The discovery of a new band is always exciting. Will it be something you’ve heard countless times? An experience that leaves a bad taste in your mouth? Or is it a treat from which you cannot stop consuming? I wanted to take a trip back in time to reminisce about bands/albums that not only introduced me to heavy music, but kept me coming back for more…
From The Archive: Russian Circles – Geneva
From as far back as I can remember, I’ve always found myself enjoying instrumental music, especially movie scores. The music spoke for itself, no vocals (except for the occasional choir) were needed to deliver the message, the instruments did all the work. I’m not sure why it took so long for me to take the appreciation I had for instrumental music and focus it towards the genres of music I’ve come to enjoy in my later years. I always dug when a band had an instrumental track on their album, so when I started to focus my attention towards bands that were purely instrumental, I soon discovered a plethora of talents awaiting my hungry ears. Among the bands I found on my journey, some of which include Explosions In The Sky, Pelican, Mono, Miasma & The Carousel of Headless Horses and If These Trees Could Talk, there is another band that ranks high in my picks and their third full-length album, Geneva, is the album that introduced me to them…
Haling from the windy city of Chicago, Russian Circles are a three-piece instrumental post-rock/metal band who instantly won me over with their album Geneva. This happened to be my first taste of Russian Circles, but just after one play through of their album, that’s all it took for me to become a fan. Russian Circles made their way into the scene with their debut, Enter, and while the album didn’t make waves, it did show that Russian Circles were a band to look out for. By fusing together heavy riffs and undeniable talent, the band had a lot going for them. Their follow up, Station, saw the band going more post-rock as well as experimenting with their sound, but it wasn’t until the release of Geneva, that Russian Circles delivered their greatest album to date.
Geneva blends the best elements of their previous albums, by fusing the heavy riffs and unpredictable rhythms from Enter with the atmosphere and beauty of Station, and all of this is done by a mere trio of talented musicians. Geneva displays the bands talents and focus throughout all seven tracks in such a grandiose effect, that each song is epic in their own right, even the more mellow tracks ooze with power. Mike Sullivan plays his guitar as though it were a brush, painting beautiful strokes of technicality interspersed with spaced out guitar lines and crushing riffs which evoke the listeners emotions. Brian Cook of Botch and These Arms Are Snakes fame, returns on bass providing low-end and groove driven riffs, which blend perfectly with the guitar playing of Sullivan. Dave Turncrantz is back behind the drums doing what he does best, easily shifting between the calm and steady to the more heavy driven moments, but it’s clear to see he favors more boom in his delivery, which works wonders for the albums atmosphere.
The albums opener, “Fathom” begins with the distinct sound of the cello and violin, both of which are provided by violinist Susan Voelz and cellist Allison Chesley, who I might add, do a great job of providing the albums orchestral feel and tone. The song slowly builds up with drums coming in and providing a tribal beat, the riffs of Sullivan and Cook then come in playing off one another until coming together to give the song its booming groove. The entire song comes off as one long build up, and right when you think it will climax, it comes to a stop and proceeds to fade out into the next track, “Geneva”. The smooth transfer from one track to the next gives a feeling of continuity, and whereas “Fathom” was a build up, “Geneva” is the climax providing a more rocking groove but still keeping with the same theme and tone. The song is hypnotizing at times, with odd time signatures of both the drums and guitars, at times sounding as though they are going in different directions, but all the while maintaining the songs flow.
“Melee” is another build up, taking its time, but the pay off is rewarding, especially with the arrangement of the stringed instruments, as they really stand out and shine on this track. I instantly feel in love with “Melee”, it’s such a beautiful song as is the follow up, “Hexed All”, which is a low-paced tune giving the listener a brief rest before thrusting them back into the crushing/prog stylings of “Malko”. The last two tracks, “When The Mountains Came to Muhammad” and “Philos” are the albums longest, with “When The Mountains Came to Muhammad” incorporating the use of news report audio samples and strings to create a feeling of desperation and hopelessness, and “Philos” mixing all the elements of the entire album. It’s another slow driving track, with its focus on build up, then brief moments of speed and ending with electronic noises and feedback from the bass, leaving the listener wanting more.
Geneva is going to be a tough album for Russian Circles to top, but much of the excitement of waiting for their next album is wondering if they can do just that. They have grown a lot since their previous endeavors, and firmly cemented themselves in the post rock/metal community with Geneva. The album is proof that there is no need for vocals when the music speaks for itself and so much more powerful than any word could ever do. Russian Circles are in my opinion, one of the best instrumental bands out there today, and as I’m sure many of you reading this have already heard this album, for those of you who haven’t, do yourself a favor and check it out.
Russian Circles – “Melee”