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Album Review: Russian Circles - "Empros"

Empros is the album Russian Circles have been striving to concoct since the band’s inception seven years ago.

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”