? damn dude I liked the old username, whatevs

bodiesinflight57
October 21st 2011


869 Comments


Brian Cook plays bass not Colin DeKuiper...he left ages ago



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