Review Summary: Oh, another Russian Circles release? Let me break out the pom-poms...
If you sawed my brain out of my head and slapped it into a glass jar filled with green liquid, hooked it up to a computer and proceeded to analyze my taste in music, only to create a band out of my own personal tastes, I’m sure Russian Circles would pop right out. We all have a band that speaks to us in that way (or movie or artist or whatever the case may be), and for me, Russian Circles is the musical equivalent of a customizable character in a video game, or the “last meal” in prison that we can create from scratch. With each new album, Russian Circles seems to tweak their sound and evolve with each record, and Memorial
, the band’s fifth full-length, continues Russian Circle’s dominance in the genre, and in my opinion, in music as a whole.
This time around, one will notice that Memorial
is notably more sour and darker than the band’s previous efforts. After acoustic intro “Memoriam”, “Deficit” kicks things off in classic Russian Circles style, complete with layered guitars, mammoth riffs, thick bass fuzz and off-center drum fills. The slow, menacing riffs eventually speed-up and build into a choppy, cut-throat riff with explosions of guitar feedback and strings in the background. “1777”, one of the band’s finer cuts in recent memory, plays up the band's ability to create an engrossing, thick atmosphere that plants the listener somewhere dark and cold, far away from their living room chair. The use of strings, absent on their previous effort Empros
, are back in full force, with explosions erupting twice through the established soft surroundings, causing a beautiful, unnerving, hair-raising experience. Truly, this band is one of the best at pulling you in, but they aren’t afraid to take you right out.
For those long-time fans, what’s new for Russian Circles this time around on Memorial
is their focus on creating songs more around an idea and a feeling than anything riff-based. “Cheyenne” and closer “Memorial” do a tremendous job of being subtle and subdued, and make an effort to float through the timespans with not much happening at all, creating more of a textural, mood-based experience. This is something that hasn’t been done a lot in past records, but the band pulls it off with finesse, and ends up being just as satisfying as any structured offering.
Finally, the middle trio of “Burial”, “Ethal” and “Lebaron” show Russian Circles doing their trademark heaviness and silky guitar leads without the trademark length. More focused and cut-throat, these songs are more to-the-point than anything found on their earlier work, but it isn’t to say that it’s a bad thing. “Burial” is a savage display, with fast guitar-picking rampaging through most of the song, “Ethal” is a stripped-down number with a flush, bright guitar lead, while “Lebaron” is one of the band’s heaviest songs in their entire catalogue, capturing the band's new darker, almost evil, approach in tones, sounds and riffs.
With every new Russian Circles release, I’m almost ashamed to listen to it. Honestly. Surely there’s a flaw to be found, maybe I can convince myself that things in a certain song really don’t work, or this riff is out of place or this tone is off-point, but at the end of the day, there’s nothing negative to say. I can’t say anything bad about this band. With a complete focus for the perfection of their craft, off-the-charts musicianship, and total uniqueness that these guys provide over everyone else, I’m convinced that this band was created in a lab, grown from seeds and bioengineered with my musical tastes in mind. Is it the best album of the year? It’s up for you to decide. Is it one of the best album’s I’ve ever heard? I think it goes without saying.