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Album Review: Russian Circles - "Empros"

Album Review: Russian Circles - "Empros"
Russian Circles
Sargent House

Empros is the album Russian Circles have been striving to concoct since the band’s inception seven years ago. On the three previous releases, the instrumental, post-rock juggernauts honed their craft of incrementally building, charismatic, Kraken-summoning riffs from start to finish. But with this fourth release, the Chicago-originated power trio used the right amount of ingredients from its past three recipes to achieve Iron Chef status with Empros. The six-song album intricately blends fat, grisly, discordant riffage with melodic, atmospheric, proggy sprinklings to create a sonically elaborate and raw package.

The opening track “309” goes from 0 to 60 mph on a dime, thanks to drummer Dave Turncrantz’s abrasively musical beats and bassist Brian Cook’s burly bass progressions. The rhythm section takes the clear lead on the track’s first few minutes with fill-in ambient noise-rock runs from guitarist Mike Sullivan. About five minutes into the trek, Sullivan reclaims the lead with a savvy combination of Meshuggah-esque riffing. “Mladek” opens with chimey, delayed arpeggios—à la the Edge—that slowly build. When the song reaches ramming speed, it becomes a musical warfare between all three members— Turncrantz’s expanding drum pattern, Cook’s trembling bass lines and Sullivan’s soaring single notes and eventual pulverizing, palm-muting attack. The effortless ways of “Schipol” and “Atackla” both organically rise by delicately adding a piece to the microcosm of Empros. The rhythmic layering of bass and guitar parts are like Jenga pieces—feats of excruciating genius—assuring that Russian Circles will never need a vocalist.

Russian Circles and producer Brandon Curtis strived to make a record embodying the band’s sweltering live performances, and with Empros they succeed by delivering their most dynamically compelling and aggressively brooding batch to date. Each song possesses a clear, distinct evolutionary arc within itself, but every song complements the next, resulting in a cohesively intense rock journey best enjoyed front to back.

Must-Hear Tracks: “Mladek” and “Schipol”

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